There are a lot of frustrated cyclists out there. It’s summer and maybe your fitness and performance aren’t where you expected them to be by this time of the year. We hear this scenario every summer from new athletes signing up for coaching. The year hasn’t gone as planned up to this point and they want help to get on track. Fortunately, there is still time to make changes, improve performance, and have a great season. Here are a few of the techniques we use to boost summer fitness, no matter where you’re starting from.
Drop the Junk Miles
Warm temperatures and more hours of daylight make summer an easier time for many cyclists to find time to ride. But unlike winter when riders were more efficient with their time on the bike to get the most out of shorter rides, cyclists in summer often spend more time riding in the gray zone: not hard enough to cause positive adaptation, and not easy enough to enhance recovery.
These semi-strenuous rides are fine when your training is professing as planned, but if you’re not making progress you have to drop these rides and make sure you’re training with purpose. Doing more of the same is not going to do you any good. You have to disrupt your current routine. Be deliberate about training with efforts that are the right duration and the appropriate intensity to deliver results.
When you’re doing recovery rides, don’t surge up hills or speed up to avoid being passed (you know who you are). Be deliberate about going slow and easy. For many athletes this is harder to accomplish than the hardest interval workout.
The Skinny on Summer Group Rides
When it comes to training, group rides are a double-edged sword. They’re fun, great for motivating people to ride longer and harder, and can be great for speed work and skill development. On the flipside, too many group rides reduces time for purposeful training with structured time-at-intensity necessary for physiological improvement. Thirty minutes between lactate threshold and VO2 max scattered throughout a two-hour group ride does not deliver the same training stimulus as 10x3minutes intervals. Either one is better than not spending 30 minutes lactate threshold and VO2 max, but sometimes you need the structured intervals and recovery periods to create an effective stimulus.
If you have mostly been riding on your own or with 1-2 friends, jump in to a fast local group ride. For the purpose of jumpstarting your summer performance, go for the race-like “Tuesday Night World Championship” group rides or actual training races. The higher speed will be beneficial (kind of like motorpacing) and the unpredictable changes in pace will give you repeated high-intensity efforts with limited or variable recovery between them.
Stoke the Fire
Your physical fitness and training program may not be what’s holding you back. Many times it’s a lack of inspiration or a sense of discouragement because you’re not where you thought you’d be. It’s easy to be stoked about training when everything is going right. If you’ve had setbacks, there’s a difference between “pushing through and getting the work done” and being genuinely enthusiastic and inspired to get out on the bike. To jumpstart your performance you have to find the fun, the inspiration, and the purpose again.
Committing to a new and different event can reinvigorate your training, but it’s really important to choose something that will present new challenges. Maybe it’s an event that’s longer than you’ve ever ridden before (or longer than you’ve ridden in the past 20 years). Maybe it’s a new competitive format, like timed section racing or time trials, criteriums, or gravel if you’re getting burned out on the competitions – and therefore the competition-specific training – you’ve been doing for a long time.
Pull the Trigger
Registering for an event or booking that cycling trip or cycling camp you’ve been eyeing for a long time makes a big difference. Putting money on the line for event registration or a trip reservation can provide the financial incentive and accountability to keep you engaged. We see a clear inflection point in athletes’ training data when they financially commit to an event. Their compliance to a training plan improves and the quality of their training efforts improves. They stop missing workouts, stop eating junk, and stop making excuses.
No matter how your season has gone so far, there’s time to make it better. It is too early in the year to write off the entire summer just because your spring training didn’t go as planned. When you’re down it can be hard to see the path to better days, so reach out for help. You can book a consult with a CTS Coach or take advantage of our “First Month Free” coaching offer.
CEO/Head Coach of CTS