Switching On The Off Season


The cycling off season brings with it a certain finality. Once mid October arrives, we hold out hope for 2 days a week of above 40, and no rain. Then comes the fantasy that a fat, week-long warm front will park itself over the northern US. But it rarely works out that way – global warming not withstanding. This November was a dreary, soggy affair in Northern MN. So, instead I went shopping for full spectrum lightbulbs so I could see better [and be less depressed] as I slid the plastic tubs containing my cold weather riding gear under the bed. The 2013 season now shares space with dusty dog toys, a few lost socks, and a tipped over pile of last year’s cycling  magazines.

However, the 2014 season is sitting on my nightstand.

There’s a copy of Joe Friel’s Cyclist’s Training Bible. Tucked within is a dog-eared legal pad with lists and scribbling in the margins. The first goal is to be consistent with winter strength training…and to have fun. Normally I trudge off to the YMCA like a prisoner to the gulag, because I detest indoor exercise. But this year I am determined to have fun – EVEN IF weight rooms smell funny. The scribbles go on: 360 hours of training broken down into hours per week, reminders to do more squats [so I don’t suffer as much when I climb], and a rough chronology of events I’m training for.

jackCounting backward from my first event – the appropriately named Arcadia’s Brute – I found that I had enough weeks for pre-season strength training and base miles if my training started November 7…which it did. The first seven weeks are cycling specific weight training targeting the muscles that make the wheels go round, core strength and enough upper body work so I can hold myself up on my handle bars. By the first week in January weight training will decrease to twice a week, and I’ll begin easy spinning on the trainer twice a week. Ken Doyle’s book Weight Training for Cyclists has been very helpful. Base Building for Cyclists has also been a good read. Chapple’s mantra is slow down to speed up. Conventional wisdom has always been to push hard, while this approach emphasizes a controlled build up that uses lower intensity to build aerobic endurance and teach the body to burn fat before switching to carbs as the major fuel source.

As I’m fond of pointing out, the dreaming is easier than the doing…but the dreams are essential in their own right. They nurture motivation and point the way to concrete goals. Dreams that have been realized are replayed with stunning regularity as I sweat and grunt in the gym. They wash over me: immersing me in the warmth of minutes, hours and days where I found something special. Even after you leave the road you don’t have to stop riding.


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