There’s some discussion bouncing around the internet between whether building slower-pace winter base miles or shorter, harder intensity efforts is the way to go to prepare for race season. Josh Horowitz, coach and trainer, says that Off-Season Training is just a myth. It’s all very interesting and can get technical with discussions of elevating your VO2 Max, increasing blood flow to the muscles, etc… Sounds great, but which training regime is best?
Thing is: here in the great southern states – we don’t really have an ‘off-season’. We are very fortunate to be able to ride our bikes outside (mostly) all year long. Off-season basically began for two major reasons:
- Give Yourself a Break. To avoid the feeling of ‘burn-out’: you know, where you are actually considering selling your bike and taking up running, yoga, or just about anything else. Obviously, this is not a good thing!
- Rest is important. Like it or not, you MUST give your body time to recover from your training – no matter what type of training that is. Our bodies require time to repair, rebuild muscle, make more muscle, and store energy for future efforts. The older you get, the more your body demands and requires rest. Believe me: I know.
- Biking in Crappy Weather. “It’s a perfect day to ride, it’s below 40 degrees out!”…. said no one, ever. Face it: cold, wet, with windy weather doesn’t make you want to ride your favorite steed outside and most folks head to spin class or the indoor trainer.
- I’m hard-headed and will suck it up most of the time and go outside. There some benefits to riding in colder weather. It can potentially burn more fat, so say “goodbye” to the Holiday calories. Winter cycling can also counteract cabin-fever and seasonal affective disorders (SAD). There are a few studies that say cold-weather training also improves immune function, so you are less likely to get sick.
Get to the Point: WHICH TRAINING PROGRAM IS BEST???
The short and sweet version for the ‘deep south’ is: train the same way you have been training during race season to keep at your maximum fitness level. Going slower only makes you slow. Not doing any intervals will hurt your sprinting and when race season comes, you’ll be behind the curve. Most races (unless you are Pro) do not last for more than several hours. Most ladies races are usually around 30-45 miles in length for women under Cat 2.
With this being said: why are we training to ride like we need to complete an Ironman? Unless you ARE training to complete an Ironman – rack up the winter base miles only if you enjoy it. Train to be at your best for at least 45 miles. Plan to be able to keep up Zone 3 for at least half of that with a few interval levels up to Zone 5. Build your training program around this and you won’t go wrong. Additional miles are like icing on the cake: you don’t absolutely need it, but it makes everything much sweeter. (What’s a ‘Zone’ – check that out HERE.)
Remember: cold weather ride breaks, by necessity, must be short in duration because our muscles will take much longer to warm up and they also cool down much quicker. Nothing is more aggravating than the 5-10 min group ride breaks in the winter. I tend to circle on my bike like a shark because warming back up can be painful at best.
If you are very reluctant to go out in the cold: “a little often”, as my British husband says, is the best way to handle this. Keep your rides between 1.5-2.5 hours and include (1) long ride for at least 3 hours every week. Ride as often as you can, weather permitting. Mix up the type of training rides: hill climbing, intervals, endurance, and combine them too. Cross-training is also good on the bike!
If you don’t have the luxury of hills (other than the occasional over-pass): click HERE to find out more about ‘flat-country hill training’.
Stay tuned for more info on cold-weather cycling including my recent (I’m sad to say) revelations about not over-layering for winter riding.
Go get some Miles In!
Feel free to comment below and include your cold weather training tips.
One thought on “Off Season: Are Base Miles Just Bunk?”
Nice writeup! I was glad to read Rutberg’s article and see it get so much attention – admittedly because agree with his (and your) message. I like to spend the “off” season trying to improve base fitness for the upcoming season. This means working really hard to get faster during these winter months! That said, any time spent on the bike is time well-spent. It’s all fun, but off-season gives us all time to flex, breathe, and take ourselves a little less seriously for a few months. Great blog!
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