The Backcountry Bike Team: Getting the Most Out of Summer Training
For the competitive cyclist, the transition from early season to summer requires some thought. Throughout the winter and spring, you’ve focused on developing the aerobic system and sustainable power you need for the summer race schedule. A lot of miles went into this pursuit of base fitness and if you did it right, it felt like work at some point along the way. But while long hours on the bike can improve overall fitness, come summer you’ll want to make some changes by adding some more intensity, balanced by more fun, into the mix.
After months of logging endurance, tempo, or threshold rides your cruising pace is sure to be well developed. You know the feeling when your long ride no longer crushes you and you’re able to get up the climbs without completely destroying yourself.
However, even if you’re more fit than ever, it’s completely possible that you might not be ready to ride or race your fastest; now is a great time to assess your fitness and, if it checks out well enough, replace some of the longer steady rides with something a little punchier. Upping the intensity with fast group rides, mid-week training races, or good old-fashioned interval workouts will get you firing on all cylinders and ready to go at a higher level.
Rides that take you near your limit once or twice each week ought to suffice as you morph your early season fitness into race-worthy speed. And yes, those long solo fitness building rides are completely necessary, but not quite as frequently during the summer months.
Photo Credit: Ian Hylands
Have More Fun
Happily, faster riding means more fun for summer! Exploring new singletracks, revisiting some of your favorite routes, or having a few friends along for the ride ought to provide ample motivation to hammer it out. These rides will certainly challenge you, but ought to refresh things mentally, too. Don’t expect to knock it out of the park right away, but after a few weeks, you’ll gain that elusive sense of race speed while enjoying all the advantages of summertime weather.
Leading up to your races, make sure that your hardest rides replicate the challenges that you expect on race day and always make sure to have fun with them.
Photo Credit: Ian Hylands
Find a Balance
Chances are good that you have a lot going on this summer. Equally important to penciling in races on your training calendar, you’ll want to plan ahead for vacations or anything else that’ll have you stretched a little thin. Budgeting some rest and recovery when you might need it most will go a long ways towards keeping you healthy and riding your best. Feeling chronically tired-out isn’t a sign of quality training, so don’t confuse it with effectively getting faster.
If you think you might need some additional recovery time, take it. This is especially true as you get closer to your races. Have fun and ride hard, but be sure to recover better, too. When things are in balance you’ll be having fun, feeling good, and getting faster. Summer is a special time, so don’t be afraid to embrace it and do things off the bike, too.
You might ask, why not just do the fast riding year-round?
In short, because you can only do so much of it and it’ll limit the total amount of training that you’re able to do. Put in the big rides with the steady hard climbs to get fit early on and then have fun with the high-intensity riding to get faster. It all comes in good time, so whether you need to gain more fitness or work on getting fast, be sure to have fun with it this summer. Get out there, explore, and push yourself to a new level.
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