Cyclists wait all year for the summer. The weather gets nice, big races (finally) arrive and long group rides reliably happen every weekend. The year is also halfway over and your cycling fitness is peaking after many months of hard work. This all builds an opportunity to let you ride longer and harder but it also puts you at risk for developing the infamous mid-season burnout. To keep your fitness and motivation increasing over the year, use the summer months as a reminder to take a short break, re-assess your fitness and change your training to address your limitations and upcoming goals.
TAKE A BREAK, THEN TEST WHERE YOU ARE
Many cyclists train year round or at least maintain fitness after a short break in the fall. That means there have been 4–6 months of pedaling and training since our last big break. So a mid-season break or two each summer helps avoid burnout and ensures the body and mind are recovered for more training. It’s best to time these breaks after a big event. If you don’t have an event, then use a three-day holiday weekend or a family trip as a chance to take some well-deserved time away from your training.
Once you’re back from your 3–10 days off, take an easy ride or two and do a test to cross-reference with your race and ride results thus far to help guide your next training focus.
The Workout: Climb a local hill or two and record your time (use MapMyRide to find a good route) or do a 20–30 minute hard time-trial on the road or around a favorite mountain bike loop. The key is to reduce performance-affecting factors like wind or surface to make sure any improvement in time is because you are more fit. Using a power meter helps eliminate some of the guesswork.
DO A LONG, STEADY RIDE EVERY 5–10 DAYS
Long, steady rides are important components of a cyclist’s training plan. Even those who specialize in the shortest races do a lot of long-duration training. This type of training ride is often skipped as summer group rides, crit practice and races take up our training time as we recover into and after each event. Find a spot in your schedule every 5–10 days to maintain your endurance and help improve it if it’s a limitation for you. These are best placed the day after a hard day where you do not require your best form, and they should be followed by an easy or off day to allow you to be ready for another high-intensity day.
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The Workout: The day after your hard workout or group ride, ride with a friend who is willing to ride longer and slower. I start clients at 65–75% of max heart rate (often this is <140bpm as a very rough guideline if you do not know your max) or simply make sure you are going easy enough so you can talk to your friend without panting and avoid sprinting or hard muscular efforts.
GO REALLY SHORT AND REALLY HARD
The idea of polarized training or 80/20 training (low intensity for 80% of the time, high intensity for 20%) is popular right now. Training mostly easy is well founded for all athletes because this is the time we develop our aerobic system and efficiency in our sport. Avoid too much and too long a focus on the middle-ground intensity, making sure you cycle through very short and hard intensity during the season. Resist the urge to cram the most amount of work you can into limited training hours. These hard rides could be really hard group rides, weekly races or a very hard set of intervals out of your comfort zone, that really pushes you athletically.
The Workout: Plan a 60–90 minute ride and include 5 x 40 seconds very hard. This will be a mix of standing and sitting and should have you quite winded at the top. Use a short hill, even a grassy park climb can work for mountain bike and cyclocross athletes. Leave 7–12 minutes between to allow you to cover the same or more distance each repetition (work on skills, cadence or chat with friends between). Keep track of distance each week and try to go further and/or add 1 rep per week.
Be proactive and take a break this summer. While it can be tempting to do many hard rides, take the hot summer days as a sign your body needs downtime and new training loads. The summer months are the perfect time to take a quick break to let your body recharge, assess your fitness and then mix up your training to keep your body adapting to new loads to keep you moving toward your next goal.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RIDE