Do These 4 Things in December To Be Fit in January


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. And if you are taking part in the CTS December Challenge, these tips will help you get your 40 hours #DEC40!

[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.

Get CTS Field Test instructions, intensity calculations, and workout descriptions here.

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).

Free Cycling Training Assessment Quiz

Take our free 2-minute quiz to discover how effective your training is and get recommendations for how you can improve.

[blog_promo promo_categories=”camp” ids=”” /]

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=”product” ids=”” /]

FREE Mini-Course: Learn How to Maximize Your Limited Training Time

Learn step-by-step how to overcome limited training time and get faster. Walk away with a personalized plan to increase your performance.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Comments 10

  1. Thanks for the weekly blogs and let me start by saying that your Time Crunched Cyclist book has become my training bible. That said, I am confused about the Ladder intervals. You state to start with 2 min of 10/10 intensity. To me 10/10 is an all out sprinting effort (everything I’ve got) which is really only sustainable for 20 sec or so. I can hold 9/10 (about 125% FTP or about 115% CTS test) for 2 min but then I’m pretty exhausted (think SEPI). I haven’t tried to do that followed by 10 more min at or above FTP, but I don’t expect to be able to do it. So what do you mean by 10/10? Also, your blog has a different definition of SS than your book. Above you call it 90-95% CTS whereas in your book it’s 86-90% (which makes more sense). Can you help clarify because I would totally do the Ladders if I understood the protocol better. Thanks.

    1. Same here! I tried it and did the 2 mins fine but then nearly killed myself trying to hold the next part and had to abort!

        1. I’m pretty certain they mean 100% effort you can maintain for 2 min, then drop intensity to just above threshold for 4 min, then 6 min at about 95% Th. These are very tough, huge lactate spike, working for four minutes almost balancing this, then 6 min at 95% means it hurts like crazy at first but gradually gets “easier” as your clear lactate. – The Threshold Power video goes through this perfectly – but is a bitch 😉

          1. Post

            To clarify ThresholdLadders, the first two minute segment should be completed at the highest intensity you can sustain for 2 minutes (think of it as a 2-minute PowerInterval). That will be a lower intensity than an all-out sprint, which is still 10/10, but 10/10 has to be thought of in context of duration. After the two minutes you step the intensity down to ClimbingRepeat range, and then down to SteadyState range. The purpose is to generate a lot of lactate and then continue riding at a relatively high power output while integrating the accumulated lactate back into normal aerobic metabolism. – Jim Rutberg, CTS Coach

  2. Pingback: The Start of The On-Season! | Triathlete Treats

  3. Thank you for the words of encouragement! You have once again thrown down gauntlet for my cycling training. I can’t wait for nice weather because it’s not coming anytime soon. The bike and the rollers are ready. Here I go!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *