5 Things Time-Crunched Athletes Need to Do Right Now


There are two competing mantras that dominate training blogs and magazines at this time of year. One is that the late-summer and early fall is a great period for endurance athletes to take a break, rejuvenate, and recover from a long season. The other is that this period is the best time to make significant gains that will carry you into next summer. Both mantras have merit, but for different audiences.

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Athletes who have been on high-volume, race-oriented programs since February often need a break from structured training at this time of year. Pros and elite amateurs fall into this category, as do some high-volume age-group competitors. On the other hand, time-crunched competitive athletes and non-competitive athletes (time-crunched or not) often don’t need a lengthy break at this time of year. Two or three weeks of unstructured active recovery and endurance rides are typically sufficient.

In an effort to provide useful and actionable training advice to the full spectrum of athletes who read this blog, let’s take a look at what time-crunched competitors and non-competitive athletes should be doing through the late summer and fall.

Make Time for Consistency

The next few months are the time when athletes can achieve the greatest consistency with training. During the spring and summer, training is frequently interrupted by events and vacations. Obviously, the events are what you’re training for, so it may be strange to think of them as interruptions, but from a training perspective the summer often turns into a series of race/recover cycles or short-term peak/taper periods. During this time, your actual fitness often plateaus or even declines a bit. Getting back to consistent training without these interruptions can leverage the fitness you have from the summer and result in sizeable fitness improvements.

Eliminate Your Weaknesses

With a lot of time between now and the next time you need to be race- or event-ready, you can shift the focus of your training to address weaknesses. Yes, that means other areas of your fitness may get less attention for a period of time, but shoring up your weak areas means you’ll be able to make more progress in all areas later. Maybe you need to work on accelerations so you can get up to speed faster after corners. Maybe you need to work on handling the transition from flat ground to climbing better so you don’t get dropped as the hill begins (this is a common problem, and one that forces riders to chase hard to regain the group, which is very fatiguing over the course of a few hills).

This is also a good time to address bike fit issues. Patience is the key with making changes to a cycling position. You have to make the changes and give yourself time to ride at easy/moderate paces to adapt to the position. This is difficult to do when you’re in the middle of a spring ramp up or summer peak season.

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Commit to Long-Term Goals

HauteRoute2014_team Big goals require a lot of preparation so you have the time to maximize your fitness, develop your skills, test your pacing and nutrition strategies, etc. A long runway also gives you the flexibility to overcome possible setbacks from an illness, injury, or lifestyle complication. In 2014, the Haute Route Pyrenees trip sold out in September, 11 months before the event. The team was so well prepared that they won three stages, finished third overall in the team competition at the 2014 event, and placed two riders in the top 10 (4th and 9th) in the overall individual standings!


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Combat Winter Weight Gain

If there were ever a time when training for the sake of caloric expenditure was a good idea, it would be in the fall. Weight you don’t gain is weight you don’t have to lose after January 1. The best defense against the impending Holiday smorgasbord is a consistent training workload, and that smorgasbord is getting worse as Halloween morphs from a one-day novelty into a month-long, adult-dominated precursor to Thanksgiving.

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Protect Your Treasure

The fitness you have is hard-earned treasure. Time-crunched athletes don’t build the deep aerobic base that high-volume trainers do, meaning your fitness doesn’t have the staying power theirs does. Time-crunched training protocols have opened up high-performance fitness for a lot of people who would otherwise be unfit and slow, but the shallower aerobic base is part of the bargain. For the same amount of downtime, your performance drops more significantly. That’s why it’s important to limit your downtime to a few weeks and then get back to training (or get a coach). You can reduce the structure and regimen for a period, but get back to the workload. Otherwise you’ll have to spend months regaining lost fitness instead of building toward new heights.

Have a Great Weekend!
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS


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Comments 9

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  4. Well, I read with interest but I still don’t have a clue what I should do. I just passed 10,000 miles for the second year in a row. I just completed my 43rd century plus day for the year. I won KOM in the local Saturday morning butt kick hammer fest and pulled like a freight train. Last week I rode 500 miles in five days. In the middle of that I time trialed a 40K twisty, ups and downs at 23mph avg. I am 61 years old. I am a farlecker using only PRE in training and do not use power for training or heart rate but instead do large numbers of hilly intervals early in the season and create an aerobic base by adding mileage at speed. Last year I climbed 650,000 feet and this year I am at 450,000 so far. I do some competition events and finish well and I do many invitationals such as fondos where the elevation gain is normally 100 plus feet per mile for 100 miles plus. Often I will just rent a house somewhere mountainous for a week and just climb and descend all week. So gee whiz, where do I fall in the categories and what should I do? I generally have two rest days per week but after a big event or multi day effort, I take two or three days off in a row.

  5. I recently found myself not looking forward to getting on the bike. I took two weeks off in terms of not having a structured training schedule. I incorporated running, weight lifting and a long ride on Saturdays with no power data. Just went out and rode for 88 miles. It has been a month since and I am now back on a training schedule and hitting my zones again.

  6. When I read the article 3 Responses to “Weekend Reading: 5 Things Time-Crunched Athletes Need to Do Right Now” it was so very helpful. I was very confused about how to train or cut back, because I have been reading all the different articles like you said. Thanks for putting me on the right track.

  7. I missed the link for the workout you prescribe at this time of year. Could you send it to me? Thank you. Regards Martin
    Ps you always seem to hit the spot precisely with the WeekEnd Reading making it very relevant to where my training is at.

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