January is traditionally when endurance athletes in the Northern Hemisphere dig in and recommit themselves to goal-oriented training. The months of November and December are often less structured, even for time-crunched athletes who rely more heavily on shorter, higher-intensity workouts to maintain and improve fitness. It’s a smart idea to think of the next three weeks as pre-season training for January, so do the following four things in December so you hit January 1 ready for high-quality training.[blog_promo promo_categories=”coaching” ids=”” /]
Do Intervals at least twice per week
While you may do interval workouts 3-4 times a week during the height of your event-specific training, you only need to commit to two interval days per week in December. The purpose of these workouts is to halt any potential decline in the most important component of your fitness: your lactate threshold power/pace. The two workouts below are good choices for December:
SteadyState: These are cornerstone lactate threshold intervals. They are not complicated nor all that exciting, but they are incredibly effective. Three 10-minute intervals at your SteadyState intensity (86-90% of CTS Field Test Power, 92-94% of CTS Field Test Heart Rate, or an RPE of 7-8/10) is a standard cycling workout for moderately-fit cyclists and triathletes. More advanced riders can increase the duration of the intervals to 12-15 minutes. Recovery between intervals is half the interval time, so 5 minutes recovery between 10minute intervals, and so on.
ThresholdLadders: We love these interval sessions for athletes who have some early-season event goals because they add a maximal effort at the beginning of the interval to generate a lot of lactate. Learning to adapt to that high lactate environment gives your lactate threshold training a significant boost. These 12-minute intervals start with two minutes at maximal intensity (10/10), then transition to 4 minutes at ClimbingRepeat intensity (95-100% of CTS Field Test Power, 95-97% of CTS Field Test Heart Rate, 8-9/10 RPE), and then a final 6 minutes at SteadyState intensity (see above for SS intensities). Take 6 minutes easy spinning recovery between intervals. Moderately-fit athletes should do three 12-minute intervals. More advanced athletes should add a fourth interval.
One challenging endurance ride per week
Getting out on longer rides is a challenge in December because of the weather, and it is sometimes difficult because of competing priorities (holiday shopping, travel, family events, etc.). It’s likely that your overall training volume will be relatively limited during December, but commit to at least one challenging 2-4 hour ride per week. When we say challenging, it might be a ride incorporating significant climbing, or a fast group ride, or simply an endurance ride where you push the pace to Tempo-SteadyState intensity for at least one hour (not necessarily all at once, but aim to spend at least 60 minutes during the ride in these ranges).
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One 5- to 7-day endurance block
If possible, try to schedule a significant endurance training block in December. Many athletes find the week between Christmas and New Years to be a convenient time for this block, but if you’re going to be traveling during that time consider doing it the week before. Aim to ride at least two hours per day for 5-7 consecutive days, and try to make a few rides of these rides 3-4 hours. Be careful not to go too hard or too long in the first two days; you’ll be excited and tempted to do this, but remember that you want to ride strong on the final two days and that won’t be possible if you’re exhausted.
Start tracking your nutrition
You may think it’s counterintuitive to start tracking your nutrition during a period of time when you know you’re going to be indulging in holiday foods, but tracking it over the next few weeks will open your eyes to how dramatically these nutritional anomalies impact caloric intake. We don’t think you need to get too wrapped up in trying to make perfect nutritional choices over the next few weeks. Food is part of holiday celebrations and some of it isn’t very good for you. But indulging a bit during the holidays and getting back on track in early January is a more achievable and sustainable plan for amateur athletes than making yourself crazy about nutrition during the holidays. The benefit to tracking your intake during these weeks – including the holiday parties and dinners – is that it gives you a few weeks of baseline data to base your January nutritional decisions on. There are innumerable nutrition tracking apps out there. If you’re not already using one you like, we’d recommend trying MyFitnessPal. It’s free, has a huge food database, and it’s easy to use. For December, set your target weight as your current weight and just record the foods you eat. Once you get to January, set a target weight and adjust your intake accordingly.[blog_promo promo_categories=”bucket list” ids=”” /]
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