The winter signifies the heart of the road cycling offseason. Most athletes have established their winter activities and training programs. They are busy doing things like yoga, indoor cycling classes, Pilates, cross fit, or anything else that has a traditional offseason focus.
I know as most people go through this holiday madness; the race season seems "miles" away. But make no mistake about it, once the calendar ticks over to the new year, it's like someone turns on a light switch and the focus on next season takes on a sense of urgency. This can lead to asking yourself a very important question: When to begin serious training for the road season. Let's look at some important points that can help influence your decision:
Timing and Choice of Your First Goal
Here in Northern California, the first race of the season is on New Year's Day. YES, January 1st. It's a 4-mile hill climb that starts at 10 a.m.—just enough time to get through your hangover! Racing starts in earnest in early February and continues through early-October.
Your first, and, arguably, your most important choice is when you are going to do your first race or event (if you are a recreational cyclist) that you are going to treat with seriousness. Racers talk about "practice races." This doesn't (and shouldn't) mean that you won't try your hardest during the race to win. It simply means that you will not do a taper in preparation for the event.
Training races should be done to prepare your body for the stresses of racing ('you gotta race to race.') When your first event occurs will determine when it is time to start training in earnest. The type of event you decide to do will also determine what type of training you should be doing.
Be Ready Mentally to Commit
Every year, after our athletes take their offseason break, we ask one simple question. Are you ready to commit to your program for the season? Physically, unless you were over-trained, it really doesn't take that long to be physically ready to go.
It's the motivational side that needs time to recharge. Your offseason routine can continue while you begin a committed cycling program for 2012, but again, be ready to focus your energies on the road ahead. It takes enormous effort and time to be successful in cycling and the last thing you want to hear are riders complaining about training in February!
So make sure you are ready to go, motivated and prepared for the long haul. Different athletes require more time than others to get back that edge. There is no right or wrong amount of time, as each individual is different. Perhaps different events trigger your commitment like the holiday's being over or going back to school for the second semester. Whatever it is, just be prepared to give 100 percent to yourself and your coach.