You consider your season a success, done the rides, the miles and are enjoying your fitness level. The early season rides that once were a struggle you now complete with ease. Then something happens totally out of your control, the lights get turned off much earlier than normal and the thermostat gets turned down outside. Don’t you just love Daylight Savings Time and the arrival of fall? Getting in that ride is now more of a challenge. If you are like many you simply put the bike away and wait for spring.
That is a mistake many cyclists make. It is like hitting the reset button on your fitness. It takes a lot of work to develop your fitness and it quickly disappears when you stop riding. When you get back out on your bike those rides will be challenging again. Why go through that every year when all it takes is a little work in the offseason?
By maintaining a workout schedule, even if smaller you will retain some of the fitness you worked so hard for this season. The good news is it is easier than ever to do so. If you prefer to ride outside, the clothing technology is amazing and staying warm is easier than ever. Indoor trainers are the perfect tool for helping you maintain your fitness during the off season. Using the trainer a few times a week will position you well for those spring rides.
What sort of loss of fitness can you expect to see?
If you take a two to four week break from training here are some of the physiological effects you can expect to see:
VO2 Max: down 4-10%
Blood volume: down 5-10%
Heart Rate: up 5-10%
Stroke volume: down 6-12%
Lactate threshold: Decreases
Muscle glycogen levels: down 20-30%
Aerobic enzyme activity: Decreases
These losses tend to be greater for individuals who are more fit than others.
(Source: How Much Fitness Do You Loose when You Stop Training? Cyclingtips.com)
There is good news.
Studies show that if you maintain the intensity of training but reduce either the frequency or the duration you can maintain the aerobic conditioning for up to 15 weeks. That is good news for us, because in our climate you’ll be able to get back outside for your regular training in that period of time. The trick to maintaining the fitness you have worked so hard for is to exercise at about 70% of your VO2 max at least once a week. The important part is maintaining a level of intensity during your work outs. This is easily accomplished with the use of a trainer or making the most of the rides outside when you get the chance.
I’ll never forget the first season I was really dedicated to offseason training on my trainer. That fall I had had a great series of rides and I didn’t want to lose any of the fitness I had developed and really wanted to work on shedding much needed weight. I set a goal of riding 3 days between Monday and Friday with ride time being at least 30 minutes. I did the initial workouts in zone 2 for my heart rate. After a few weeks my rides were typically 40 – 45 minutes and every once in a while I would go for an hour. The majority of these rides remained zone 2 rides for me. Let me tell you the pounds quickly began to melt away. As my base fitness improved I did add some intervals to my workouts. That spring when I returned to my regular outdoor loops I was blown away by how much the off season training paid off. I didn’t suffer through those initial rides and I was faster than when I had started the off season. In the back of my mind I knew I could have done a lot more than I did with my off season work outs. With a little more focus I think my gains would have been even greater. I didn’t change much of my lifestyle otherwise but I did make one small change that I am sure yielded huge results. I removed sugar from my diet almost entirely. I replaced my snacks with healthy options and got rid of soda. I didn’t deprive myself completely but I did focus on it.
With a little planning maintaining an off season training schedule can be easy. The trick for me is making the work outs as easy as possible to get started on. So I leave the bike set up in the trainer with my shoes, heart rate monitors and a towel right next to it. If I am riding in the morning I make a water bottle the night before and set it in the refrigerator and pull out my cycling shorts. Morning arrives and I get up get dressed and get on the bike and ride. You should be able to ride for up to an hour prior to eating and not needing any energy products. Many make the mistake of consuming to many energy products during their basic workouts. What is important is hydrating and water is perfect for that. Then when done I make sure I eat some protein and proceeded with my day.
Committing to workout with others is another great way to persuade yourself to continue to follow your plan. Besides riding with others whether indoors or out is always more fun. Talk to some of your riding friends and have them join you. One of the cool things about indoor riding is each of you can do your own work out and nobody gets dropped. What can be more perfect than that? What to focus on cycling specific techniques join us in January for our indoor cycling class. It runs for ten weeks and I promise you will be a stronger better rider because of it.
Really want motivation to maintain your fitness? Find an early season ride that interests you and register for it. Then invite some friends to do the same. You’ll have something to look forward to and work towards. One of our customer favorites is the Six Pillars Century held the first weekend in May.
Learn more about Indoor trainers here.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on riding in cooler weather. We’ll talk about clothing and lighting.
Thank you for reading