Saturday, December 19, 2009

Off-Season Training Ideas

Well, it’s that time of the year that we are beginning the off-season training plan. As we all are finalizing the race calendar for 2010, it’s a good time to look at what weaknesses can be improved during the off-season training.

As we have all experienced, being consistent with training in the off-season will make those first rides of the season in the spring much easier. I have found that training at least 6 days a week during the off-season (even if some of the workouts are as short as 30 minutes) will provide the necessary aerobic benefits to maintain fitness along eliminating the potential of significant gains in body weight. I would guess that most everyone faces the “normal” weight gain because of the holiday overeating and less training hours!

While aerobic conditioning is the majority of the training with target heart rate zones of 65-80% it’s still important to add some time at higher intensity levels. Focus on 20% of total weekly training time above the aerobic zones during the off-season program. By establishing a base-line time trial in each discipline and then measuring over each 6 week timeframe keeps the off-season training progressing towards a goal. My cycling time-trial monitoring is a 30 minute effort on the trainer starting the last week of December (90% effort). Every 6 weeks, I perform the same effort and examine the progress. Running time-trial consists of a 5 mile course on the trails and “test” every 6 weeks just like the cycling. Also, tests could be evaluated for strength training, swimming, etc.

With respect to weight gain as many coaches have advised, try to keep the overall increase of body weight at a maximum of 8% (of course the goal should be to keep it lower than 8%) For example is your race weight target is 175 pounds, and then keep the total weight gain less than 14 pounds. We probably all remember the classic weight gain and weight crash from professional cyclist Jan Ulrich. He would normally see his weight balloon with increases of 25 or more pounds in the off-season. There are many online programs that might be helpful tools to monitor calories in/calories out. Monitor weight weekly or over a 4 week time period (check out the new scales that measure body fat, BMI and metabolic rate) to ensure that the weight does not “get out of control”.

This is the best time of the year to increase strength training. Look at adding 3 workouts per week with a strength focus. This can incorporate weight lifting exercises of course, but there are strength training drills on the bike (with fixed gear training) and running hill repeats on the trails. Think about incorporating snowshoe running or cross country skiing to your off-season program. Also, check out other strength workout routines to supplement the main disciplines. Examine the various power yoga/abdominal DVD’s, books, etc. to add to training. Personally, I have found tremendous benefits of power yoga to help with physical and mental strength. Check out Cyclo-Core or Runner-Core (DVD’s) that have good workouts that will absolutely crush you mentally and physically! Also, purchase a new cycling workout DVD and/or go for a long ride 5-6 hour aerobic ride (while mixing in some intensity). It’s a great time of the year to add some isolated leg training on the bike to strengthen the “weak” leg.

Here are two of my key long workouts that I incorporate into my off-season weekend training days (again my focus is ultra triathlons):

Sat – long bike focus on the Trainer

Swim 1 Hour – series of intervals might look like the following:

200 Swim, 200 Kick, 200 Pull
5 X 200 Swim at 70% (30 sec. recovery)
200 easy swim
1000 kick
10 X 100 at 75% (15 sec. recovery)
5 X 50 easy recovery

Bike – long endurance focus (aerobic conditioning) 5- 6 hours

Hour 1 – 90-100 RPM’s at 70%
Hour 2 – add 8 sets of 5 minutes at 85%, 1 minute at 60%
Jump rope for 5 minutes then back onto the bike
Hour 3-4 maintain 70% effort, every 30 minutes jump off the bike and do 100 Hindu Squats – using a 5-10 pound medicine ball
Hour 5 4 sets of 10 minutes at 80%, 5 minutes at 65%
Hour 6 – jump rope 3 set’s of 2 minutes 1 minute recovery (just walk or slowly jog to get the HR back to the aerobic zone) and then do an easy spin on the bike at 60% for the last hour.

Sunday – long run focus

3-5 hour trail run (with or without snowshoes depending on weather conditions) at 75% on “tired” legs from the biking. The key is to negative split the run so don’t start out too fast!

1.5 hours at 70% easy spinning on the trainer – RPM’s at 90-100

Always remember to spend more time on your weaknesses and keep the majority of the training in the aerobic zone. By adding variety to the off-season program it will make the time fly by and race-season will be here before we know it!