The “season” for many athletes is the sweet spot between Spring and Fall when the majority of races or events are taking place, and training is at its peak. This is the time when focus and motivation are at an all-time high, and fitness should be as well. However, due to schedule disruptions, race results, or training roadblocks, we often times we find ourselves late in the season and needing to capitalize on any available fitness gains that are available. No matter where you find yourself at the end of the season, there’s plenty of ways to rally and make the most of this time of year.
Often by the time, it’s later in the season athletes have lost track of what it is they need or want to accomplish. They’ve gotten pulled in different directions because of schedule changes, race results, family, work, or any of the other responsibilities the come up on a given day. If you’re feeling lost, always come back to specificity. Ask yourself the question,
“Does what I’m doing in training match the demands of what I hope to accomplish on race day?”
The detours that happen throughout the year have a way of pulling athletes away from this central question. If you’re not training for how you expect to perform on race day then things need to change.
Set Your Sights for the Future
If you’re training has gotten stale, or your season is winding down, start to set your sights on what’s to come. Whether it’s CX, fall gran fondos, or winter sports, begin shifting your training and your fitness in that direction. Again, always focusing on specificity, Map out a plan so that you can see how your goals look in relation to the rest of your schedule. This will help you set yourself up for success when it comes to focusing on the timing and execution of key transitions in your training. Always look ahead to keep your training moving forward. Progress happens over several seasons, not several weeks, so plan accordingly.
If you don’t know what to do, or what to focus on, pick an event that excites you. We sometimes feel the need to stick to specific disciplines, or race series to chase points or standings, but that can also lead to burnout and stagnant training. If there’s something that you’ve been wanting to do, even if it’s not part of your primary focus, then do it! A long ride, self-supported run, or race weekend may be just what you need to jump start your next phase of training.
Focus on Aerobic Efficiency
If you’re feeling like your training has lost direction, always come back to working on aerobic efficiency. Your engine can always be stronger and more efficient. Maybe your season is winding down and the need for hyper-focused work isn’t necessary, or you’re in between specific disciplines. If you’re finding yourself in a position without focus or direction come back to foundational work. Long tempo runs and sweet spot work on the bike are always valuable places to spend your time. Working efficiently at higher perceived efforts will pay dividends no matter your primary focus or race discipline.
So many times during the season some things have to suffer for the benefit of race preparedness. More often than not the thing that falls by the wayside is strength and injury prevention work. If the season has pulled you away from supplemental work it’s always a good time to integrate it again. If you’re still racing focus on dynamic movements that build not only power but focus on a range of motion and flexibility. This will help stave off any late-season injuries due to the cumulative training stress from the season. If you’re winding down, or in a transition phase, you may begin to think about more foundational weighted work to build maximal strength and raw power. There’s never a bad time for athletes of any kind to begin to integrate strength training back into their regiment.
Focus on Fundamentals
In the thick of the season, it’s often easy to lose sight of the small things. Things like bike handling skills and running form are always valuable ways to spend your time. Work on becoming better at your sport not just by focusing on being fit, but also by being more proficient. Things, like performing strides after a run workout, or performing bike handling drills, help to bridge the gap between simply being fit, and being a fully-rounded athlete. So many races come down to those that are more than just aerobically strong but have also mastered the nuances of their sport as well.
Find a Group
Training with a group from time to time can be a great way to develop not only fitness but can also provide the opportunity for you to push yourself outside of a race day setting. Find a group that can push you a little, and might be slightly outside of your comfort zone. These are the groups that will truly allow you to excel. On top of the fitness gains, the social aspect of these rides or runs can be extremely important for some athletes. Focused training can be isolating at times, and finding the right group can help strike the appropriate balance and infuse some fun into your training.
The end of the season doesn’t have to be a dead zone where you’re stuck between peak fitness and transitioning to other disciplines or late season events. You can continue to move forward by looking at this time of year as an opportunity to mix things up or re-focus on season goals. Fitness isn’t linear, and sometimes we need to take a step back to find the right approach to move forward. The end of the season is the perfect time to find both your focus and fitness before winter comes.
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, race promoter, and team organizer. 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 all disciplines of both running and cycling. Browse their pre-built training plans on TrainingPeaks, or for more information on personal coaching and custom training plans, visit www.thomasendurancecoaching.com. Follow TEC at @endurance_coach.