For many athletes in the Northern Hemisphere, now is the time to start the transition from hibernating in the pain cave to getting outside for rides. Race season is within sight and it’s time to start putting all of the pieces together to ensure the season kicks off properly. The transition from indoors to outdoors is important for race day success, but it can also be cumbersome and unproductive if not approached properly.
Sharpen Your Skills
One of the biggest and most obvious differences between riding indoors and outdoors is the fact that the bike indoors is stationary. While this is great when you need to put your head down and power through a tough interval, it makes the need for bike handling skills unnecessary. Quick response time and confident bike handling are cornerstones for many disciplines. Whether on the road or trail, a confident bike handler makes a good racer. Start getting outside to begin honing any skills that may have gotten dull over the winter. Jump into your favorite group ride to remember what it feels like to ride with others. Practice paceline skills, breakaways, sprints, and anything else that you may have fallen out of touch with. If you’re racing off-road either on gravel of singletrack this exposure is vital. The physicality of racing on unpaved surfaces can’t be taken for granted. It’s important to expose your body to the demands that you’ll experience on race day. Start to integrate some outdoor riding so that you can regain the confidence and skills needed to respond to the call of race day.
Test Your Fitness
If you’re like most athletes, you’ve spent the winter and early spring working on your limiters, fine-tuning race fitness, and making sure to check all of the appropriate boxes that will hopefully add up to race day success. Transitioning to some outdoor riding helps you put all of this work to the test. Use your longer endurance rides to look for potential gaps in your fitness. How are you feeling on the climbs, sprints, Strava segments, etc.? These can be real-world examples of whether or not your focused work during the winter has paid off. Use RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) to check in with how you “feel”. It’s important to make the link between RPE and power and/or heart rate. Riding outdoors helps to develop this link and allows you to make realtime decisions about your effort. This is directly applicable to the skills needed to be a successful racer. This is also the time for many to start going long. Most athletes, even with great trainers and virtual riding environments, will cap their indoor rides around a couple of hours. Chances are now is the time to add volume to your training. Start extending the ride duration to test your legs and build endurance. Again, this is a great way to check in to see if your indoor sessions have established the necessary muscular and aerobic endurance allowing you to build your race-specific fitness.
Dial-In Your Route
As race day gets closer, the workouts should more closely mimic what you’ll experience on that day. This applies to everything from the fast start during a mass start race, to the sustained climbs that you may encounter on a particular racecourse. Ride terrain that most closely matches that of your race. This will not only prepare your body for the specificity of race day but also enable you to use the data from these rides to build race prep workouts. The duration, frequency, and intensity of interval sessions can be tweaked to ensure you’re providing the proper stimulus. One of the best parts of coming out of hibernation is dreaming of, and planning routes that will get your excited to race. Use your Wahoo ELEMNT computer to load your route plans for the weekend, nail down your structured workout outside, or go hunting KOM’s. Having a plan, and using technology to execute that plan will help you feel confident and productive as you begin extending your time in the saddle.
Modern indoor training environments make it so easy to be comfortable on the trainer. While the structure and convenience of the trainer are hard to beat, there’s nothing like getting outside. Not only is it good for the soul after a long winter, but it’s critical for race day preparedness. Bike handling skills are vital to a racer’s success, and the demands of race day conditions can’t be overlooked. Use your time outside to ensure the appropriate work has been done through the winter, and that all that’s left is to put the finishing touches on race preparations. Plan your routes and expose your body to what’s expected on race day. Now’s the time when the final pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
Taylor Thomas is the founder and head coach of Thomas Endurance Coaching (TEC) and has more than a decade of experience in the endurance sports industry as an athlete, coach, team organizer, writer, and podcast host. TEC provides expert level coaching to athletes of all ability levels and specializes in both a scientific and metrics-based approach to endurance sports. They guide athletes in a wide variety of disciplines ranging from running and cycling to mountaineering. For more information on their personal coaching and training plan options visit http://www.thomasendurancecoaching.com/. Also, listen to their top-rated podcast Endurance Minded everywhere you get your podcasts.