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.[blog_promo promo_categories=”coaching” ids=”” /]
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.[blog_promo promo_categories=”camp” ids=”” /]
Commit to Long-Term Goals
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.[blog_promo promo_categories=”bucket list” ids=”” /]
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!
CEO/Head Coach of CTS
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