Tell me if this sounds familiar – you just had a great season of cycling, ridden thousands of miles, winter hits and then BAM – your motivation takes an instant nosedive.
Suddenly, you can’t seem to find the energy to do 10 pushups. The thought of creating and sticking with an off season workout program leaves you feeling flat and unmotivated.
You’re certainly not alone.
I went through a few winters with very little off season training and paid the price. The marquee event I look forward to the most is the Gran Fondo New York in mid May.
After two winters in a row of very litte training, I had to try and squeeze 4-5 weeks of training in and it simply wasn’t enough time to feel ready for the race.
But, when I dedicated the time to train during the offseason, I saw huge tangible and intangible benefits.
It definitely helped balance my mood. I get cranky when I can’t ride and it kept my spirits high.
- It only took a few weeks to “burn off” the residual effects of being off the bike rather than the normal 4-5 weeks.
- I looked forward to the new season much more because I continued to stay connected to cycling and felt like I could set loftier goals.
So how do you develop the right mindset and habits to stay on track all year long?
It’s all about consistency. It’s not so much the sophistication, detail, or intensity of an off season workout plan, it’s about finding one you know you’ll stick with.
That might mean less time and less intensity but that’s O.K. You’re far more likely to see results if you just stick with a plan.
Before getting into specific workout recommendations, it’s always a good idea to ask yourself what you want most from the cycling season.
- What do you hope to achieve? What will make 2017 a successful season?
- Do you have a big event you are looking forward to and THIS is the year your aiming to set a new personal best?
- Do you have a personal milestone that you’ve been dying to achieve?
With the above in mind, let’s look at the most popular indoor training program that’s all the rage among amateurs and pros alike. It’s a great way to stay motivated and keep your spirits high.
The program is called Zwift.
It allows you to train with and interact with other riders, choose from a variety of routes, and gives you a constantly changing target to progress towards.
Here’s a quick video showing how it works:
Need an indoor trainer? Check out our favorites.
While the Zwift program may be all you need, below are 6 workout ideas that will get you started on the right path. Again, the perfect workout is the one you stick with so find a combination of exercises that work for you.
Off season cycling workout program
Note: The below workouts are cycling specific and not strength training recommendations. Strength training for cyclists is a somewhat controversial topic. General consensus is bulking up too much negatively impacts performance.
If you want ideas on incorporating strength training into your workout routine, check out this article.
Try to mix up these indoor workouts to keep your mind as active as your legs.
The 20/40 Split
It sounds pretty innocent but is a monster of a workout.
Start off by sprinting for 20 seconds with a cadence over 95 rpm, then recover for 40 seconds with a cadence below 95 rpm.
Repeat this for 5 sprints and then have a 5 minute 40 seconds recovery around a cadence of 95 rpm. Once your legs have recovered from this first set, repeat these another 4 times, followed by a nice, long warm down.
The 20/40 split not only helps to improve your sprinting but really works hard on your recovery times.
The Leg Spinner
A workout to do when you’re not feeling all that strong, but you still want to get some miles in your legs.
Pedal for 30 seconds working up to your maximum cadence, keep your cadence high for 1 minute. Make sure your form is still strong and you are not rocking your shoulders.
After the minute, reduce your cadence and have a 4 minute recovery ride around 90 rpm with very little resistance.
Repeat these another 3 times and then have a 10-minute warm down.
Working at a lower resistance but at a much higher cadence, will allow you to build leg speed while giving your legs a shake-out.
An exercise which is really easy on the brain if you know your FTP values.
Pedaling at over 90 rpm, adjust your resistance so that you hit around 90% of your FTP. Keep it there for a minute.
This is the “under” part of the exercise.
For the next minute and the “over” section, your cadence will remain the same, but you will be working to around 110% of your threshold. Repeat the Under – Over sections until you have completed 5 of each then reduce cadence for a 5-minute recovery, then repeat it all 4 more times.
Working around your FTP, will quickly increase this and the difference will be highly noticeable when you are back on your bike.
The Double 20
It is almost as simple as it sounds, twice you will hit your sweet spot and maintain it for 20 minutes.
Begin riding over 90rpm and find your sweet-spot, adjusting your resistance until you are in a comfortable riding position and imagining a long day in the saddle.
For 20 minutes maintain your cadence and position, don’t go off too hard and don’t ramp it up at the end. Think of it as an individual time-trial.
After 20 minutes you can reduce your cadence, grab a drink and have 10 minutes of recovery. You should aim to complete two 20 minute sessions, hence it is called the Double 20.
As you progress through the winter, you should be able to push up the resistance but keep the cadence the same. This is the ultimate classic indoor training program, a long, hard effort, which really improves your FTP.
When you think of indoor training, the pyramid is the first exercise most people think of.
Pedal for 1 minute at your threshold limit with a cadence over 95 rpm, then for 1 minute at a recovery rate with a cadence below 95rpm. During each component, you should be able to maintain your heart rate, power, or your speed.
The pyramid goes in minute increments 1,2,3,4,5. Then it descends 4,3,2,1. The only difference is that after the 5 minutes at threshold, you have 4 minutes of recovery, followed by 4 minutes of threshold and 3 minutes of recovery.
Once you’ve completed the pyramid back to 1 minute of threshold, you should enter into your cool down routine and recover completely.
The pyramid intervals allow you to develop an ability to find and maintain a threshold pace, while also boosting your recovery time.
Sprint Pyramid Intervals
If you would like to develop your sprinting rather than your threshold, you can still use the Pyramid intervals.
Change the time allocations from 1 minute to 10 seconds, 2 minutes to 20 seconds and so on. Then instead of riding for 3 minutes at threshold pace, sprint at maximum effort for 30 seconds.
As the sprints get over 20 seconds, you will need to pace your efforts to ensure you are consistent throughout and have no drop-off.
Changing the intervals into sprints allows you to develop sprint speed and endurance but mostly focuses on your recovery from multiple efforts.