There’s a lot that goes into a successful season, whether you’re a competitive cyclist, runner, or triathlete, or if you have fitness goals or events that you want to train for. For most people Fall is the time of year that they consider taking some time off or at least time away from structured, hard training. Except for cyclocross racers, most people are starting to look ahead several months to their next goals, and will do well to take some time to look back on their past seasons and plan for the next one.
I’m planning on putting together a few articles and videos that cover some of the key things that you will want to do or want to plan for during this time. To start, it’s almost always a good idea for athletes to take some time away from very difficult training to allow themselves some time to rest both physically and mentally. Usually, as training time goes down, this may free up time to address any issues that may be hard to address during the season. For many people who have had minor aches and pains, you may check in with a physical therapist to come up with a strength and flexibility routine to prevent those issues. You may look at changing your bike fit or your shoes. You may start to invest more time in strengthening your core, legs, and shoulders so that you’re a stronger athlete and less prone to injury in the future.
That last piece is one thing that I wanted to address right now. No matter where you’re at in your training or planning for the coming year, if you aren’t racing or doing any goal events right now and have a little while before you do, then you should definitely consider investing some time into strengthening your core and even your whole body. Spending just 15 minutes or so, maybe 3 times a week at home with a yoga mat and a pair of dumbbells, or going to the gym a few times a week can do a lot to get you ready for the increased training volume that you may be planning.
First and foremost, doing core work can help increase your comfort and power doing most any sporting activity. If you increase your strength there, then you’ll generally have a stronger platform for everything else. So, definitely consider doing a series of planks, push-ups, crunches, or other things along those lines a few times a week or every other day. You’ll be happy that you did.
Personally, I’ll usually aim to do 3-4 circuits of push-ups, suspended front planks, side planks, back-extensions, mountain-climbers, and maybe some bent-over rows and/or dumbbell curls for good measure. Here’s a brief video that expands on this a little…
Beyond just doing a basic core routine, it can be very good to also do some leg-strengthening work. If you have access to a gym, then doing things like squats, dead-lifts, trap-bar dead-lifts, leg presses, leg extensions, or hamstring curls can all be great. I’ll never do all of those things in one session, but I may mix it up and do slightly different exercises from week to week. At any given session, I’ll usually try to do 3-5 movements and do a handful of sets of each.
If you’re at home, then you can do a lot even with minimal equipment or even just doing some body-weight exercises. If you plan to make strength work a regular part of your routine, then I’d suggest getting one or even two pairs of dumbbells and a box or bench. This way you can transition from body weight exercises to weighted ones. Focus on squats, lunges, box step-ups, calf raises, and maybe some plyometric type work, like squat jumps, box jumps, or straight-leg hops for your calves. I’ve done this kind of routine with good results over the years and am convinced that you don’t necessarily need a gym membership to get in a very good strength workout. The gym may offer you more options, but you can do a lot at home on a minimal budget.
To tie it all together, this is my basic routine and one that I’d suggest trying or using as a model for constructing a routine that works well for you. I’ll often start with body weight to warm up and then use my weights to make it more of a workout. I have a pair of 25# and 35# dumbbells, but you should try different weights out to see what will work for you.
about 3 sets
suspended front plank, often with mountain climber movements (knee to chest)
bent-over dumbbell rows
then I’ll transition to legs:
calf raises and/or hops
Clearly this is nothing fancy. The whole thing may take just 15 minutes if I’m in a hurry and only do two sets of everything. Or, if I have more time and motivation, then I’ll do 3 or 4 sets, and it may take as long as 20-25 minutes, but really, it’s not that time consuming. I think that sometimes this is the best use of a short period of time if all you have available is a half-hour in the morning before a full day at work or with family. Or if you’re on the road and just have a hotel gym and a full day of other work or family activities.
I’d encourage you to try adding this kind of basic routine into your winter schedule just 2 or 3 times per week and see what it does for you over the first 4 to 5 weeks. I’m sure you’ll feel good about the time and energy you spent doing this, and will probably want to continue.
Good luck and keep moving.