5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of The Off Season

I guess we’re getting just about to that point of the year. The days get shorter, the group rides start to taper off, and the last of the gran fondos and event rides are just about over. For racers, the last road races of the season should be in a week or two.

For many, it means taking some well-deserved time off. For most though, it means it’s time to start thinking about the off-season.

Now don’t let the term “off-season” fool you—this is the best time of year for riding. But to rest, recover, and come back stronger next year, follow these simple tips for the rest of this year.

 

1. Long Steady Distance (LSD)

This fall, ride longer and slower than you normally would. This is the time of year for sprawling weekend rides in the little ring. And when we say steady, we mean slow and steady. Take it conversation-pace easy, ride with a buddy, and have a good time.

Why: During the high season of cycling most riders concentrate on high intensity work, which is great for building strength, but often neglect the slow burn work that builds aerobic capacity. LSD riding during the fall and winter will help you build a good aerobic base for the spring.

long steady distance

Fall and winter are the time for slow, steady, meandering rides to take in the scenery, enjoy a mid-ride conversation, and build an aerobic base

 

2. Mix It Up

During the fall we normally introduce more rest days into our week. Normally we ride 5-6 days a week during the summer, but usually reduce it to just 3 or 4 during the fall, with half of those being mountain bike or ‘cross rides.

Why: Letting your body and mind rest by riding fewer days and mixing up the type of riding you do is incredibly important. The rest days give your body time to recover and rebuild, while varying up your riding routine helps prevent mental burnout.

mix it up

Mixing in some mountain biking can be a good way to keep from mentally burning out

 

3. Get Stronger

Run. Lift weights. Do core work. In short, try to work out the muscles you don’t use much during cycling.

Why: Cycling is a single plane exercise that only works a few muscles in specific directions. Running, lifting weights, and core work can help strengthen muscles, tendons and ligaments to help prevent injury.

*If it’s been a few years since you last ran or lifted, go easy until your tendons, ligaments and muscles can adapt. Most cyclists are very aerobically fit, which means when they start running or lifting they can easily injure themselves by trying to do too much too soon.

For running start out easy with a half a mile once a week to start, then build in .5 mile increments from there.

For weight lifting we recommend consulting a personal trainer before you start. It’s worth the $30 or $40 it costs for a session if it avoids a more costly injury later from using too much weight or improper form.

Running and lifting weights can help you get in shape for 'cross season and make you more injury resistant next year

Running and lifting weights can help you get in shape for ‘cross season and make you more injury resistant next year

4. Stretch It Out

Last weekend we pulled the yoga mat out of the closet and started going to our traditional off-season classes again. With darker days coming, this is a great time to start doing some yoga or pilates that can help lengthen tight muscles, reducing the chance of injury and the inflammation that builds up after months or riding.

Why: Cycling can be very hard on muscles, and when overworked they often respond by shortening and forming adhesions and muscles knots. Dynamic lengthening exercises like yoga and pilates help safely stretch out those muscles, helping to reduce back, neck and shoulder pain, and make you more flexible, which also makes you more resistant to injury.

yoga

Yoga and pilates are good ways to get more limber to help avoid injury

 

5. Mix In Intensity

We know we just said to go easy through the fall and winter. But make sure you’re doing the occasional high intensity ride that really pushes up your heart rate and makes you work hard. Try doing a hard intervals ride or a difficult trainer session once a week or once every other week.

Why: Low intensity is a good thing for recovery, but too much of it can lead to detraining, which is where you begin to loose fitness. Studies show that by doing occasional high intensity training, you can preserve your peak fitness by up to 15 weeks. Think of it as kind of like occasionally starting the engine on a car that’s been put away for the winter.

intensity

Long and slow distance is the name of the game– but don’t forget to get some high intensity work in too

Real Advice: Training Indoors


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Winter is coming. And this year, just like every year, we’re all going to swear up and down that no matter how bad the weather gets, we’re going to ride outside. And this year, just like every year, that resolution will last just about through mid-December, at which point we will all switch to full-on holiday bacchanalia mode and just kind of stop riding, reasoning that spring isn’t that far away.

For most of my cycling career, this was exactly the pattern I fell into year after year. I would ride my way into excellent form going into the fall, only to feel like I was starting again from scratch every spring. Finally, one year, I decided to buy a trainer. I didn’t work for Performance at the time, but I visited my local store, and the associate helped me pick out a trainer that was right for my needs. I ended up going home with an Elite progressive resistance trainer, and a special tire designed to be used with stationary trainers (more on that in a bit). The results were incredible. While I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t exactly love riding the trainer, I was able to keep relatively in shape through the winter, and entered into the spring in much better shape than previous years.

When it comes to trainers and rollers, there are a lot of options to choose from. Trainers can vary a lot in price and features, so it’s important to consider what your training goals are before buying.

Here are some tricks and tips to get the most out of your winter training:

1. Know Your Trainers: The primary purpose of trainers is to help you build strength and endurance. Basically, a trainer is a treadmill for your rear wheel—you just clamp your rear wheel in and start spinning.  How much resistance your trainer delivers will depend on what type it is. Our Learning Center has an article that dives more in-depth into the different types of trainers, but here’s a quick summary:

Wind Trainers: Use a fan to generate resistance.

Advantages

  • Fewer moving parts
  • Produce progressive resistance, which increases as wheel speed increases
  • Smooth resistance with minimal vibration

Disadvantages

  • Noisy
  • Fan susceptible to damage
  • Increasing wheel speed only way to increase resistance

Magnetic Trainers: Use combination of magnets and metal plates to generate resistance.

Advantages

  • Offer multiple levels of resistance
  • Quieter than wind trainers
  • Produce linear resistance, which stays the same regardless of wheel speed
  • Typically less expensive than other options

Disadvantages

  • Changing resistance level requires dismounting bike unless trainer is equipped with handlebar-mounted remote shift lever

Fluid Trainers: Uses a hydraulic fluid and an impeller to create resistance.

Advantages

  • Produce progressive resistance, which increases as wheel speed increases
  • Very quiet
  • Most moving parts protected by enclosed resistance unit
  • Available in adjustable resistance models

Disadvantages

  • More Expensive

A quick word on tires: trainers tend to be tough on your tires. As mentioned above, some companies like Vittoria now make specially designed tires that are made to withstand the rigors that the trainer will put them through.

The Elite Qubo Fluid+ resistance trainer is a great way to gain strength and work on endurance through the winter

2. Rollers: are different from trainers in that the focus is on developing form instead of strength. While riding the rollers can deliver a hard, pulse-pounding workout, rollers are better used to work on cadence, pedaling efficiency and concentration. Unlike trainers, rollers are a free-form exercise where the bike is not locked down, so they require a smooth pedaling motion, steady cadence and concentration to use. They take some practice to get the hang of, but the rewards are significant. The first few times you use rollers, we highly recommend wearing a helmet, setting them up next to a wall (to make it easier to get on and off), and putting some couch cushions around you on the floor. It’s also recommended that you have someone video your first attempt at using the rollers, since hilarity is almost certainly sure to ensue (don’t worry, we’ve all been there).

Rollers are an excellent way to work on form and cadence through the long winter months

3. Boredom: I’m going to be really honest here: there are few things more boring than riding a trainer/rollers. When you’re sitting on a bike that’s going nowhere, it’s really hard to stay motivated and push yourself. A good way to overcome this is with videos or music. Many companies offer workout DVD’s for use with the trainer that can help you target specific areas you’d like to work on (strength training, endurance, climbing, etc…). Something important to remember, though, is that your time on the trainer is an hour you have to yourself to do whatever you want. With that in mind, here are some other ideas I use to stay focused:

-Catch up on the DVR queue

-Watch cycling movies like Breaking Away, American Flyers, and The Flying Scotsman

-Scour Netflix for movies that your better half doesn’t want to watch (I’ve probably seen Commando on the trainer at least 7 times)

-When I have to use the trainer at work or before a race, I have a special playlist on my phone of songs that help get me motivated

Catching up on TV you may have missed is a great way to keep the trainer from getting stale

4. Ride With A Buddy: Everything is more fun if you have a friend, and riding with someone else helps you stay more accountable. If you have some buddies who are into cycling try setting up some indoor training sessions. If you have a video game system, then you have a recipe for success since you can host “trainer tournaments”. Last year at the office we had some fairly epic Halo multiplayer battles while riding the trainers (one guy even added aerobar extensions to his bike since he could ride hard while still using the controller).

You'd be amazed how much faster the time goes when you can crush your friends in Halo or Madden

You’d be amazed how much faster the time goes when you can crush your friends in Halo or Madden

5. Sweat It Out: When you’re on the trainer, it’s going to get sweaty. You’re not moving, so there’s no air to cool you down. Here are some tips to keep cool and clean:

-Put down a trainer mat under the bike

-Use a sweat net to protect your frame (many trainers come with one of these)

-Use a small fan to keep cool

-Always have a bottle with ice water in it

-Wear a cycling cap to keep sweat out of your eyes

A sweat net will help protect your frame and components from the corrosive effects of sweat

6. Have A Plan: Riding the trainer is an activity that rewards having a focused approach. Making vague promises to ride the trainer every day for an hour may be hard to follow through on as the winter grinds on. Create a training realistic training plan that you can adhere to, and that drives toward very specific goals. This is where using a training DVD can be very helpful.

Using a training DVD can help you create a plan and work toward specific goals during the off-season

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