After the last competition has been contested, the question arises: Continue riding or put the bike in the cellar? Our training expert Christoph Lörcks advises: cut down on the sport in a planned way and do something different for a change.
At the end of September and beginning of October, most road riders compete in their last races of the year. In the case of shorter road races, it is often advisable to significantly reduce the amount of training already in this phase, especially as the fun of hour-long sessions also dwindles in many a rider. With shorter training rides of two to three hours in the GA1 range and sometimes also somewhat faster training rides in the GA2 range around two hours, the form can be held quite well for the last weeks. Due to the high load of the previous months, this method often works better than continuing extensive training. Short intervals in the developmental range and short sprints of six to ten seconds can also be incorporated very effectively during this phase of training.
For some amateur athletes, however, there are still highlights to come at the end of the season. The Münsterland Giro, for example, does not take place until the third of October – a real must for many everyman and hobby riders. Here you have to weigh up exactly how far your basic endurance is built up and stable – especially if you want to go on the long distances of up to 160 km. Riders with a high level of performance may well proceed as described above. Athletes with a lower performance level should better build in at least one long basic unit in the range of the competition distance in the weeks before.
After the last race we will enter the transition phase. In the past, many cyclists put the bike in the cellar and only took it out again months later, training very little or not at all during this phase. However, I recommend a different approach to my athletes – at the amateur and professional level. I usually design the first two weeks of the transition phase completely free for the athlete, without any guidelines. If the athlete wants to train on the bike, then a maximum of two hours GA1 and this at most three to four times a week. The best thing, however, is not to get on your bike at all for two weeks. After months of often extensive training on the bike, it’s important to get some distance. However, I recommend that athletes turn to other sports, such as team sports or sports with a high coordination component.
This is especially important for the professionals with their extreme distances, but there are also hobby riders who train 15 to 20 hours a week on the bike. So if you’d rather not cycle at all for two weeks, you can do that too. The body usually already sends very good signals. If you don’t feel like training any more, then perhaps your organism simply needs a longer recovery phase.
This is how it goes well
Once the two weeks are up, you can slowly get back into structured training. But even at this stage, it doesn’t have to be regular cycling sessions. Quiet endurance runs are quite sufficient. But be careful – don’t get too ambitious. The body is not used to longer running sessions unless you have also run regularly during the season. So don’t immediately hire the marathon runner from the neighbourhood as your new training partner – we don’t want to get into running, we just want to do something for the cardiovascular system. Running is very effective for this purpose, as it requires significantly less time than normal basic training on the bike. Optimal for the beginning are runs between 30 and 45 minutes; later you can slowly orientate yourself towards 60 to 90 minutes. If you overdo it, however, overuse and pain can be the result, so you should always be on the lookout for any problems that arise from jogging. The common sites of overuse are the shin muscles and the knees; pain in the hips or back is also an alarm signal – and when that sounds, you need to immediately reduce the circumferences or stop training altogether.
Especially for athletes who have a normal working life, it is hardly possible to cycle during the week in autumn and winter. Rolling training the entire period from mid-October to March is also not for everyone; therefore, it can be very effective to incorporate even larger portions of running training – especially during the week – during the transition period (October) and preparation period 1 (November/December). In preparation period 1, running training can be supplemented with short rolling sessions that focus only on motor development (cadence). Very good results can be achieved with this. Overall, however, there should not be too much endurance during the entire transition phase. It’s still about compensating for the stresses and strains of the season and fully regenerating for once.
Please switch off!
Another very important factor is mental relaxation. Regular training, the stress of competition and often pressure to perform – whether externally or self-imposed – have left their mark. The transition period is the right time to let all this fall away. Often strict eating habits and not partying in the evening (when there is a competition the next day) also lead to stress, albeit often unnoticed. In the transition phase, this is not so important. While you shouldn’t go overboard with your diet all the time, every once in a while is perfectly okay, even for professionals, during this phase.
In training, you can now also devote yourself to areas that may have been neglected during the season. The training of the torso muscles, for example, is often underestimated by cyclists. Ensuring resilience is an essential foundation for successful performance building and overall performance.
Of course, this must be avoided at all costs. If you have perhaps already had problems during the season, you should analyse them specifically (whether on your own or with the support of an expert) and tackle them specifically.
Starting with the preparation period 1 in November, an appropriate training should be scheduled in the training schedule.
Find causes of pain
Many cyclists have minor or major problems with the seating position. Within the season you should only make small changes here; now, however, you can safely try around. The only thing you should do is to document the previous settings of the bike exactly in a dimensional map in order to be able to retrace the changes and to be able to restore the old status if necessary. As mentioned, many problems have muscular or orthopedic causes. A healed collarbone fracture, for example, can lead to poor posture, which then has other consequences. Here the help of an expert is often necessary to find a real solution, because the causes are often not recognizable for the layman.
How did the season go? Where were strengths and where were weaknesses? What were the causes? Sounds simple, but very few athletes effectively analyze their season and implement the results to move forward. I recommend always doing this reflection in writing, because everything is still present now. Over time, however, the impressions become blurred and are perceived only blurred.
Then you should think about what you want to achieve in the coming season and how you can achieve those goals. These ideas should be further developed and fixed as concretely as possible. Extensive winter training is much easier when you have clear goals in mind.
How have you been training so far? It’s often scary to me how many cyclists just ride bikes to achieve their goals; even pros often just train very intuitively. An individually tailored training plan can be much more effective here, and not just for competitive athletes. The work of XP Sport – Training Systems shows that especially for hobby athletes a professional and individual training plan is often very effective. Due to the professional and private environment, many amateur athletes can only rarely train according to sample plans from books – individualization and adaptation to the time budget are required; if this works, extreme performance increases often beckon as a reward. Amateur athletes who had been training extensively for years were able to achieve a power increase of over 20 percent (measured by IANS power in watts) within one year by changing their training. With other athletes, we were able to maintain the level of performance despite a reduction in the amount of training by almost 30 percent – more was no longer possible for professional reasons. This shows how ineffective many cyclists train – and that a training control system brings much more than a new carbon wheelset for 1500,- Euro.