My race season finished almost two months ago. I took about a month mostly off of the bike and played with some other endurance activities, such as running and rowing. Finally I got the desire to ride back, and have been my time on the bike again since.

Now that I have the desire to ride again, I’ve started thinking about the next season. This presents quite a predicament for me (and I’m sure most other racers). On the one hand the memory of the last season is still fresh in my mind, and so I remember what it felt like to do well, and also what it felt like when I was lacking. I desperately want next season to be that “magic season” that we always dream about. The season where you’re powerful from your first race to your last. The season where your “poor” results only come when you’re purposely holding back, or perhaps trying new techniques. The season where you’re repeatedly on the podium, and where you’re animating the race.

Thus I feel the desire to train. However I also know that next season is still far away. Here in Iowa our first race is the Kent Park Classic, and typically happens at the end of March. However it’s not uncommon for it to be snowed out, and thus either pushed back or cancelled. After that the first races don’t roll around until late April. Thus here in October, I’m looking at roughly six months until racing starts! If I started training in earnest now (intervals, heavily-planned out training calendar, etc.) it seems far more likely that I would be burnt out come December, than that I would remain enthusiastic from now until the end of next season. Hence the title: how to plan ahead for next season, but live with the reality that next season is still very far off?

For me this has boiled down to a light training schedule with two goals:

  1. Maintain as much of this season’s fitness as possible without getting burned out
  2. Do weight work to reduce injuries and prepare my body for harder training next year

So that is my idea, but how have I implemented it? For about a month now this has meant riding two days per week, typically 1.5 to 3.5 hour rides (with intensity in every ride), lifting weights one day per week at the gym, and doing core work (Tom Danielson’s Core Advantage) 5 days a week at home. Said all at once this still sounds like a sizable time investment, but really it’s not. The core workout takes me about 20 minutes, and I do it at home while watching football or a random YouTube video. For my weight lifting I’m focusing on squats. This means doing a warmup set, two heavy sets, then one light set with very high reps (25-50). I then do two or three other exercises, and am out of the gym in less than an hour. Finally, I’ve found that having only two rides a week, and often doing these with friends, really creates excitement for me to get on the bike. I still include some intervals, but they’re either longer (5+ minutes), or the short intervals are really just about pushing hard on hills, rather than burying myself on the flats. For me personally, doing rides with friends has helped me look at these rides as being “rewards” each week, rather than a item to check off the training calendar.

Thus far this balance has worked out very well for me. I left the season is good (for me) form, and feel like trying to improve my form at this point will only lead to exhaustion. However, if I can maintain a good level of fitness for the next few months, then in December or January I can get onto the trainer and start making gains, rather than spending a month or two regaining fitness. At some point later in the season I’ll write more about lifting weights, and also do a review of Core Advantage. But I can say that lifting seems to have made a noticeable difference, primarily in climbing out of the saddle. As for Core Advantage, I’ve enjoyed the workouts fine, but it’s too early to give anything resembling a review.

Finally, I would add that this can be a time to do some “mental training.” This term sometimes gets tossed around as an afterthought, and often includes things like visualizing yourself winning races, training hard, etc. However I’ve taken it in a different direction. About a month ago as I was starting to think about what my off-season training might be like, I started reading a lot online about training. However so much of the information is guess-work, copying what the pros do, or “common sense” from amateur athletes. I don’t believe that any of these are terribly reliable, and thus I wanted something more concrete. So, I started reading journal articles on exercise physiology, and summaries of such articles. This turned me on to a whole other world of training knowledge; knowledge which is backed up by science. That is not to say that everyone agrees. While the outcome of a good experiment can be considered reliable information, how you interpolate this information into the training year is more difficult. Nonetheless, I find this type of information far more useful. In the future I will write a post going into more detail.