4 Ways to “Spring” Back Into Fitness
As winter’s grasp is slowly starting to loosen and spring is anxiously waiting patiently in the wings, many of us here in the states north of the Mason-Dixon line are getting ready to rip our bikes off the trainers, and head outside for longer and more intense rides and runs. However, before we jet out the door like a rabbit out of its cage into the wilderness, there are a few considerations we must take to allow us to spring into fitness, and not fall flat come June and July.
Without fail, every year there is, at least, one athlete who comes to me in June, looking for me to help them “regain the fitness they had in April.” While it seems as though it would be quite tough to predict this trend, it’s actually something that many recreational, and self-coached athletes have to fight most years. Here’s why they end up in that situation, and a few simple tips that you can use in order to ride all summer long, and get fitter, stronger, & faster as the season goes along.
Don’t push hard every time you head out the door
While everyone wants to see how their winter training has improved their ability to push up that long climb or move to the front of the group ride, going hard every time you head out will break you down, not build you up.
Tip: Instead of pushing hard every time you head out the door, plan your rides and runs, at the beginning of each week, allowing for 1 hard day, an easy day, and 1-2 medium days. If you’re riding more than 4 days a week, let your body guide your efforts. This leads us to tip #2. Make sure that you understand your abilities, and test regularly to see how your fitness is progressing.
Test your fitness
I’ve been on many a group ride, with riders who “just ride for fun,” yet they are riding far more hours, and/or far more intensely than many of the serious racers whom I coach…without the results they should be attaining.
While racers and those who ride for serious fitness tend to have “testing” as a regular part of their ride schedule, those who have the most to gain from testing are those who ride consistently all season long- especially those over the age of 40.
While racers will tell you that you need a power meter or heart rate monitor to track your fitness, it can be far easier than that!
Tip: Pick 2 sections of road that will take you 5 minutes, and 20 minutes respectively to cover at speed. Make sure it is safe, free of cross traffic and stop signs/stop lights, and is either flat or is a consistent climb.
Every 6-8 weeks race yourself for time on each of these segments of the road (only those of you who are very fit should do both on the same day. If you do the same day, do the 5 minutes first, recover for 10-15 minutes, and then do the 20-minute test). Ensure that the 5-10 days of riding before this is at easier efforts than normal and that you are in fact riding in the days before! Too many days off the bike can drop your performance!
*If you are using time only, and not power, be sure to take into account the road conditions and winds in your time.
Increase your intensity slowly
While we all like to push the pace, and see how much our bodies can handle, we must not forget that our bodies need time to recover. It takes between 7-14 days for your body to “digest” the efforts you’ve put it through today. This means that you won’t see fitness gains, until 1-2 weeks AFTER those efforts, and only if you’ve continued to be consistent in your riding or running.
Don’t push yourself to your absolute max EVERY ride or run. Most rides should end with knowing you COULD do 1 more effort, but are purposefully holding back. Then, 1-2 times every 4-6 weeks LET IT RIP! Leave it all on the road or trail, seeing what you body is capable of and what new fitness you’ve gained.
Don’t forget about nutrition
Performance growth and adequate recovery in fitness also mean paying attention to your diet. Proper nutrition is as equally important to the quality of your training. My professional recommendation is to find a Registered Dietitian who specializes in sports oriented nutrition. They should help you design a unique meal plan built around your individual likes and dislikes.
TIP: Don’t forget about your recovery meals, proper nutrition starts here. Plan accordingly, especially after your intense workouts.
Follow these expert tips, and you’re certain to not only come into the 2016 season strong, you will get stronger all season.