Fall is here in the west and it is one of the best times of the year for riding. Temperatures come down, the foliage is beautiful, if you enjoy mountain bike riding, the dirt is perfect, and you are probably carrying great fitness from a summer of training.
If you are preparing for cyclocross racing, it is important to be very specific with your training this time of year. You will use your summer riding as a base and add in the repeated sharp efforts required in CX. But if you are finishing a season of road or MTB racing and you don’t plan to race again until next year, now is a great time to be a little less specific with your training. If you have followed a training schedule all year, let the structure go a little. Ride how you feel and take some days off the bike to enjoy other activities; hiking, running, swimming, etc., as well as some dedicated downtime. In general, the further away you are from target events, the less specific you can afford to be with your training.
As you get into winter base building, you will want to add some specificity back in. You can include plenty of off-the-bike exercise to keep winter interesting but you will want to be riding three to four days per week if you have ambitious cycling goals next year. The fewer days you get on the bike per week, the more specific and targeted you need to be with your workouts. For example, you can use off-the-bike workouts to develop general aerobic and cardiovascular fitness but when you do get on the bike, you should have specific workout goals. For many cyclists a smart training program through the winter is the edge that allows them to achieve their goals during the summer.
Specific training means that your workouts target the specific demands of your goal event(s). You do not need to match the total duration of your event in training. If you can do about half of your expected duration in training, you should have the endurance to complete your event. Different types of events will have different fitness and skill demands and your training should reflect that. For example, for XC mountain bike racing, you need high intermittent power, the ability to produce near peak efforts repeatedly from threshold with limited recovery. For road racing, you need more endurance and the ability to surge and sprint with very fatigued legs. Depending on your goals for the event; shooting for a personal best, trying to complete an event, or be competitive in your field, etc, your training demands will also vary. As you approach your target events, the specificity of your workouts will increase.
A coach can help you plan when to make your training more or less specific through the year to match the ebbs and flows of your goals. Too much specificity at the wrong times of year results in burnout and too little specificity results in lacking peak fitness. Get it dialed in just right!
Sarah Kaufmann is the owner of K Cycling Coaching. She is an elite level XC and CX racer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She can be reached at [email protected] or 413-522-3180.