There Is No "Off" SeasonWritten by Matt Russ
The fall and winter is a common time for athletes to wrap up their race season. It is also good to take some time off and let your body recuperate from rigors of high intensity training and racing. Some athletes take as much as four weeks off, but this does result in loss of fitness and requires making up lost ground later. Endurance especially is one of more difficult aspects of fitness to rebuild. A better approach is to enter a "transition" period in which training and intensity are reduced; perhaps greatly, but a level of fitness is maintained. It takes a relatively small amount of training volume to maintain fitness, when compared with building fitness. I recommend at least 1 full week off at end of race season. After taking a week (or more if needed) off I recommend performing some sort of general cardiovascular exercise every other day and take at least 2 consecutive days off every other week. If you feel like you need another day off- take it. This transition period can last 2-6 weeks. Your work outs do not need to be specific to your sport during this time. Shying away from impact of running with cross training is a good idea. This may mean using stair stepper, elliptical trainer, rower, or another sport such as mountain biking (I leave heart rate monitor home). If you plan on strength training introduce resistance work to acclimate yourself for heavier routine to come. The transition period should be tailored to your personal needs such as individual recovery time, age, and stress of your individual sport.
After transition period enter into base or foundation period. During this time increase volume of training, but keep intensity low and aerobic. Perform little if any work above aerobic level and let my anaerobic system atrophy. Building this aerobic base is critical for efficiency later in season. Each week increase duration slightly to build aerobic endurance. Since there are no sprints, speed work, climbing, hill repeats or other intense training your body gets a good rest and can repair itself fully. The first four weeks of base training simply perform low level aerobic work, but in next 4 week block begin to work on technique, skill, and efficiency. This is a good time to perfect your spin, stride, and stroke so that you do not reinforce bad habits. Efficiency is a huge component of becoming a faster athlete. You may want to work with a coach to assess your weaknesses. He or she can recommend a wide variety of drills to increase cadence, efficiency, leg speed, and coordination.
You Are Disciplined to Train, But Do You Have Training Discipline?Written by Matt Russ
I have privilege of working with motivated athletes and they all exhibit a high degree of self discipline. Often, one of hardest things to do is to get them not to train, or to rest and recover. Training can be a slippery slope. You have to balance right amount of stress with right amount of rest. Even though you may be a disciplined athlete, training discipline means performing right volume, intensity, and work out and then allowing your body to recover from it. It also means knowing when not to train. Training too hard can be more detrimental than not enough.
Too many athletes confuse high volume training with high quality training. Just increasing amount your run or ride will not necessarily get you faster. You have to choose right work outs to train your weakness and capitalize on your strengths. Training should be a slow steady progression. If you add 10 more intervals to what you accomplished last week, first 3 may have been beneficial, and last 7 counter productive. A proper plan will not increase overall volume more than about 8% per week with a maximum of 10%. Try to keep these numbers in mind when you design your plan.
Another common mistake is training too hard in weeks leading up to a race. Depending on your event you should taper your training for 1-2 weeks or more. In this time overall volume goes down while intensity stays up. The purpose of this is to have you fully rested while maintaining a high level of fitness. Some athletes find it hard to taper their training and feel they are under training before their event. As Chris Carmichael once told me, “there is nothing you can do week of a race to increase fitness, but there is everything you can do to screw it up.”