It's the final weeks of the summer and a long season of riding and training has gone under our wheels. For some, it's a holding pattern before the official off season. For others, it's hanging onto fitness for one last big event. And a third group might be trying to transition from a full road season to cyclocross. What are some things that we can do to keep that morale mojo to the max?
I'll start by saying I know I'm a very lucky guy...I've figured out how to make a living riding my bike. Some of the things I do to take advantage of my flexible schedule is ride at different times of the day, in different locations and with different people. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area there are multiple group rides available literally 365 days a year. The race season starts on Jan 1st and continues through Oct 23rd! While I recognize the abundance of good fortune here (lots of cyclists, great weather, incredible terrain), this article isn't an ad to become a bike coach or move to the Bay Area. This is an article to encourage you to keep your riding fresh by mixing it up--whatever your location or circumstance may be.
At its core, cycling is a repetitive motion sport. Many of the workouts that we must do to improve are, at minimum, moderately repetitive in nature. Although there are LOTS of different interval workouts, they are, after all, still intervals. And it is human nature to slip into routines.
I see many local riders focus their whole week of training around the same three very popular group rides. Their riding is identical every week: the same group rides on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. They fit in a rest day or two, an easy day and one day of intervals. The only reason this workout schedule varies is if they're racing a particular weekend. This ends up harming their overall performance, decreases their rate of improvement, and is detrimental to their ongoing enjoyment of cycling. Because there is repetition at the very heart of the sport, it is important to vary your approach to it as much as possible. Smart variations will help your riding, your fitness and your outlook.
The athletes I coach are at different levels of the sport, ranging from serious recreational riders up through category 1 racers. And, like everyone else, my athletes have numerous constraints affecting their availability to ride. Most have full time jobs, many are married, and many have kids. And they still make the commitment to improve their cycling. I applaud every one of them for their dedication to training and racing.
Whenever I see one of my athletes tending to move into a cycling routine, we talk about mixing things up--either in their workouts, their ride location or the time of day they ride. Why are each of these training parameters so important? Let's take a look at each one.
Doing Different Workouts
As a coach, I seek to vary the workouts I give my athletes for three primary reasons:
- It keeps them mentally fresh and present.
- It keeps the activity physically fresh and challenging.
- I can prepare them for specific races with different key workouts leading up to that race.
The mental freshness factor is by far the most important, followed by doing particular workouts in preparation for specific races. In my coaching philosophy, it is critical to work different physiological systems every week of the year; I will, of course, vary the percentage of hard versus easy work depending on time of year and specific goals. For example, in the off season, when my athletes are doing relatively longer and relatively easier rides, I still include some sprints in with the "easy" work they're doing. It's extremely rare for me to provide even two weeks in a row of the same workouts; I find it much more motivating for my athletes to do something different every week.