Coach's Column with Travis Woodruff - Making the Transition Back to Training After the Off Season
Question: In the off season, how much time
is ok to spend off the bike if any? How
do I appropriately use cross-training workouts to help maintain some fitness
and when do I need to transition to all Ďon the bikeí training again?
Answer: Youíve raised a couple of good questions
to cover. Iíll briefly overview how I
prefer to organize a season so that choosing the right type of training (and
knowing how cross training might fit in) can be an easier process. Training works best when the daily workouts
and the weekly objectives all fit into the bigger picture of the entire
season. There are lots of great ways to
train, but timing it all in such a way that works well for your goals is the
challenge that troubles many riders.
Off Season or Transition Phase
will typically follow your competition season and is characterized by little or
no organized training. Keep active, have fun, but donít be concerned about
training. Donít be stressed about losing fitness here. More
than anything you need the down time.
Base or Foundation Phase
can be thought of as training to train. The goal here is to build a bigger
aerobic engine so that you can effectively be in the mix with your competition.
With a higher threshold power or maximum sustainable pace, youíll be able to take
your results up another notch. Depending on your goals and your training time
available each week, there could be a wide range of workouts that are
completely appropriate here, including cross training for strength and/or
aerobic fitness. Please understand that base or foundation training does not
equate to simply doing long easy rides. The foundation of your season hinges
directly upon your threshold fitness, so much of this phase is directed towards
Build or Race Prep
your aerobic systems well developed and your threshold power largely in place
the goal of this training phase is to specifically prepare for the intensity
that youíll face in your upcoming competitions. Youíll want to maintain your aerobic development, but put an emphasis on
including more high intensity work. From
here on in, your training should become increasingly specific to what you
expect on race day. This phase of
training will be different for riders who are focusing on various mountain bike
disciplines. Incorporating some racing will help you test your progress before
getting to the races which matter the most for you. Cross training is less
valuable here, but may still be applicable in some cases. Maintenance is often
the best cross training strategy here if an athlete wants to or needs to keep
something other than cycling in the mix.
put in the work over many weeks and months to get here. Now itís time to race
fast and allow ample recovery from the big efforts that youíre making. Your
overall training workload will be less while you Ďride outí the big fitness
that youíve amassed. It wonít last forever, so be sure to enjoy those days
where you can really let it rip! Be especially careful with any cross training
during your competition phase. With your biggest races looming thereís no need
to cause undue fatigue with exercises that arenít going to benefit your
performance. The competition phase will typically last no longer than six
weeks, so you can get back to your preferred cross-training once youíre wrapped
up those races that matter the most.
A single mountain bike season might have you
go through this full sequence of training once or twice, depending on what
races youíre doing or how long your season stretches. When it comes to the question of cross
training, itís simply a matter of specificity. If youíre looking to build basic
aerobic fitness or add to your muscular strength and coordination, then various
modes of cross-training can be great. However cross training becomes less
valuable as you get closer to the primetime of your season when specific
training is a must.
When it comes to taking a break, whether itís
a short in-season break or a longer post-season break, itís perfectly
acceptable to hang the bike up if thatís what works best for you. Such rest
periods are meant to allow for physical and mental regeneration so as long as
thatís the case, then youíre doing it right whether or not you choose to ride.
Donít be afraid to lose fitness during a break since taking the down time will
allow you to train more effectively once youíre back at it.
Your cross training can certainly add to your
season just as long as itís not a replacement for riding when you really need
to be on the bike. Please feel free to follow up with me if I can help with any
further questions. Good luck with your
season planning and have fun with it!
is a USAC Level I (elite) certified coach who holds a B.S. in Kinesiology with
emphasis in Exercise Science. Heís coached riders to five MTB National
Championship wins and has over 10 years of personal racing experience. Since
2005 heís competed as a pro mountain biker and has coached full-time. His
business, Momentum Endurance LLC, is based out of Tucson, Arizona
where he hosts wintertime training camps.