Summertime is fun time! Strong rides in the warm summer sun are your reward for the spending months bundled up in winter cycling gear or pedaling furiously in the basement. But it’s not uncommon for athletes to make a series of summertime training mistakes that either cut short their fun or limit their peak performance. To have a great summer season and honor the training you did to get here, avoid these mistakes:
Failure to recover
When the going is good, recovery often takes a backseat. You earned a high level of fitness through several months of training that balanced workload with recovery. But now that you’re fast, powerful, and lean, you feel invincible. You’re riding great! You don’t really need that day off, right? Wrong. That’s the mistake too many athletes make. When you feel great, that’s when you have to be even more focused on recovery. The fitness built over months of training is the source of your power, but the acute recovery this week is what’s enabling you to access that power over and over again. When you shortchange your recovery you’re dulling your fitness.
Power outputs are diminished when core temperature is elevated, especially during harder intervals at or above lactate threshold. While you may not always be able to train during the cooler hours of the day, try to schedule your harder, more focused workouts during the cooler hours and schedule endurance rides during the hotter temperatures (if necessary). The exposure to higher temperatures can help with heat acclimation, but exercising at high intensity in the heat doesn’t necessarily improve that acclimation and overheating hinders training performance. In either case, when you return from training in hot weather, take proactive steps to cool off: take a cool shower (or finish a shower with a cool rinse), stay in an air-conditioned environment, and consume cold fluids or ice slurry drinks. You can even use a cold water or ice bath. They have not been shown to offer the enhanced muscle recovery that runners often ascribe to them, but they can be effective for reducing core temperature, and all of these modes of reducing core temperature in turn improve overall recovery.
Lack of focus
The summer is often the competitive season or the event season for cyclists, so you would assume that it’s the most focused period of training. But many athletes instead suffer from a lack of focus. Between multiple group rides, gran fondos, cycling trips, races, and centuries, athletes fall into a “race-and-recover” cycle and there’s sometimes very little time left for purposeful training. As a coach I neither want you to miss out on cool events nor underperform because of a lack of training. The way to maximize performance and still do the events you want is to schedule blocks (two weeks, minimum) of focused training in between periods that provide unstructured training stress (otherwise known as your competitions, events, and epic rides!)
Inability to say no (to big rides)
If you are fortunate enough to be part of an active and ambitious cycling community, there will be no shortage of opportunities for cool, epic rides this summer. If those epic, social rides are your goal for the summer, that’s great! Go for it. But if you have very specific goals as a competitor, or you are preparing for an event that is close to the current limits of your athletic capacity, then it will be more important to stick with a highly-focused training regimen in the lead-up to your event. The more specific your goal, the more specific your training needs to be as the event approaches.
The Great Summer Rescue
Thankfully, you don’t need to drastically overhaul your summer plans to avoid the aforementioned pitfalls. With a little discipline and some good habits, you can maintain superior fitness all the way through Labor Day and beyond. To do that, keep these things in mind:
Fresh is best: If you have a big ride coming up, it is going to be a big training stimulus by itself. As a result, it’s better to take a rest day two days beforehand and a light day the day before. You’ll perform better with fresh legs, and that will enhance the training stimulus from that big ride.
Follow the 1-in-7 Rule: I still like to have most athletes take one complete day off from riding during each 7-day period. Some more advanced riders can extend this to 1-in-10, and in some highly-specialized competitor programs the workload/recovery balance may be scheduled very differently, but for the majority of athletes this is still a good starting point.
Incorporate endurance blocks: The race- or group ride-recovery pattern typically features a lot of intensity, which is good for developing speed but can eventually erode your aerobic endurance. Find a 1-2 week period in the summer to focus on longer endurance rides without structured intervals. If you’re short on time and can’t fit in longer rides, complete back-to-back days of 2-hour rides to focus the training stimulus.
CEO/Head Coach of CTS