Road Bike Action caught up with Ben Day to find out what the successful Fly V Australia racer was doing in the offseason and to see if he could pass along some of his wisdom to the RBA fold.
Ben has a business coaching athletes of all levels (daybydaycyclecoaching.com) and has accumulated a wealth of training knowledge in his nine years of professional racing.
RBA: Ben, there are some people who believe November to January should be a time to rest, eat, sleep and forget about cycling. Is that a good idea?
Ben Day: Well, maybe November to January is a little long to completely forget about cycling, but I think it is a very important period to take the stress out of having to be race fit and ready. Take some time off the bike to regain some life balance as well as to work on some general fitness. (How many of you can leg press a huge weight but then struggle with only the bar on a bench press!)
It amazes me how so many people come off the boil towards the end of the season. A lot of the time, they weren't patient during the pre-season, in letting their bodies recover from the previous year's stresses and slowly building up for the ensuing year.
I am a big advocate in walking away from the bike for up to a month, depending on what your year consisted of, in an attempt to re-emphasize to yourself how much you do love to ride your bike. You will resume training after that, raring to go and eager to get back down to business.
Being burnt-out mentally and physically is a waste of time. So take two to four weeks off, ride your mountain bike, hike, hit the gym, run, swim—things that maintain a level of fitness and refreshes the mind and the soul.
RBA: If the goal is to be fit March through August, what should we be doing during the fall and early winter?
Ben: After a little hiatus, I think it is important to spend some quality time in the gym, but not necessarily on what you think are the main muscle groups. Your true core stability muscles are all the small muscles that maintain your structure from your spine, insignificant to the eye, but essential in creating a strong platform from which you perform every task.
Think of it like the frame of your bicycle. The stiffer it is, the more efficient the power transfer. There are millions of living analogies of this throughout the world and in life, re-iterating to us the importance of a strong base and foundation. But make sure you save the big leg strength exercises for doing big gear efforts on your bike, which is the most specific way of strength training for a cyclist.
Gym training also increases the neurological pathway activating your muscles into firing—the more fuel lines that you have going into the motor can only increase your performances. Hopefully this shows you the benefits to be gained from a core stability program in the gym.
Asides from this, what is possible to do during the winter is specific to the person's location and weather. In the cold-winter states and countries, I believe it is important to maintain three to four bike rides a week (indoors if necessary) to maintain your body's cycling specific muscle memory, but these sessions can be interspersed with other endurance, aerobic sports. Cross-country skiing, hiking, skating, running and swimming are all great methods of cross training.
New Mexico, Florida, Texas, California—you don't really have an excuse but to get back out on your bike, building up your endurance for the next season and creating that solid foundation in which we need to stay healthy and maintain form throughout the year. One of the major benefits of all of this aerobic training is an increase in the capillarization of your muscles—creation of more pathways for oxygen transfer to your muscles, boosting your metabolism, maintaining your weight, and boosting your stamina.
As you can see, the words prevalent here are: base and foundation—take the time to build a solid base and your house won't collapse later in the season.