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We have now entered the part of year when many riders turn their focus to racing each week. The rewards of hard earned training up to this point start to show during the races but with an often demanding race schedule how do you continue to train during this time and maintain the path of progression?
This is a real juggling act, one to be aware of and ensure you take the following into account:
Many times we see riders head into the season with good legs and improved fitness from the previous year only to see these gains and form disappear by April. There can be many reasons riders think this is happening, some believe they can be ‘burnt out’ or ‘over trained’ from the winter period and simply unable to sustain form. Often this is never the case and frequently down to less obvious factors.
The common dip in form can actually be part of a cycle of de-training once the race season gets underway. ‘Strange’, we hear you say. Well, not really. When the race season starts, often all your physical and mental energy is placed into the weekend of racing, the focus is on results in races. Of course this is not a bad thing, but mid-week training must remain a clear focus.
The de-training slump often comes from too much rest pre and post race which involves greatly reduced physical training stimulus than our bodies have experienced over the winter months. An example of this is a typical Sunday race, the lead up and subsequent recovery:
So you can see from the example only one day is proper physical training stress – the race on Sunday, which out of four days is not much training. Take into account a puncture, crash or abandoning a race and you’re lowering the level of physical training stimulus even further.
Of course, there are many individual factors to be taken into account, but routine around racing is something we should all take on board.
On the flip side of this ‘juggling act’ are those riders on the opposite end of the fitness spectrum who are under trained or lack ‘race form’ going into the start of the season. You often hear these riders want to ‘race themselves fit and into form’.
The ability to recover from a weekend of racing has a significant impact on how qualitative your training is going to be the following week. There can often be an onset of muscle fatigue 24-48hrs after a race which may require taking an extra rest day or sub-standard training day.
So what’s the reason for this? Well, your body needs to repair damaged muscles from the previous strenuous race effort. The nervous system is working to repair muscles and your cells are working overtime to rebuild damaged tissue. The good news is this leads to increased muscle strength and fitness but with a lower level of fitness your body’s ability to recover from that race effort takes longer. This in turn leaves you unable to train effectively as your muscles ‘heal’ from the race.
Along with the cellular and nervous system’s reaction in the days after a race effort, this strenuous weekend effort can also lead to a lowering of the immune system which can in turn result in illness or injury which will inhibit your training. This arises not only because you are putting your body under a level of stress you have not trained for, but also because of possible poor post-race care and nutrition.
Much to think about here. Consistency is key in everything you do from training, nutrition on and off the bike and appropriate recovery to make the most of race day performance and mid week training. You want to hit those key target goals you have set yourself this year. Keep the above in mind and you are well on your way.