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Getting Through the Dark Months

As I am writing this, it is mid April, 30 degrees and still snowing. I am sure most people reading this have found themselves in my position. It sucks, doesn’t it? As I started working with Coach Joe, I found that not all hope is lost because there are many things that can be done to get prepared for the upcoming season.

To give a little background, I started training inside in mid October. It is now April (If you need help with that would be 7 months). I knew it would be a long winter on the trainer as I came out of cyclocross season and right into preparing for the mountain bike season. I have learned a few things about getting through those tough dark days of winter. Investing in a good indoor training setup allowed me to focus on my training with no excuses. The combination of a smart trainer and Zwift is going to be your best friend. Coach Joe’s workouts automatically upload into Zwift everyday, making it easy as can be to hop on and get riding. Zwift and a smart trainer like the Cycle-Ops Hammer takes away the monotony of a standard trainer, and makes it impossible to cheat. I did not have a motivation problem until mid March when it became tough for me to get myself together for even an hour on the trainer. I was hoping to begin training outside by mid March or so, but here I am, still writing from inside. I live in Massachusetts, and being this far north, the weather is very unpredictable and is often pretty nasty. It has barely gotten above freezing in 6 months, and relentlessly snowing, sleeting, and raining. I like riding outside and I’m not afraid of the cold, but there is a line I draw when there is still snow banks as tall as I am. With not riding outside and being sick of the trainer, I’m not getting anywhere. Base miles is a very important component for a successful season, and I knew that with these circumstances it would be tough for me to log those long miles in the saddle. With these conditions in mind, Coach Joe went about putting together a plan that would fit what I needed. I was a bit worried that missing big early season miles would affect my progression as a cyclist, but I was assured that I would be on track to a successful season.

Coach Joe substituted more tempo and threshold work to replace the longer endurance rides. These workouts were closer to the 1.5 to 2 hour mark, thus limiting my time on the trainer. Since my motivation on the trainer was waning very quickly, Joe made sure that there was plenty of variety to keep the rides fresh and interesting. Another element that was added to my plan was increased strength and and running. Strength and running helps to fill the gaps that the shorter tempo and threshold workouts leave by keeping the supporting muscles strong and active as well as gives me a chance to get some much needed time in the fresh air. The extra running has promoted stronger joints which has made me less prone to injury when I get on the trails.

The combination of these alterations to a “normal” training plan has not 100% replaced base miles, but has come very close to it. To be honest, I was a little bit worried going into my first races of the season but also very anxious to see how this different approach to base would affect my early season. As we could have predicted, I had 100% of the strength, but only 80% of the endurance. This is to be expected, but as the weather breaks and miles pile on, my endurance should come to form very quickly. As it turns out, this approach is not a bad option for those that live in tougher climates! So there are no excuses to show up to the start line saying you are not in shape because of the weather. Working with Coach Joe has taught me that there is always another way to accomplish the same thing if one way is not working.

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