What’s the Minimum I Can Do to Stay Fast?
So now the question becomes, “How much work is necessary to stave off this decline?” Compared to the consistent work necessary to establish fitness, it takes surprisingly little work to simply hold steady. Thanks yet again to Dr. Issurin, we’re afforded a concise description of the amount of work necessary to maintain each type of fitness, and I’ll provide some descriptions of each type of workout. I’ll even suggest some example TrainerRoad workouts.
- Aerobic Endurance – Once every 2 weeks, do a long, low-intensity ride. Ride long enough that the fatigue comes as a product of the ride’s duration, not its intensity. Example:Laurentian
- Anaerobic Power – Once a week. Something along the lines of 30- to 60-second repeats upwards of 130% FTP should suffice. Example: Bird -1
- Muscle Endurance/Threshold – Once a week. Try a 2×20-minute Threshold or even Sweet Spot workout. Example: Eichorn
- Sprint Power – Once a week. Perform 4-6 all-out efforts somewhere between 20-30 seconds long. Example: Bays or Haku
We All Need to Rest
Like it or not, we can’t train hard and continue to improve year-round. But with some well-timed and thorough recovery, we can take the occasional break without suffering dire performance consequences. Treat this crucial component of the stress-adaptation cycle with the respect it deserves and you only stand to become a stronger, faster cyclist from season to season, year to year.
What Do I Do With Extra Time?
Some endurance athletes can shape an entire year around a single event; full-distance triathletes spring to mind. The majority of us, however, usually target several events and even multiple disciplines across a single calendar year.
Regardless of the number of events or seasons contained in a calendar year, all of us will probably come up against an awkward gap in training plans. Do you continue to train during these gaps? Do you rest and possibly lose some of your fitness? Do you pad existing training phases or just wing it by cherry picking workouts?
Supplementing the Base, Build, Specialty (BBS) Cycle
Whatever you decide, a bit of planning is a good idea. Even if your plan is to eschew anything resembling structured training, it’s helpful to have a clear picture of your intent. This allows you to let go of any self-imposed obligations and even tone down potential expectations of other folks in your life. So take a minute, decide what you’re after, then get to it.
Done properly, filling these end-of-season gaps can help a cyclist maintain and even build fitness outside of a typical TrainerRoad Base/Build/Specialty cycle. They can be used to target embark on a base-building block of low-intensity work, undergo another period of event-specific improvements, or take a break from all the structure and metrics and just ride your bike…or don’t.
Adjusting the BBS Cycle: Under 2 Weeks
In many instances, a BBS cycle will end and leave just a couple dangling weeks before the onset of your next multi-month training cycle. This is one of the best opportunities to bank some low-intensity mileage and not much else. Take a break from the intensity but maintain your current training schedule doing no work above 70% FTP.
Tone things down even further and ride nothing harder than 60% FTP if you really dug yourself in a hole. In this case, also consider spending the entirety of the first week off the bike. It’s far better to take some complete rest and return to training thoroughly reenergized and motivated than to shortchange your downtime and carry a bit of fatigue into your subsequent training.
Adjusting the BBS Cycle: 1-2 Month Gaps
Commonly, a rider’s end-of-year gap lasts a solid 1-2 months and sees riders shut things down just prior to the winter season. A gap of this duration is certainly long enough to lose substantial fitness if you halt training altogether. So it’s a good idea to allocate no more than a couple weeks to full rest and relaxation unless you’re okay with a measurable decline in capabilities.
This is an ideal time to fill the remaining 6-8 weeks with one of three options:
- Traditional Base training to take a break from the tough stuff and dedicate some attention to low-intensity aerobic base work.
- As many weeks of Build plan as your gap allows as long as you’re eager to train and confident that your level of training readiness is high.
- Some form of aerobic cross-training like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing if faced with snowy conditions; running, swimming, rowing, etc., for anyone in warmer climates
Adjusting the BBS Cycle: Multi-Month Gaps
When presented with a longer-term gap lasting more than a couple months, it’s important to dedicate yourself to something closer to another BBS cycle.
- 3 months accommodates a full trip through either Traditional Base or Sweet Spot Base.
- 3 months can also be used to repeat 4 weeks of Sweet Spot Base I or II (make sure the final week is a recovery week) followed by a Build plan.
- 4 months offers enough time for a Build plan + a Specialty plan, but this could see a rider heading into the next BBS cycle in a too-fatigued state unless there’s a week or two of downtime tacked onto the end of your 4 months.