Weekend Reading: 4 Things You Have To Do To Save Your Fitness This Fall

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I’m just back from a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas for Interbike, including a few question-and-answer sessions with athletes and cycling industry folks. There’s a lot of nervousness out there, although it’s not about the state of the industry. People are nervous about Fall and Winter, more so than I remember hearing in recent years.

I think it has something to do with last year’s mild winter. People were out on their bikes earlier, had a longer outdoor season, and achieved higher peaks than in seasons that followed harsh winters. Now, they’re nervous about losing everything they’ve gained and regressing back to being sluggish, pudgy, mid-pack riders between now and next spring.

After several conversations about this very topic, here are some of my tips:

  1. Don’t take too much time off from training: You need a break from structured training periodically, but many athletes take way too much time off. It’s better to take mini-breaks throughout the year – one week here, two weeks there – than to hang up your wheels or just noodling around for a month or more in the Fall.
  2. Don’t overeat: Sounds simple, but most people don’t do it. As your workload decreases, your caloric intake has to decrease as well. But you’re in the habit of eating like a high-workload athlete because you’ve been doing it for months. If you back off your workload but continue eating like you’re training, you’ll pack on pounds quick. Try cutting back on caloric intake before cutting back on workload; for a while you’ll be riding a bit hungry perhaps, but at this time of year that’s not a bad thing.
  3. Don’t skip hard efforts: Maybe you’re going to reduce the amount of structure in your training to get away from the regimen, but don’t skimp on the intensity. You’ll lose power at VO2 max and lactate threshold rapidly if you do. You worked hard to gain that power, and it will take weeks and/or months to get back once it’s gone. So keep doing the hard group rides, hitting hills at your max sustainable effort level, and throw in some short (1-2minute) all-out efforts on short hills.
  4. Reinforce good eating habits: Now is a great time to focus on your eating habits, remove the wasteful and needless calories, and increase your intake of vegetables (especially filling, high fiber ones). During the season when training load is really high, athletes get sloppy with their nutrition because they can get away with it. As CTS Coach Dean Golich likes to say, “If the fire is hot enough, anything will burn.” Now that the fire is not as hot, it’s harder to justify dessert every night, or the second glass of wine, etc. Cut out the clutter in your diet, strip it back to the core nutrients you need for performance and health. You may find that instead of gaining, you actually lose a bit of weight between now and Thanksgiving.


  • Fall Forward Coaching Offer: Take full advantage of the training opportunities that the Fall and Winter provide. Try coaching risk free. Sign up for 12 months, at any package level, and pay nothing for the first month.
  • Triathlon Training: Adapting to Race-Day Conditions at Ironman: CTS Coach Lindsay Hyman provides key tips for handling common race-day situations so you can stay in the race and finish strong!
  • 2013 Dirty Kanza 200: The information on this new addition to the CTS Bucket List event is up on the website. Check it out. 200 miles on gravel has never been this exciting! And check out the rest of the 2013 Bucket List.
  • Fall Mileage Camp: Finish off your season with some big miles in sunny Santa Ynez, CA, October 17-20. It’s also harvest time at the local wineries!
  • El Tour Endurance Camp: This week-long camp culminates in one of the best cycling traditions in the US: the El Tour de Tucson! Camp includes entry into this sold-out event.

Make no mistake, this is a crucial time of year for any athlete who wants to reach a higher performance level in 2013. You can’t afford to lose 20% of your power at lactate threshold between now and New Year’s Eve and expect to rebound to a level that’s appreciably higher than what you reached this year. The height of your peak(s) in 2013 depends on the depth of your losses over the next three months. I turn 52 next month and each year it gets more difficult to reach the fitness level I had the year before. A lot of you are in the same boat, and losing fitness in the fall – for no good reason – just makes next season harder than it needs to be.

That said, it’s not realistic or healthy to stay at your competitive fitness level and weight year round. Losing a little fitness and gaining a little weight is normal. Ideally you should aim to keep  fitness loss to no more than 8-10% of your current lactate threshold power and gain no more than 5 pounds; and there’s no rule that says you can’t take your losses early in the fall and already be on the upswing well before January 1.

What’s my plan? Well, I’m headed to the six-stage Trans Andes mountain bike stage race in January. I’ve purposely put a big, gnarly endurance race in my schedule for January to provide motivation during the cold and snowy days I know are coming. Want to join me? Check it out here: https://trainright.com/trans-andes/

Have a great weekend,
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems

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