training mistakes

Don’t Make These 7 Late-Summer Training Mistakes


By Chris Carmichael,
Founder and Chief Endurance Officer

As we start September, the bulk of the summer is in the rearview mirror. And while there are athletes who have big events coming up in the next several weeks, many of you are wrapping up your summer season. You have trained long and hard to get here and I hope you achieved your goals and had a ton of fun along the way. Late summer can be a great time to be an athlete and can set you up for a great fall and winter season, but there are some big training mistakes you want to avoid.

If Your Major Goal Is Behind You:

Don’t Take an Extended Break

At least not yet. Putting your bike away for a couple of weeks isn’t a bad thing, but save that for when the days get shorter (after daylight savings time is over) and the weather gets worse. Remember that old saying about making hay while the sun shines? Well, keep riding while the sun is shining and warm!

Don’t Miss the Opportunity to Use the Fitness You’ve Earned

You have tremendous fitness and no pressure from an impending event. Put that fitness to good use by creating an adventure you wouldn’t have the fitness for earlier in the year and couldn’t schedule while diligently preparing for your event.

Take a “Credit Card Bike Tour” – put a single change of clothes and credit card into a hydration pack or on-bike bag and link together 2-3 point-to-point rides into a large loop.

Or find a fall event to set as a short term goal to keep you going, even if you dial back the structure in your training to give yourself a mental break from the focus involved in preparing for your major season goals. I typically reduce the structure of my training in September and October, but I keep riding consistently and with intensity. Some great ways to do this include fast group rides and hunting for PRs or KOM/QOMs on your favorite segments.

Don’t Forget About Next Year

One of the biggest late-summer training mistakes is failing to leverage the promise of next season for motivation. To stay motivated to train in the final four months of the year, have a major goal lined up for next season! Think big, because by starting now you have a lot of time to prepare! But don’t dream about it for too long, go ahead and sign up for an event so you have a commitment on your calendar.

If you have a major goal coming up:

Don’t Lose Focus

It can be difficult to maintain your focus on your goals when many of your training partners are done with theirs. The kids going back to school, the chillier mornings, and the ads for fall fashions don’t help. But you can’t let those things intrude on the progress of your training. You have trained hard to get to this point and faltering now dishonors the work you have already done. Stop focusing on what others are doing (or not doing) and stick to what you committed to.

Don’t Move to the Middle

During a long season athletes often migrate toward the middle of the training spectrum, meaning all training sessions start to look very similar in terms of workload. Instead of hard efforts and purposeful recovery, the efforts aren’t that hard and the recovery isn’t that easy.

When this happens all training basically goes aerobic and there isn’t enough workload on any other system to actually move your performance forward. You’re treading water while expecting to see the shore get closer. Take a close look at your workouts and your data. If you’re working with a coach have a discussion about the precision of your workouts. If you’re getting out there to do the work, make sure you’re doing that work effectively!

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Avoid the Race/Recovery Trap

This happens to a lot of athletes at some point in the summer or late summer. There are group rides and training races on weekdays and races and group rides on the weekends. For weeks at a time you can fill your training time with these activities and do next to no actual training.

In some ways this seems like a perfect scenario: you’re getting intensity from races, events, and group rides and resting between them! And it can work great for a while, but only for a limited time. Typically it’s your aerobic system that starts erode out from under you, and that manifests by feeling sluggish, having a higher perceived exertion for efforts that were easier a few weeks ago, and struggling to recover (both during workouts and after).

The aerobic engine that all that high-end power is built on needs a boost. Shift the focus of your training to Tempo intensity and incorporate a 2-week endurance block to shore up your aerobic endurance.

Don’t Throw in the Towel

In my experience, late spring and late summer are the two times when athletes are more likely to bail early on their events. In late spring I think it’s because athletes expected their winter/spring training to go better and figure they can still sign up for another event in the summer.

When athletes bail in late summer I think it is often because the runway from signup to event day has been so long that they are struggling to maintain focus and motivation. There are also family vacations, the beginning of school, and other activities that make the end of summer really busy for many athletes with families.

If you’re thinking your event might not be worth the bother, I would encourage you NOT to throw in the towel. Adjusting your expectations for the event may be appropriate, but don’t strike it from your calendar. It is worth the bother and you’ll feel great about it once you reach that finish line.

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Comments 8

  1. Excellent point about tending to the aerobic base, especially now that cyclocross season is staring. It can be difficult to give the aerobic system the time it needs when weekends are for racing. Any tips on how to structure the subsequent week following a race-filled weekend? I always struggle with this.

  2. Great advice as always, but what if you were injured and are now back to normal but the fitness is not where you usually are at this time of year.

  3. Life gets really hectic this time of year. School for the kids. Pick up and drop offs, plus the after school activities. Not to mention the temps are smoking hot (100+). Trying to stay focused but it’s very tough.

  4. Biggest problem for me is my schedule has changed radically, and is now somewhat inconsistent which makes it difficult to plan appropriately. Additionally I do like to wind down and take a break, so circumstances have conspired against me. But the really dedicated guys would not let that stop them.

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