December 7, 2015 cburnham

Successful Holiday Strategies for Endurance Athletes

How is it even the holiday season already?!  Seems like it was just yesterday we were up in Truckee for road cycling nationals…

The holiday season can be stressful and hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  You have more demands on your time, the days are shorter, and there are the social gatherings with tempting sweets.  With all these stresses and opportunities to splurge, it is pretty easy to slip away from your healthy routines and skip a workout here and there.  While some indulgence isn’t necessarily a bad thing, letting that snowball into weeks of missed workouts and chocolate turtle cookies for breakfast can be problematic and set you back once spring rolls around.  It is possible to lose a lot of those hard-fought gains you worked for throughout the year with 3 – 4 weeks of missed workouts, cocktail parties, and cookie trays.

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The good news is that there are easy strategies to prevent that from happening.   When it comes to workouts, I like to emphasis frequency and consistency with my athletes, not volume.  That essentially means more frequent shorter workouts is better than less frequent longer workouts even if your weekly volume is the same.  For example, a 30-minute trainer workout done 4 times a week is better than 1 two-hour ride on the weekend.  This is also a good time of the year to focus on some strength training.  There are a lot of body weight programs that only take 15  – 20 minutes that could be done a lot more frequently.  Hip bridges, body weight squats, planks, side-planks, and pull-ups are all great exercises for endurance athletes.  If you have access to a gym, getting in three 45 – 60 minute higher intensity strength workouts can do wonders to retain fitness as well as give you an opportunity to work on weaknesses that have been neglected throughout the year. (Blatant plug)  Weight Training for Cycling: The Ultimate Guide is a good resource in setting up a strength program for this time of the year.

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Using an indoor trainer to maintain cycling fitness can also be a good strategy for getting in quick workouts.  Getting your bike setup and leaving it ready on the trainer is a good way to eliminate excuses from getting in that quick spin.  When you get on the trainer you should have a plan for how you are going to use your available time.  Don’t just get on and spin your legs away.  Here are a few workouts to get you started:

  1. Micro-burst intervals: Warm-up for 5 – 10 minutes.  Then complete 1 blowout effort for 30 seconds at a hard effort (9 out of 10 perceived exertion).  Spin for 2 – 3 minutes then start 2 – 10 minute efforts where you ride at maximum intensity for 30 seconds, and then spin easy for 30 seconds, repeating until the 10 minutes is done.  Spin easy for 5 minutes and repeat the 10 minute effort again.  Cool down with at least 3 – 5 minutes of easy spinning.  Total time can be as short as 35 minutes.
  2. High Cadence Efficiency Drills: Warm-up for 5 -10 minutes.  Then start 4 x 5 minutes at the highest cadence you can maintain without bouncing in the saddle.  Recover at your normal self selected cadence for 1 minute between efforts.  Your intensity for the high cadence efforts should be close to your normal endurance pace.  Cool down with at least 3 – 5 minutes of easy spinning.  Total time can be as short as 30 minutes.
  3. Threshold Intervals: Warm-up for 5 – 10 minutes. Then complete 3 x 10 minutes at aerobic threshold or a perceived exertion of 8 out of 10.  This should be close to the max intensity you can maintain for the duration of the interval.  Recover for 2 minutes between efforts and cool down for at least 3 – 5 minutes after last effort.   Total time can be less than 40 minutes.

Happy Holidays everyone!