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By guest KIT blogger, Cort Cramer

The winter is quite cold for many of us here in the US, and as a result a portion of your training time will very likely be spent on the indoor trainer. The indoor trainer can provide focused and high-quality training sessions, as typical outdoor distractions (cars/wind/hills/etc.) are mitigated.. Once you have committed yourself to riding indoors, you must carefully consider the types of sessions to do. See below for two types of indoor trainer workouts.
Cadence-based workouts emphasize changes in cadence instead of power and heart rate. Cadence-based workouts typically do not stress the cardiovascular system, but are more focused on improving the muscular system and can range from high rpm efforts emphasizing neuromuscular power to very slow rpm efforts emphasizing muscular strength. The higher cadence sessions help to ensure that you maintain your ability to quickly contract and relax the muscles over the winter, a crucial skill in cycling. Indoor sessions for these are relatively simple, and can easily be performed outdoors also when weather permits. A standard session of this type would be fast pedaling intervals: pedal one minute at ≥110rpm, followed by one minute at your self-selected (i.e. “normal”)cadence, then repeat. This is a great “leg burner,” but should not significantly elevate heart rate or become anaerobic in nature.

Similarly, lower cadence sessions are beneficial to perform as they enhance muscular strength, which allow for improvement of peak sprint wattages and the ability to push a larger gear into the wind. Muscular strength sessions are built around hard, short intervals performed in a large gear which you can manage at low rpm. A standard session of this type would be spin ups. Shift into your 53:12 or 53:11, slow down to about 8-10mph and, while remaining seated, tighten your core, grip your handlebars tightly and with all of your force turn the gear over until you reach 80rpm (once you have reached 80rpm, the amount of force being applied to the cranks has reduced to a point at which it is just not enough stress to create muscular strength improvements); spin an easy gear for a minute or two at your self-selected cadence, and repeat. You should plan on doing approximately twenty of these low cadence bursts in one session in order to create enough of an overload to achieve some benefits.

Sweet Spot Training (SST), defined as approximately 88-93% of one’s Functional Threshold Power (FTP), is another type of training to consider as part of your winter programme. If you examine the graph below, you can observe that SST is a balanced amount of volume and intensity that produces a maximal increase in an athlete’s FTP. When you are riding in this area of intensity, the level of physiological strain is relatively low, while the maximal duration that you can ride in this area is quite high, giving you a tremendous “bang for your buck.” When you do SST, start out with 15-30 minute efforts, and gradually build up to 60-120 minute efforts, if possible. Be sure to do one or two of these sessions per week, and you’ll see a big difference in your FTP come February.

Figure courtesy of Dr. Andy Coggan, PhD.

A properly executed winter training regimen will elevate your FTP to that next level, maintain your ability to change cadences and ensure you arrive at the start of the 2012 racing season with a fresh body and rejuvenated mind prepared for the season ahead. Keep your focus this winter and make 2012 your breakthrough season!

*Cort Cramer, M.S. is USA Cycling Level 2 certified and Associate Coach at Peaks Coaching Group.

What is the most important thing to bring to Thanksgiving?

Its Thanksgiving morning, what do you do?

Your in-laws mention in passing that you are looking in shape. What is the best response?

Knowing that you like to partake in competitive events, one of your relatives asks about your "training plans" for next year. YOU say:

Best way to avoid confrontation about politics at the dinner table:

An important client seeks your advice on Thanksgiving Day. How do you respond?

Dessert is being served. What is the best option?

After the meal, you choose to do which of the following:

So you got through Thanksgiving. What do you do now?


By guest KIT blogger, Cort Cramer

In your quest to KEEP IT TIGHT during this time of year, often refered to as the “off-season,” it is important to recognize that what you do this winter can have a significant impact on your performance during the next racing season. Regardless of whether you ride outdoors year-round or confined to indoor training for a solid five months, if you’re looking forward to a successful upcoming season the preparation needs to start NOW.

Before you embark on your official winter training programme, it is important to make sure you are well-rested and recovered from the previous season or year’s worth of training. A few weeks completely off followed by one to two weeks of easy cross-training are essential to recharging your physical and mental batteries. Doing so can prepare you for the work that lies ahead. Once you are rested, recharged, and ready to go the following key elements should be incorporated into your winter programme to ensure you start the next season firing on all cylinders:

Variety is the spice of life. Many dedicated athletes swear off any type of cross training in the winter, instead opting to approach their Decembers like their Julys: sport-specific training, and little else. Runners, swimmers and cyclists alike often end up with postural abnormalities, muscle imbalances, and strength discrepancies as a result of the repetitive movements involved in their respective disciplines.

Weight training may be the critical link for many athletes to have that extra edge in enhancing athletic performance once racing season rolls around. There are many reasons for incorporating weight training and core work into your winter programme. Such benefits include but are not limited to boosting your metabolism, helping regulate hormonal balance, improving posture, and most importantly, playing a major part in finding the necessary power at the end of a fatiguing event. If you’re unsure where to start, any knowledgeable coach or fitness professional can guide you in setting up a winter strength programme. The programme should include the appropriate set/rep/rest and weight schemes that will give you the stability, strength and power gains to boost your performance and take your fitness to that next level. In a similar vein, Pilates or yoga classes can have a phenomenal effect on core and stability, helping you to transfer energy from your upper to lower body while helping to strengthen and protect your lower back. Try a class or two per week and you’ll immediately see why these types of activities are beneficial to your fitness.

If you’re the type that enjoys playing in the snow, then take your winter cross training outdoors and enjoy it! Mountain biking, hiking, trail running, and nordic skiing are just a few types of outdoors activities which can elicit season-appropriate amounts of cardiovascular system stimulus. Keep it fun and not too intense as cross-training, in theory, should enhance your cycling (or similar primary endurance discipline) and not cause major cardiovascular stress or, even worse, injury. If the cross training activity is new-to-you, take it easy those first few sessions and break yourself in slowly!

A second component of a successful winter programme is rest! Many endurance athletes, though fully mindful that too much training in the winter will make them a “Christmas Star” continue to do so year-in and year-out. There is no doubt that training hard in the Winter is beneficial, but the frequency at which you do so is often the difference between pushing yourself to the next level for the coming year and peaking in January. One key element to increasing your “Functional Threshold Power (FTP)”, is to only train intensely for two days in a row before incorporating at least one day of rest or active recovery. Every other week, give yourself two days of easy training after two hard days to keep your battery charged. In addition to balancing your work-to-rest ratio, be mindful of the amount of sleep you’re getting. Winter is a great time to take advantage of your decreased training volume and give your body and mind the rest and repair needed. Balance your hard training with proper rest, enter 2012 fresh and strong, and you’ll win much more than just those January rides!

A properly executed winter training regimen will elevate your FTP to that next level, maintain your ability to change cadences and ensure you arrive at the start of the 2012 racing season with a fresh body and rejuvenated mind prepared for the season ahead. Keep your focus this winter and make 2012 your breakthrough season!

Stay tuned for Part 2…

*Cort Cramer, M.S. is USA Cycling Level 2 certified and Associate Coach at Peaks Coaching Group.