I’m halfway through my six weeks of recovery from the surgery to correct my badly deformed hammer toes! At my second post-op the podiatrist said I am doing well. I told her I’d been walking with the walker to maintain a bit of fitness, which promoted a stiff lecture not to do that! Except for meals and going to the bathroom I must keep my foot above my heart so the swelling goes down and I can get a shoe on in three weeks. Got it. I’m lying with my foot up and typing this as an email. I’ll send it to computer, edit it and send to Lars.
We’re off Daylight Savings Time and fall is in the air. In Boulder Colorado we had a foot of snow last week. As we head into the off-season what should you do?
First, recognize and accept that because you are riding less you will lose some fitness and that’s okay. When the race season is over the pros choose to ride less even though they’ll lose some fitness so they’ll be fresh and excited for the new season. Of course they don’t just hang up their bikes.
Here’s a column I wrote on Peter Sagan’s winter training.
Don’t take the off-season literally and stop exercising. The older we get the more use it or lose it applies. The American College of Sports Exercise (ACSM) recommends year-round aerobic exercise most days of the week for a total of at least 150 to 300 minutes a week. Exercising even more will bring added benefits. Moderate means at a Rate of Perceived Exertion of 3-4 on a 10 point scale, i.e., a conversational pace when you are breathing deeply but can still talk easily.
Or you could exercise vigorously over three or more days totaling 75 to 150 minutes a week. Vigorous is an RPE of 7-8 when you’re breathing hard and can only say a few words before you have to take a breath. Vigorous is above anaerobic (lactate) threshold / Functional Threshold Power. This is a little harder than you could ride flat out for an hour, i.e., the classic hammering pace you could do for five to ten minutes.
You could also do a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise, a blessing for us non-racers. Even in the high season I don’t hammer 75 minutes a week. As an example, you could do about two hours of aerobic riding and 15 minutes of hammering a week. A combination doesn’t have to be aerobic plus hammering (ouch!). You could do a combination of mostly aerobic riding (RPE 3-4) and more somewhat harder riding (RPE 5-6) instead of hammering. For example 1:45 at RPE 3-4 and 0:30 at RPE 5-6. The times are illustrative just of the minimum amounts you need to do.
Don’t get hung up on the numbers — that’d take the fun out of it. Over the course of the week you could ride 2:30 at a conversational pace. Or you could ride less including some hard riding, e.g., a programmed trainer workout. Or ride conversationally for three or four hours plus a couple of hard trainer workouts in a week.
Depending on your current level of fitness and lifestyle, these amounts of exercise spread out over the week can reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and Type 2 diabetes by as much as 50%.
In addition to year-round consistency, exercising most days of the week is important. If you do a 2:30 hour ride on Saturday and then sit on your butt for six days you’re losing fitness day by day. On the next Saturday’s ride you’ll be just a little less fit … and then lose just a little more fitness during the next week.
Most means 4-5 days a week. You could do more but remember how important recovery days are as we get older.
Four or five days of riding a week in the winter may be tough unless you’re willing to ride the trainer, which I avoid as much as possible. Hiking and snowshoeing, mountain and fat tire biking, walking and jogging, and cross country skiing are among the alternatives you can enjoy with family and friends who aren’t roadies. Here’s a column I wrote on Cross Train for Fun and Fitness this Winter.
There are several different aspects of fitness and most riders have some of each, although in different combinations
- VO2 max (aerobic capacity) is your body’s ability to take in and use oxygen declines the most rapidly. All things being equal the higher your VO2 max the faster your sprint and also the greater your endurance.
- Endurance is your capacity to ride for a distance without excessive fatigue. How long a distance is personal. It could be 25 or 200 miles, whatever you enjoy.
- Sustained power is what you use to climb and to fight a headwind.
Because you lose various kinds of fitness at different rates during the off-season you should prioritize the type(s) of fitness that are important to you.
If you ride for fun and good health then exercise most days at a conversational pace (RPE 3-4) for a total of at least 2:30 hours a week.
If you enjoy endurance rides then most of your riding should be conversational including a multi-hour weekly ride if possible.
Here’s a column I wrote on trainer workouts for endurance: 11 Trainer Workouts for Endurance.
If power for climbing and cruising speed is important to you then part of your aerobic exercise should be harder (> RPE 4 up to 7 or 8). However, if all you do is vigorous exercise you’ll lose endurance faster.
In addition to aerobic exercise the ACSM also recommends year-round:
- Resistance training. Eight to ten exercises to strengthen all of your body parts two or three days a week with at least 48 hours of recovery between sessions. The exercises can easily be done at home, primary with things you can find around the house. You could split these up by doing legs one day and then again two days later, upper two different days and mixing in three days of core. Anti-Aging 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process includes a chapter on strength training with descriptions and photos of 27 exercises to do at home.
- Weight bearing. At least 30 to 60 minutes, three to five days a week. Anti-Aging 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process includes a chapter on weight bearing activities, which include the above cross training suggestions and also climbing and descending stairs, strength training, and games like pickle ball, tennis and basketball as well as social dancing. Unfortunately cycling is not a weight bearing exercise. Tests show that even sprinting a pro isn’t putting as much load on his legs as walking.
- Flexibility. At least two or three days a week to improve range of motion. Anti-Aging 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process includes a chapter on flexibility with X stretches illustrated with 14 photos.
- Balance. Sessions of 20 to 30 minutes at least two or three days a week with a series of exercises that involve balance, agility, coordination, gait and proprioception. Anti-Aging 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process includes a chapter with 10 different balance exercises to do on and off the bike.
Let’s be realistic. Who has the time and interest to do all of the above every week? I don’t.
The off-season is a good time to catch up on what you haven’t been doing. By resuming strength, flexibility and balance exercises you can make up for what you didn’t do and improve in each of those areas.
Weight bearing exercise for strong bones is different. You are constantly losing bone density. Weight bearing exercise along with enough calcium and vitamin D3 are essential to rebuild bones to compensate for the loss. However, if you’re losing more than you’re replacing you can’t make it up.
The off season is a great time to back off your total exercise time, mix in more non-cycling activities with non-cycling family and friends and spend more time with your family in general. I’m thinking, “Let it snow!” – my wife and I both love skiing.
In addition to individual chapters on each of the ACSM recommendations, Anti-Aging 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Processhas chapters on different combinations of types of exercises in different seasons including the off-season. The 106-page Anti-Aging 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process is $14.99.
Off-Season Conditioning Past 50 is divided into three parts:
- Review of the physiological effects of aging.
- Training modalities to combat these.
- A 12-week off-season training program with options for beginning, health and fitness, club, endurance, and competitive riders.
The 26-page Off-Season Conditioning Past 50 is $4.99.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.