The “race season” hits at different times for many athletes, but regardless of the time of year, this is the time when training, racing, and fitness are at their peak. Typically during this time athletes are highly motivated and excited to tackle upcoming racing. However, as is the case with most things in life, training is not always linear. Athletes can experience disruptions in their schedules and need to refocus their efforts and intentions to maximize the remainder of the season (even if it was not according to the original plan.) There are plenty of ways to regroup for the end of the season and get yourself back on track.
Ever start a task and halfway through realize you’ve ventured off on another tangent? Well, the same can happen throughout a season in training. While endurance sports target aerobic fitness, simply heading out and riding hundreds of miles in the saddle, or repeated general endurance runs may not help you in achieving your end goals. Instead, you need to be specific in what you’re doing. What does your next racecourse profile look like? Are there a lot of punchy hills, maybe there are sharp corners following fast descents? Potentially you need to be focusing on hitting VO2 Max targeted workouts. Whatever it is, be sure that what you are racing, is in fact reflected in your training.
Mix It Up!
If you find yourself feeling stale due to repetition of similar training and racing, then perhaps it is time to shake things up a bit. Try a new racing format or event, or try a new training format. If you have been thinking, “oh I’d really like to try this,” then go for it. This restart can help you jumpstart your season and allow you to refocus feeling refreshed.
Back to the Aerobic Basics
If you’re feeling a little burnt out from high-intensity interval sessions, or finding you need to take a break but can’t let yourself take your foot completely off the gas; then head back to the basics of increasing or maintaining your aerobic efficiency. Doing tempo work either on the bike or run is always a great way to stress your aerobic system without overtaxing it.
Strength work is not just for the off-season. In fact, this notion of not performing gym work is what ends up negatively affecting athletic performance during the season. The off-season is for building a solid, “base.” This base consists of the building blocks that will help you later in the season as athletes begin race-specific training, tapering, and recovery. While the off-season strength sessions will include higher repetitions and increased sets, it is as equally as important to ensure your in-season strength work mirrors your racing demands. Strength work is a great way to help you produce top-end force production and explosive power. Another added benefit of strength work is to ward off any lingering injuries. The stronger you are, the more resilient your body can be as you put the miles in week after week. If you find that you’ve veered off the path a bit with your preventative care, it is never too late to start again and get yourself back on track.
There is never a bad time to work on fundamental skills and drills, no matter what sport or discipline. Being efficient on the bike or run will only help to increase your ability, regardless of your current fitness. Being fit can take you so far, but as they say, the devil is in the details and it is important to nail the small stuff before you can tackle the big. This is a good time to go back to focusing on your form, performing neuromuscular drills on the bike such as cadence builds and holds, or focusing on your upper body posture. In running, you can go back to performing strides at the end of a session or setting aside one session to focus only on running activation drills.
Join A Group
Training with others not only can help motivate you during sessions but can also help to push you to new heights. Race day requires you to bring your A-game and push yourself to the limit. With a training group, you can get a similar race day stimulus by being pushed outside of your comfort zone. Groups are also great when you find your motivation waning especially near the end of the season. Having others around you also striving to be their best can help give you the boost you need to go after your goals.
The off-season is a great time to work on building your foundational base for the racing season, but late season can be just as beneficial even though racing is winding down. This specific season can help athletes focus on new goals, find newfound motivation, or refresh their training with a new approach. While we all would love for success to be linear, there are many twists and turns to achieving our goals. If you find yourself in a tight turn, perhaps trying a new approach can help you move forward.
Mac Cassin is the Chief Cycling Physiologist at Wahoo Sports Science. He holds a degree in Integrative Physiology from the University of Colorado-Boulder and has won multiple National Championships. The experience of juggling athletic goals with collegiate and career responsibilities has taught Mac that peak performance is achievable even for those who cannot focus exclusively on training. While concentrating on exercise physiology in an academic setting, Mac competed at the World Championships, Pan American Championships, and World Cups on both the road and track.