Well, it is the new year and I am approaching two and a half months of doing absolutely no physical activity. I must admit I am not excited to get back on the physical activity horse but… It must be done. So how am I going to tackle this new year and my preparation for the upcoming riding season? The process is simple and will require three steps that include base, intensity and cross-training. In no way am I completely confident that I will succeed in this endeavour but maybe, just maybe should I fail and continue to sit on the couch it might inspire others to do better than myself at the turn of the new decade.
Base will be the first step of my pursuit of fitness this year. What base means is essentially just slow and steady riding in zone one or two. With my 2019 max heart rate well above 200, I will spend a few weeks coming nowhere close to my max. For myself, the heartrate I will be chasing on my base rides will be well under 130bpm average. The reason for this low intensity to begin is sure, I could probably smash out a relatively good half-hour effort but with no miles in my legs, I will be absolutely trashed and probably looking to dodge the bike as a result of the severe pain it caused me. Instead, I will be looking at starting back with my first week of riding maxing out at 2-3 hours.
If I could hop on the bike for a few early mornings 30-minute sessions and maybe survive an hour on the trainer I will be thrilled. My strategy for the mindless base time on the trainer will be Zwift and TV shows. I would highly recommend having something to watch during these easy rides as you can easily get caught up in squeezing out a bit more intensity if your mind is not elsewhere. From my first week of 2-3 hours on the bike, I will try to add a couple of hours each week for a month. If after 4 weeks of riding I can clock an 8-10 hour riding week, I will be on track for having a resemblance of fitness by the time April rolls around.
I am going to talk about cross-training before intensity as I am not looking to hit any big numbers or even intervals until I have a few hundred kilometres in my legs, instead, I am going to try and hit the gym twice a week and pair that session with some short runs. Since I stopped racing my bike full time in 2017 running has been where I have found a lot of my top end fitness. Not only is it much more time effective in that I can get way more out of a 30-40 minute run than a ride but I have also run a half marathon the last two falls and I hope to do that again in 2020. I won't share any running advice as 90 percent of all my runs are just trying to smash sub-4-min kilometres for as long as I can, only to plod back home half the athlete I was in the first few minutes of my runs. I don't know if I will have the self-control to change my running habits but maybe I will look for some running buddies who can reel me in a bit and allow for some much smarter training this year.
Finally, if I get a month of physical activity done I will be looking for that top end, smash the Ontario climbs kind of fitness. This will come from intervals both on the track at the velodrome and on that dreaded indoor trainer. My usual winter strategy for getting ready for Ontario riding is usually a whole lot of 5-minute intervals strung together with minimal rest. I might do 5x5 mins with 2 mins recovery in between the sets and for the interval section, I will either look to hold the same power output across all 5 or build on the intensity after each round. Both of these workouts are great because there is seldom a group ride that sees an all-out effort or attack that will last much more than 5 minutes before either the road flattens or the group starts to feel the effort. I used to do many 20-minute FTP tests but as a more casual rider now I am not inclined to endure that kind of suffering unless it is outside climbing some spectacular mountain. I might look to do some 10-minute intervals but, I am already nervous thinking about the training I have already laid out for myself.
I truly do hope I get on the bike soon, I do miss many aspects of riding. The unfortunate thing is that the coffee, lunch and beer stops which I so much enjoy out on the roads are a little harder to organize with friends while you are in the basement. The one thing I can appreciate about the 2020 season preparation is that if I do nothing before the spring, I legitimately will be unable to hang with my riding friends who are already putting in their hard work over the winter in preparation for these very rides! I think I can get on the bike this winter and I hope that anyone who has stepped off the bike for a while will join me in falling back in love with riding. If you are already training this winter I salute you and well, maybe we will be racing on Zwift together before the winter ends.
Happy New Year and even happier training to all!