Ride – Yep, there’s a pattern developing here isn’t there? Assuming we’re heading for a normal season (racing from when the clocks go forwards in late March), December is a good time to continue building endurance with a focus on volume rather than intensity but introducing some polarised sessions could be an idea. January is likely to see the start of gradual reduction of volume and an increase in intensity so reminding the body of what this feels like pre-Christmas may make January a little more palatable.
'...Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, pissed up drivers psychopathically inclined…’ as Cliff once sang.
A straw poll of some club mates indicates many have taken increasingly to Zwift or similar indoor tortures. Of course, much of this is enforced by work patterns meaning mid-week day light road rides are out but also weekends can become problematical because of weather that, in meteorological terms, is mostly shit. Just a word of caution, 2 hours on the turbo is physiologically (and psychologically) different from 2 hours on the road. I try not to prescribe anything over an hour on the turbo but this does mean dialling up the intensity sometimes. Make sure you build some balance in, nothing but virtual riding is a bit like eating a pot of strawberry jam: the first spoonful is nice but it gets sickly pretty quickly when you see how much more you’ve got to eat. Spring is still a long way off.
Weight – Tricky. Personally I only have to look at a mince pie (with cream, obvs) to put weight on. At this time of year and at a time of Covid-19 induced isolation, stress and boredom, those of us with a propensity to seek refuge in the biscuit barrel are at risk of putting on a bit of timber. Weight is such a personal thing and it’s essential you find a balance that suits you as a person and as an athlete. My own experience is that in the past I’ve often relied on shedding excess weight post-Christmas meaning sometimes my training is compromised by having one eye on calorie deficit and the other on performance. They are not always compatible.
Weight is a minefield. There are lots unhealthy eating behaviours and eating disorders out there and all of us have our own relationship (good or bad) with food. The assumption that to be great on a bike means being rake-thin is wrong but it’s an unavoidable truth that too much excess chub is unhealthy and will slow you down – we need to find a healthy balance.
Head – Remember those goals you set a few weeks back? The targets that will map out what you’d like to achieve next season? Give them a shake and see if they’re still appropriate and will motivate you to press on purposefully with your training during the winter months. If they don’t fulfil this critical role, adjust them so they do. Training is most effective when it’s performed with meaningful intent and a clear-eyed view of relevant goals is a vital part of this.
'...all I want for Christmas is some new front forks, new front forks, new front forks...' as Spike Jones & his City Slickers once sang.
Variety - If you have been training during autumn, give yourself a pat on the back because you’re going to be much better prepared for 2021 that those that haven’t. If you’ve careful built up a sustainable, durable base at the right level you’re going to be able to push on harder and faster in the new year. If things are starting to feel a bit ‘samey’ go for a spin on the mountain bike, walk, rest, mix things up a little bit. You can afford to do this because you’ve built up resilience in your fitness and a week off the bike is likely to consolidate, not damage, those hard earned gains.
Reflect – Cycling is a rich, complex and involved sport, it’s one of the reasons why it's so enriching to be involved in but it risks becoming obsessive. It’s easy to get bogged down in numbers, FTPs, CdAs, TSS etc, sometimes it’s important for our broader relationships and our own mental health to ensure our beloved sport has it’s proper place in our life and is not overstepping the boundaries.
It’s important but it’s not that important - we ride for fun, nobody is forcing us to do this.
'Ooooooo baby baby, ooo baby BABY...' Hang on, that's Salt and Pepper...
Rich Smith's favourite Christmas song is Greg Lake's 'I believe in Father Christmas'. He has coached the Great Britain Transplant Cycling team for over 10 years, is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach and a mature psychology student. He spent 30 years responding badly to people in authority in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property before launching RideFast Coaching which is much more fun.
The ramblings of a cycling coach...