Cyclists and triathletes training with power can be tempted to keep pushing the same power levels and workouts in the off-season that were normal in the race season. Aiming to keep training volumes and intensity levels the same year round can lead to burnout and injuries. Even Olympic athletes change workouts so they can be faster in the upcoming season.
You too must change your training in order to achieve new success.
One way of changing training is aiming to harvest as much power from a workout as possible, without popping over a heart rate cap. For example, if you’re using one of my off-season (base or preparation) training plans you may find one of your workouts allows a range of heart rate intensities from Zone 1 to Zone 3. One way to aim for higher power levels – while restricting heart rate – is to go ahead and aim for your Zone 3 peak race season power production during the ride and recover when heart rate reaches the pre-assigned cap.
This kind of workout is great for indoor trainers and helps the time pass quickly. Here is one example 60-minute indoor trainer workout:
Warm-up 15 minutes at Zone1 to 2 heart rate.
Pick a rolling course on your trainer or simulate a rolling course. Ride at roughly XXX watts (your Zone 3 power goal) until your heart rate reaches the top of Zone 3. When HR reaches the top of Zone 3, spin easy at Zone 1 watts, or less, for 2 minutes. Repeat the sequence until 35 minutes are up.
Spin easy at Zone 1 watts.
I find this kind of “gaming the system” does a few things for athletes:
Even if you are new to using power on an indoor trainer, and you don’t have power on your outdoor bike, you can begin to figure out power zones to make winter training more interesting and fruitful.
Once you know a power goal and a heart rate cap, you can use self-talk to relax and keep heart rate lower while aiming for high power output. This skill can, and should be, transferred to the race season. In other words, how can you keep biological costs (heart rate) low while riding fast? Play with this, and you should find you can influence the numbers.
The workout allows you to aim for some of the racing season’s power production without turning the session into the same workouts you’ve done for months.
With the right mix of workouts, you can make next season your best.
Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlon plans found here.
Here’s a good winter workout for you Vasa Trainer users.
Do a warm-up of around 5 minutes. Then do the following swims at Zone 1-2 intensity (intensity guide in the free download section). Between each swim is a 30-second recovery interval, unless otherwise specified:
300, 200, 100
Rest 1 minute, then do:
4 x 50 at Zone 3intensity, keeping the rest interval at 30 seconds.
Swim easy Zone 1 to cool down for about 5 minutes.
The main goal of the workout is for pace to increase for each segment - i.e., 50's pace faster than the 100, 100 faster than 200, 200 faster than 300 pace.
One of the most frustrating things for endurance athletes to deal with is a winter weather. It’s tough maintain fitness given cold and shortdays, but to get sick on top of it is maddening.
When I wrote the story on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, one thing that I learned from the research is that aerobic exercise builds the immune system, while long durations of high intensity exercise stresses the immune system.
I was never able to find what experts believe to be the threshold for how much is "too much intensity." Does 30 seconds of anaerobic work tear down the immune system? How about a minute? Is it cumulative? Does 5 minutes spread over an hour tip people over the threshold of tearing down the immune system?
In short, we don’t know for sure.
When I have an athlete that is recovering from a cold, but not quite well yet (some seven to 10 days after the onset of cold symptoms), one workout I will include is intervals right around lactate threshold power (LTP). If you are using power now, you know your training zones based on a time trial. If you don’t have a system now, you can reference the free download intensity document and chart used in my training plans to give you a place to start.
Warm up 10 minutes at Zone 1 to 2 intensity
Beginning at the 10-minute mark, do 10 x 1 minute at the prescribed power level. Take 4 minutes of easy spinning at Zone 1 to 2 intensity between each interval. Intensity levels for each interval are:
#1 and #2 = LTP minus 25 to 20 watts
#3 and #4 = LTP minus 20 to 15 watts
#6 through #10 = LTP minus 10 watts to plus 5 watts
For example, if your LTP is 200 watts, your intervals would go as follows:
#1 and #2 = 175 to 180 watts
#3 and #4 = 180 to 185 watts
#6 through #10 = 190 to 205 watts
I’ve found that this workout helps ease the athlete backinto higher levels of work, without being exhausting. I do adjust the intervals some, depending on the individual athlete. You may have to adjust the power levels some or reduce the number of intervals, but remember the main goal is to recover from the illness to 100-percent health.