Getting Ready for a New Season
Updated: Jan 13, 2019
For most athletes--recreational or otherwise--the winter season serves as the center of the off season where established winter activities and training programs are dotted with activities like yoga, indoor spinning classes, strength training, or anything else holding a traditional off-season focus. Like many of my fellow athletes, I go through off-season with a mindset of the full season being "miles" away, but once the new year kicks into full-gear, as it now has, it's like someone flips on the light switch and the training focus generates a sense of urgency, which leads to an important question: When to 'begin'? Here's a look at some important considerations:
1) Timing and Choice of Your First Goal
In Northern Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region, the first racing and recreational events of the season usually begin around the mid-March time frame and continues through late-October.
Your first, and, arguably, your most important choice is the date of the first event you are going to treat with seriousness, which means you will not taper off in your preparations for the event.
Training events and races should be done to prepare your body for the stresses of racing ('you gotta race to race'). The date when the first event occurs will determine when it is time to start training in earnest; the type of event you decide to do will also determine what type of training you should be doing.
2) Be Ready Mentally to Commit
Every year, after athletes take an off-season break, one simple question is necessary; Are you ready to commit to a training program for the season? Physically, unless you were over-trained, it really doesn't take that long to be physically ready to go; it's the motivational side needing time to recharge. The off-season routine can continue while you begin a committed cycling program for the year, but again, be ready to focus your energies on the road ahead. It takes enormous effort and time to be successful in cycling and the last thing you want to hear are riders complaining about training in February! Make sure you are motivated and prepared for the long haul; different athletes require more time than others to get back that edge, so there is no right or wrong amount of time, as each individual is different. Perhaps different events trigger one's commitment like the holiday's being over or going back to school for the second semester. Whatever it is, just be prepared to give 100 percent to yourself and your chosen events.
3) History Repeating Itself
There is no exact time to start this process without giving it some thought. You can use your training history to help fine-tune the date. Look at past years and see if you started too early, too late, or just on time. For example, let's say that you have a major goal in mid-April. You know that it takes you about 6-8 weeks of consecutive training weeks to prepare you for racing. Throw in a couple races as prep for the April event and you can pretty much estimate about February 1 would be about the right time, give or take a week or so. The good thing about this process is that it forces you to look at what works for you and not everyone else. It forces you to be self-aware as an athlete and there is no better characteristic than that!
4) What Are the Primary Goals?
Though a cliche' and sometimes overused, but don't go into the beginning of serious training without particular goals. Separate goals into two specific buckets; events and racing. Because of the nature of cycling fitness, training goals are usually more in your control, like improving your watts per kilo in the threshold test or your FTP in a field test. Race goals are a little bit more ambiguous than long-distance event goals because so much is out of your control in a bike race compared to a gran fondo. You also have to look at when your goals take place to help structure your season, i.e., the time of year when events are held. Think about the big picture and structure your season in a way that allows you to be motivated, fresh and feeling good into and through the FALL!