The pro racing season stretches throughout eight or more long months, and the level of competition is now so high that there’s rarely any downtime possible during the season. Therefore, it makes the early off-season a critical time to unwind. We asked Bobby Julich (CSC) and Aaron Olsen (Sanier Duval-Prodir) how they spend their short off-seasons, and get some good insight as to how their personal ambitions unfolded this year.
Pez: It’s been a long hard season full of success, travel, injuries, and sickness. Now that you have some time to yourself, how do you spend it?
Bobby J - With all the injuries, illness, and allergies I had during the season as well as the problems that are facing cycling at the moment I needed a good break to recharge the batteries. I took 3 weeks off of ALL activity, but that was in part due to the terrible weather that we had here in Philly the first 10 days after getting back.
I started weight training with my personal trainer 3 weeks ago and I am also doing in-line skating and easy riding at the moment. Of course, I will have to train more in the off-season this year compared to last, but I have been in this situation before and have to be sure not to do too much at this time of year. After I crashed out of the 99 Tour and Vuelta, I trained too hard over the winter and was at my fighting weight in January and that proved to be a bad decision.
Having a “real” off season is not something that we get to enjoy very often, but it will allow me to really work on my weaknesses and prepare fully for what might be my last season in the international peloton. I achieved some great results in 2004-5 when I raced 198 times and finished all but one race. I was always in the front, leading the team and I enjoyed it very much.
Aaron Olsen - Last season I took two weeks completely off the bike in October. In the past I have done everything from 3 months of lifting weights to running 3-4 times per week along with riding. I have spent a couple winters riding the mountain bike a lot, including up to 5 hour rides in Colorado. It is a good workout, but doesn’t so much feel like training. For me, I need to rest mentally in order to get all the motivation back for the upcoming season. This year, I will meet with T-Mobile and find out my race schedule and go from there, but I want stay fit this winter, as it is so hard to get the high level back, and so easy to lose it.
I play some basketball at the gym sometimes, but I really like to run in the off-season. And maybe a bit of cyclecross this winter to keep it different and the mind fresh. Other than that, I will speak to AthletiCamps Director of Coaching, Dr. Testa after I know more about my race schedule and have him help me work out my training schedule for this winter.
Last year I was training full time from Nov. 1st until my last race this year at the Tour of Poland which ended on September 10th. So, it was a long season, but it ended up being a good one; with the change to a new team, I have a lot of motivation for ’07. The biggest key for me is having the motivation to work hard. If you have motivation, the rest will follow.
On the Road
Let’s summarize some of Bobby’s and Aaron’s answers and see how they can be applied to our training programs:
• The mental stresses of constant training and racing are the aspects of cycling that are most important to recover from after a long season. Don’t fall into the stereotypical belief that you necessarily have to take a lot of time off from physical activity in order to recover fully Assuming you didn’t over train during the season, the physical component really doesn’t take that much recovery time. It is, however, important to take enough time off in order to regain the morale for next year.
• As racers who have jobs where there is never enough time to train, take advantage of good weather and some daylight in October and begin building your base towards next season. Don’t wait to do this later in January, because you can bet that the weather will not cooperate and other aspects of life will prevent you from riding as much as you normally want.
• The transition period is a time to review your past season, review your weaknesses and start a plan for improvement. Talk to your coach, team mates and training partners to receive honest and accurate feedback about what they see needs improvement in your program. Many times they will see a weakness that you may never know you have.
• If you had injuries or sickness (like Bobby J), take the time to make sure those issues are totally resolved. For example, if the injury was due to over-use, then visit a bike fit professional and try to figure out if there is a biomechanical issue that caused the problem and make the proper adjustments to your setup. If you got unusually sick, then it might be a good idea to get a health checkup with either your doctor or a sports performance MD. Also remember that proper nutrition can help you to stay healthy throughout the year. Initiating training for 2007 requires good health or you will start at a disadvantage from the start.
• Patience and timing to begin serious training is very important. Trust that your fitness will carry over from year to year and builds upon itself. Remember that you focus on this sport for up to 10 months (a long time) so it’s important to give yourself a break.
• Limit your losses. If you look ahead and know that training will be difficult, set a simple goal to “limit your losses.” Do what you can do, when you can do it. For example, if you are out riding and have an extra hour, then do that extra hour. Every little bit adds up over time.
The off season is a great time to catch up on things you missed out on for the past 8+ months. Involve your coaches and team mates to help set the best possible plan for success in 2007. Just like you do with your pedal stroke, try to eliminate the “dead spot” of your season by applying purpose and meaning.
Ride strong and ride safe!
Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com