What's Cool In Road Cycling

Toolbox: A Few “Going Into Winter” Tips

As we enter the true heart of the offseason (aka “Heart of Darkness), I thought it would be a good time to suggest a few offseason training tips that may help you come out of the winter more prepared both physically and mentally for 2011. Take all these with a grain of salt, maybe modify a few, and remember that it’s the general concepts that are important.

Fixed gear – I am a big believer in riding a fixed gear as part of a balanced training program in the offseason and especially for master’s riders who weren’t able to develop pedaling technique at a younger age. There are so many benefits, plus it’s just fun to ride a different style of bike. One thing is for sure, cycling is a “supple” sport and developing a supple pedal stroke is vital. Riding a fixed gear will help you do this. Plus it’s a great rain bike, as it has limited components! You can also check out this fixed gear article.

Information overload – Because of the recent technological explosion of the web and Internet, cycling information is everywhere! Social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, news sites, forums, and email lists, it goes on and on and on. Cycling overload! Do yourself a favor and get away from the sub-culture a bit during the winter. Give your mind a rest. Physically, assuming you didn’t kill yourself during the season, it really doesn’t take that long for the body to recover. Mentally, well, that’s a completely different story. Get away from the subculture for a few weeks and recharge your mind, it may do wonders. Trust me, it will be there when you get back! But of course, keep reading Pez during that time frame so you don’t have total withdrawal!

Weight control – Oh boy, this is the big one and there is no easy answer. I went to Amazon and did a little search experiment on “weight loss” and found 34,000+ results! I would say there is a lot of information on the subject, which means you will find that many different methods, products, and opinions on how do control your weight, as you get older and attempt to make it through the holidays without gaining weight.

Instead of analyzing the subject to death, do yourself this little favor (and please nutritionists don’t get upset with me) and keep things simple. Remember there is a big difference between weight loss and nutrition. For nutrition, I recommend a qualified sports nutritionist to help analyze your dietary program. For weight maintenance and loss, try this:

1. Get a body composition test done to determine you lean body mass. Good calipers and reliable formula will do, Dexa scan is the best. The reason you want lean body mass is that you can then use that weight to get an estimation of your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Lean body mass formulas for RMR seem to be more accurate since lean body mass is metabolically active versus fat cells that require few calories to be sustained.

2. Once you have your lean mass in kilos, you can substitute it into a simple formula like the “Cunningham Formula.”

RMR = 500 + (22 * LBM)

So, if your lean body mass is 71 kilos, your RMR would be equal to 2062 kcal per day.

3. Now that you have your rough estimate for kcals per day, you can estimate the total amount of kcals burned when exercise activity is included. If you have a power meter, you are in luck, because you can use the kilojoules to determine that estimate. So, let’s say you do a ride that uses 1500 kilojoules, you can add that to the 2062 for a grand total of 3562 for the day, give or take. Anything less than that will help lose weight, anything more, the opposite. I realize this is a rough estimate, but I have seen it work time and time again. It just requires motivation, measuring of food and a simple spreadsheet.

Weight control is an important concern for the majority of riders at all levels. Another tip, really try to really focus on minimizing the number of calories consumed on the days you don’t ride, as those are usually the killers. One thing is for sure though, if a lot of riders went into the season a bit lighter, they would have better results, and most importantly feel better about themselves.

Don’t fear, the human body is amazing – It’s ok to lose fitness during the off-season. Let me say that again, it’s ok to lose fitness during the off-season! One of the most common comments we hear from athletes is their absolute fear of losing fitness during the winter (or anytime that is) and their resolve to never take a break, based on two justifications. 1) I love the sport and or exercise in general and cannot stop and 2) I don’t want to lose fitness. A limited amount of detraining is a good thing, for both the mind and body. The human body is an amazing machine and it will come back to a level that is stronger than before. Depending on the level you compete at, how many years experience you have in the sport, and your trainability will determine how much detraining is optimal. As a suggestion, go read a few of the many articles and books on periodization that are out there. My favorite is by Tudor Bompa, titled “Periodization – Theory and Methodology of Training.”

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines – You and your coach have decided how much to back off and what to do this winter to supplement your program (e.g. running, yoga, gym work.) You will eventually decide a starting date for your next year’s program. Just make sure you are really ready to go. It’s all about being committed to the program 100%. Don’t start up until you are ready and you have truly recovered from last year and the motivation is strong. Nothing is worse than an athlete that isn’t able to give their training program all they have, because they never separated from the previous year. Sure there will be interruptions when you start up, but as an athlete, you owe it to you and your coach to give 100%, so, don’t start up until you’re honestly ready to rock and roll!

We all love the training and racing during the season and cannot wait until that time arrives again. Just remember that a necessary component of that time of year is now. Enjoy it while we have it and have a great holiday season.

Ride safe, ride strong

About Bruce

Bruce Hendler is a USA Cycling Coach and owner of AthletiCamps in Northern California. For the past 10 years, he and his experienced team have helped athletes of all levels achieve their goals in the great sport of bike racing thru cycling training camps, cycling coaching and performance testing. To contact AthletiCamps, visit their website at www.athleticamps.com or follow them on Twitter.

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