Maintaining Cycling Fitness Through The Winter

Who doesn’t love the fall season? The vibrant colors are changing. The sun is still warm on the skin, but there’s a fresh feel to the air. So as the seasons changes, the days get shorter and the roads get slippery and it must be time to hang up the bike for the season and enjoy some other activities ……right? …….wrong!

The tendency for so many people is to train hard, train well and train often through the spring and summer months, but then let it all go to waste during the colder months of the year. By putting a hold on your cycling specific training at this time, means all of that hard earned cycling fitness will be lost and next season you’ll be starting at the same point you started at this season. And then you have to start the long hard slog to regain that fitness and get back to your former self. It becomes a vicious ‘cycle’ of peaks and troughs, highs and lows, year after year. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

What if you were able to minimize that regression, maintain your cycling specific fitness? Better yet, what if you were able to do it with just 2 to 3 hours of cycling per week during the fall and winter?

This is where training zones come in to play. By training in the correct zones for you, the time commitment is minimized and the results maximized. This means you start next season at a much higher fitness level than where you started this season, which leads to much better results – all for a minimal time commitment through the fall and winter.

Here’s an example of one of our clients who did just that:

First, the back story. This client started with us in April 2015 having previously completed a Granfondo in September 2013 in 5hrs 45 mins. Like most, this client had been doing lots of high intensity training, but wasn’t seeing the improvements he was expecting from the volume and intensity he was putting in. We assessed his fitness and prescribed a training program that still included elements of high intensity (Zone 3 and 5), but emphasized Zone 1 (Z1) training – which was slower than he had been previously training. The key here is that it was specific to his individual and current fitness.

After his first re-assessment in early August 2015 the results did not disappoint. What was most striking was the 37.5% improvement in his aerobic threshold power, from 125 watts to 200 watts (W). This is the equivalent of adding 3 km/h to his average speed at ‘easy’ intensities. Additionally, his lactate threshold power increased from 190 W to 240 W – a 26% improvement. His maximal power output increased by 31%, from 240 W to 295 W (2.9 W/kg to 3.8 W/kg).

Now, this is where it gets interesting. Through the fall season the priority shifted to a maintenance mode and the training volume decreased significantly. Our client was training 2-3 times per week of no more than 60 minutes per session and incorporating both Z1 and Z3 into his schedule. Since our client was doing just a fraction of the volume he had been doing in the summer months, naturally he ‘gave a little bit back’ on his fitness through the fall and winter (as you can see in the table below). But the goal was to maintain his fitness as much as possible with a minimum of training.

By monitoring fitness throughout the off-season, a minimum of precise volume and intensity will allow you to hold onto the fitness gains you made this season so you can crush your goals next year. The key is understanding what are the critical heart rate or power zones specific to you. Knowing them allows you to minimize the time investment and maximize the gain through the off season. Make the 2018 Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan your best ever by keeping your training going through the fall and winter months with focused zone based workouts.

Click here to read the article on the Granfondo Axel Merckx  website, along with other useful articles.

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