High Intensity Training in the Off Season

Cycling Tips

In the cold winter months many cyclists concentrate on long endurance rides. However, many of them have no idea why they are doing such long training rides. The general idea is that in the winter a foundation has to be built for the rest of the season. The comparison with building a house, where first the foundations have to be laid, is then often made. Is HIT training usefull for cycling? Is your body actually comparable to building a house?

How to build up the intensity of your workouts

It is wise to build up the level of the workouts cautiously after a rest period. This level is not only determined by the duration of a training, but also by its intensity. A short interval training can be just as stressful for the body as a long endurance training. The question is now why most people prefer long endurance training and sometimes even claim that interval training during the build-up period is bad. Can you only build your stamina with long endurance rides?

The effect of the intensity of a workout

The short answer is no and it also has to do with the bike goals you are working towards. Slowly building up means that you give your body enough time and rest to recover. This relates to the load of the training and not only to either the intensity or the duration of the training. An enormously long and low intensity workout can also be too heavy for a body that has not done a lot of training yet. In addition, cycling does not only consist of extremely aerobic endurance and if you want to get better, it is wise to also train the anaerobic system from time to time during the winter months.

Keep training in higher zones

In fact, if you’ve improved a whole season in the higher zones and Watts, for example on sprints and short climbs, then it’s very unwise to ignore this for months. Precisely this fitness then disappears in the blink of an eye. Research has found that if you continue to mix endurance and HIIT (high intensity interval training) training sessions in the winter months, you will progress more than those who only do endurance rides.

Different HIT workouts

So continue to train in a varied way during the winter months, including a HIT training at least once a week. Read more about this in the article: Train like a pro: polarized training. This doesn’t always have to be in the form of specific Vo2max blocks, but it can also be a ride on the MTB with some hard sections or a Zwift race. Be careful, however, that after a period of rest you don’t immediately set the number of hours and intensity too high, but build this up slowly.

Varied training or specific repetition

Research has also shown that high level athletes need to train specifically on a certain aspect if they still want to make progress. Simply put, a highly trained athlete will not improve with a weekly program with many different training stimuli. This way, every element is trained a little bit but these stimuli are too weak to provoke improvements. That’s why it is wise, after a number of varied weeks and depending on your level, to shift the emphasis a bit and focus on those elements that need improving towards the target race or event.

A proper build-up

For highly trained riders, after a (short) rest period we start with a number of varied weeks in which the size and intensity slowly build up. Depending on what we want to improve over the winter, a number of weeks will follow with a focus on, for example, maximum strength training without a lot of endurance work. With good planning we try to take a step forward in the winter so that all physical requirements coincide exactly like pieces of a puzzle when the season starts.

Jim van den Berg
Jim van den Berg
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