Be Less Like a Roaring Lion and More Like a Frolicking Lamb1 of 4
So should you be pushing the panic button if you're feeling less like a roaring lion and a bit more like a frolicking lamb—in other words, rolling into spring a little…slow? Unless you have a very early season event you were hoping to be in peak condition for (in which case, yeah, you might want to sound a few alarms), the answer is no, says Hunter Allen, founder of the Peaks Coaching Group and co-author of Training & Racing with a Power Meter, who is all too familiar with riders who come out flying in February but are forced to slow down when they want to be speeding up for peak season events.
"I have a client who was super motivated all winter. Just hit it really hard and threw everything into it. He went from 220 pounds to 190 pounds, raised his FTP [functional threshold power] from 250 to 310 watts and was totally psyched for his first team race this weekend," says Allen. "Well, he got out there and was toasted. He had nothing in his legs and got dropped. He was like, 'What happened?! I was killing it just last weekend on my training rides.' I told him we knew this was a risk when you've been killing it for the past two months. You can't peak forever. So now you'll go into a little trough and have to rebuild for the next few weeks." (Keep track of your training rides with tips, inspiration and more inside Bicycling's custom Ride Journal.)
Like a Pot Ready to Boil2 of 4
So how do you know when it's okay to be a little slow on the bike and when it's time to worry about turning that slow into go? The short answer—so long as you have a normal base level of fitness—is about eight weeks before you want to be fast, says Allen. "Maybe more, maybe less depending on your fitness level."
Allen likens the process of reaching peak fitness to a pot of water that you want to bring to a boil. The warmer it is to start, the less time it will take to reach peak. That is, if you've stayed reasonably active over the winter and have what you would consider a fairly normal baseline of fitness, that water is pretty warm, so it usually only takes about eight weeks until you're boiling again, he says. If you've been working on a nice endurance base and the water is starting to form some little bubbles, you could be looking at more like six weeks. If the water's ice cold? Well, you get the picture.
Don't Risk Peaking Too Early3 of 4
The problem with coming into season too hot is that, like that pot of simmering water, you're pretty close to full boil—about four weeks out if you keep charging. So, you risk peaking too early and taking a dive in performance mid-Spring, he says. Should that happen, you'll need to hit reboot with a mini-periodization plan, says Allen. "That means a week of really easy endurance rides; a week of tempo; a week of sweet spot training just below FTP, and finally a week of VO2 max, anaerobic capacity and FTP work to bring your fitness levels back up to peak," he says. (Are you ready to get serious? Or just want to find out what Periodization is? Check out our selection of training plans on Training Peaks!)
So as long as you've got a hint of simmer going this spring, you'll be ready to rock when you need your speed the most.