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Eight keys to off-season success

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the November 2013 issue of Velo magazine. In it, Trevor Connor talks to Dr. Andy Pruitt about how to make the most of the off-season. Connor is a long-time cycling coach and researches both exercise physiology and nutrition at Colorado State University.

Dress for the weather

“One of the biggest mistakes that the Cat. 3, 4, 5, and masters make is they dress inappropriately for the weather,” Pruitt said. “If you look at the pro guys, they are wearing arm warmers, leg warmers, and rain jackets until it’s almost 70 degrees. The patella and patellar tendons are just three millimeters under the skin, so there’s really no insulation for them.”

Work backward

If you start hard training earlier, it just means you’ll peak earlier as well. “A mistake a lot of people make is to think they will be in race shape from April through September,” Pruitt said. Start by figuring out when your first important race is and work backwards. “It takes about 90 days to go from the base period to a significant change in your capabilities,” Pruitt said. “Nearly every 30 to 60 days you’ll see a monitored change in your performance. With that formula in mind, in January you’d start ramping up, you’d do another performance measurement in the middle of February, another one in April, and you’ll be ready to rock-and-roll in June.”

Put the pasta away

Pounding the carbs can make the difference in a key race, but that doesn’t mean pasta is the best option all year long. The early season is “a good time of year to get into your healthy physique, body fat percentage-wise. The diet that time of year needs to be adjusted,” Pruitt said. “Your caloric consumption is going to change. So you might switch to a leaner diet, fewer calories, and not as many carbohydrates.” Focusing on fruits, vegetables, and lean meats in the fall can help both your health and waistline.

Feel flat

I always tell my athletes that if they are feeling great, winning sprints, and setting PRs in the fall, that they should call me right away — they are way off course. In the fall and winter, you should always feel a little flat and slow.

Body weight plus 20

“The bike racer who goes to the gym and squats 600 pounds and does leg extensions with 150 pounds, yes, they have beautiful quads, but they are going to have tendon issues,” Pruitt said. He recommends that cyclists do at least three months of exercises with “body weight plus 20, which is basically their body weight plus their bike. They’d do it for timed bouts. In other words, they’d do a minute, then two minutes, then three minutes. They can do up to 100 repetitions over a minute or two. The quads are on fire!” What you’re doing is torturing or training those tendons to build girth and strength without a heavy load.

Good exercises

“I really like the leg press, though I don’t like the squat rack,” Pruitt said. “You don’t have to worry about getting dizzy on a leg press machine. I like the hip sled a lot for cyclists.” Box jumps and plyometrics are also great for cyclists, but are high risk for injury, so ease into them and seek guidance if possible.

Turn in circles

“Instead of becoming a racer in training, you might become a bike commuter during those weeks, or go for cruiser rides with the kids,” Pruitt said. “I think about a conversation I had with Andy and Fränk Schleck. They go home to Luxembourg and ride their mountain bikes for a month and ski if it snows.”

The ‘cross effect

For you ’cross riders still going hard in October and November, everything here still applies; it just shifts. January is your November.