My off season training began the first week of November with a my pre-season testing to identify baselines and set accurate zones. Then followed that up with a week long trip to Arizona for the first of three Off-Season Training Camps. This first camp was more of a Training Camp Lite, as my fitness wasn’t in place for any real long rides or heavy training. Rather the goal was to return to consistent daily riding to find my rhythm, clear my mind, and get focused on training for the year ahead. I hit up 2-3 hours each day of riding for the sake of riding and having fun. No intervals, no thresholds to keep an eye on…just ride and enjoy!
Upon my return home I was ready to get to work with Block 1 of our Sessions:6 Off-Season Base Build Training Program.
You can read more about what we do in Block 1 in a previous post HERE.
My off-season training blocks are set up in the common 3-1 pattern of three weeks building fitness (ie. fatigue) followed by a week to de-load a bit to recover and absorb the training (ie. regain freshness). Off-Season Program Block 1 is very low intensity and focuses on adapting to strength training and gaining an aerobic base on the bike.
I’m a fan of routine. With a busy work, family and training schedule, developing a weekly schedule to follow helps me plan and stay consistent. I am also fortunate enough to be able to set up my work schedule as needed and get in more training time during the week than most folks. For this reason my weekly schedule varies slightly from those that we coach and train.
Here’s my typical training week* through the Off-Season:
- Monday: Strength Day
- Tuesday: Structured Ride (intervals, usually on the trainer)
- Wednesday: Endurance (outside when weather is good, trainer when not good)
- Thursday: Strength Day
- Friday: Structured Ride (intervals, try for outdoors, trainer is cool too)
- Saturday: Endurance (outside when weather is good, trainer when not good)
- Sunday: “Flex Day” (these days riding with my 14-year old MTB racer daughters, or recovery ride, or day off)
*For “recovery” weeks, I’ll drop the structured ride in favor of easy recovery or endurance riding as desired.
These schedule works well for me. It allows for relatively low-volume (ranging from 10 hours early in off-season to highs around 20 hours in peak endurance training in summer months), twice weekly strength, twice weekly aerobic intensity, twice weekly endurance riding, along with plenty of recovery time.
On the strength side, I really let things go over the summer and regretfully didn’t maintain my strength gains from 2017 Off-Season Program very well. I ended up dialing back my loads (using our Strength Load Calculator) a bit to find the correct balance between challenging myself and not over-doing it. For the first three blocks of training, our program focuses specifically on the Deadlift and Back Squat to build cycling specific strength through knee and hip extension. In addition, we include a progression of Pull & Push movements for the upper body, as well as a lot core stability exercises for the back, abdominal, hip and shoulder muscles.
I ended up reducing my 1 rep max lift loads by about 20% over the maxes I achieved last off-season to set my training set/rep schemes. I may end up reaching my maxes from last season by the end of the build, but the early scheme just felt too heavy, due to my lack of maintenance through the summer. I won’t make that mistake again!
We put far more focus on proper form and full range of motion over what numbers we can achieve. I always remind myself, and those we coach & train, we are endurance athletes training for endurance events, not weight lifters training for competitions; numbers don’t matter as much as proper form to engage all muscles appropriately which will help us achieve higher power outputs across all energy systems as well as build fatigue resistance.
- 2017 1 Rep Maxes:
- Back Squat at 200 lbs.
- Deadlift at 220 lbs.
- Adjusted 2018 1 Rep Max estimates:
- Back Squat at 160 lbs.
- Deadlift at 180 lbs.
I trained strength two times a week: Mondays & Thursdays. Rep schemes for Block 1 ranged from 50% to a peak of 1 set of 4 at 85% in the first session of week 3. The majority of weight lifted was in the 60-75% of 1RM range to build some strength volume and prepare the body for the heavier loads that follow in Block 2. By week 4 recovery week I am feeling strong and healthy. I truly believe that lifting heavy weights (for endurance athletes) helps to maintain a youthfulness that is unachievable through just riding your bike. I’m convinced there is hormonal change that occurs when lifting weights and it helps the body not only stay strong, but just feel better, recover faster, and stay healthier. I encourage all endurance athletes to lift heavy weights, and do it year ’round.
The weather has been unusually warm and dry thus far this Fall in Denver. This has allowed me to get outside a bit more than planned for. I’ve been able to get outside on the bike 3-4 days a week, in addition to one day on the trainer. I’m a HUGE fan of training on the trainer, regardless of weather. The quality is unmatched. However, I’ve been training (on the trainer) and racing for 20 years now, and I’m not going to really get any better. My pedaling efficiency is as good as it’s going to get, so spending time training high-cadence and single-leg drills aren’t going to do much for me. Sad but true. I will benefit more from just riding to stay loose and regain a cyclist aerobic base. All that said, I still want to maintain a weekly trainer session in first three blocks for “maintenance” work in the cadence and ILT work. If you have less than 20 years of trainer cadence and ILT drill in your legs, then you need to be on the trainer 2x a week! They will make you better.
My “Structured Ride” days (Tue & Fri) have been made up of Aerobic Threshold Intervals. Spending more and more time at just under 80% of my max HR helps to build that aerobic power and fat-burning energy system simultaneously. It’s also an extremely time efficient way to get “aerobic miles” in without spending hours and hours and the bike (something else I also do not need with 20 years of high level training in my legs and heart). These kinds of intervals are moderate in effort and actually pretty fun to do. They take enough focus to stay engaged in the effort, but they are not particularly fatiguing and they start to feel good as you get better at them.
My Endurance days have been just in the 2-3 hour range of easy to moderate effort riding. A mix of MTB and road. I’ve also, for the first time in 6 years, added in a weekly group ride with some of the faster “racers” in town. This hour long ride segment includes some brief periods of high-intensity riding to keep up with the front group. The first week was a bit of shocker (particularly with a 44t front ring), but I quickly found my old “road racing” legs and have been enjoying hanging with the group on Saturday mornings as part of longer ride.
Already after the first block of training I feel lighter and stronger on the bike. I’d guess my FTP has increased around 10 watts, just by the feel of it. My AeT intervals have gone from 240-250w to 260-270w for the 5-10 minute durations I’m targeting at this point. As I write this at the end of my recovery week after a 2.5 hour MTB ride, I don’t feel wiped out and in need of nap. This lets me know I’m adapting well and gaining fitness. Feeling the positive adaptions is crucial, as is seeing the numbers in my training log.
For the numbers geeks out there, in my Training Peaks Performance Management Chart I can also see I’m gaining fitness at a rate of around 5 CTL per week through Block 1. This will decrease a bit in Block 2 onwards, as the initial large fitness gain (20 CTL in the month of Nov.) is partly due to the lower than normal starting point from being “out of shape”. From here forward a CTL increase of around 10 per month will be my target. I know from history that this is a good rate I can adapt to and not be stretched too thin. I’m starting Block 2 at 80 CTL and the plan is to reach a peak of 120 CTL by end of March. 110-120 has historically been a “high” for me that I can achieve with positive effects. Then from here I’ll have 5 weeks to decrease from 120 to around 100-105 as I PEAK for my early season target event in early May: USAC Marathon National Championships.
Now on to Block 2!
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the insights and follow along for the 2018 season!
Cody Waite, Professional Off-Road Endurance Athlete & Coach
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