PezCycling News - What's Cool In Road Cycling : The Pro Shop – Off Season Goals

The Pro Shop – Off Season Goals
I first heard the saying, “The upcoming season is made in the off season? by former two-time Paris-Roubaix winner Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle (it must have been translated, because I don’t speak a lick of French). Compared to professionals who have a relatively short off season, most of our off seasons are longer, usually in the 3-5 month range. Given the fact that most of us have jobs, families, and other interests, we have to make the best use of our time during that period by having a specific plan. In fact, there may be multiple “mini?off seasons during the course of the year, during which you take breaks away from the bike and do other things that are of interest to you. Even though professionals have shorter periods of time off, we can still learn from what they try to accomplish and apply it to our own programs.

With this article, I am going to begin getting tips to common training topics from some of the best riders in the world so that you can learn from them and apply the advice to your own programs. In this first article, we asked Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank), Bobby Julich (CSC) and Mike Sayers (Healthnet) to answer two questions related to their winter training programs:

Pez - What is the primary goal of your winter training??

Levi ?My primary goal for winter training has always been to slowly and steadily build fitness so there is a base for the racing season. If form is rushed, it won't last long.

Bobby - My main objective in the off season is to work on overall strength of all muscle groups and keep my endurance base.

Mike - The main goal is to build a base of strength. I don't want to stress my immune or muscle systems, but I want to put just enough stress on my body to force it to learn recovery. The strength comes from several different areas, and you can only learn to go fast by going slow and steady first.

Pez - Has your winter training changed over the years and if so, what has changed?

Levi - My winter training has been the same the previous 5 years until now. This year I am doing something different for a change in order to achieve different results. I always follow the same goal of building slowly and letting my body recover with time to spare before the racing season begins. This year I have added a bit of intensity, nothing too intense but certainly more than the past. This means a slight decrease in training time of course. Remember, it's all a balancing act. Pay attention to your body and your central nervous system.

Bobby - This has changed over the years from when I was younger and didn't race as much as I do now. When I was younger, I could actually have 3-4 months of off season training, but now it is not much longer than 1-2 months. When you have so much time, you can really put together a program that can work on all your weaknesses. You can build a great base of strength in the gym as well as endurance and power on the bike from long rides and big gear exercises. One of the most important things to remember is to have a good break after a long season before starting on an off season program. If the proper break isn't taken, one can risk over-training as well as early season burnout. I don't think that there is a set rest period for every rider. Every athlete knows his or her body and has to make that decision on their own.

Mike - Absolutely. Just like anything in life, you live, make mistakes and learn. I have learned how to train with my head instead of my legs. I now have a wife and I am sure a family soon so my time is much more valuable now. I look at training like a job. From 9 to 5 I am at the office working, and my friends and family understand this. Just like them they know I can't just blow off work to go play. I clock in everyday.

What can we learn from Levi, Bobby and Mike? The common themes are:

?Maintained or “recharged?strength ?By initially resting, you can then take the opportunity to work on strength, which will eventually lead to more power on the bike.

?Not letting yourself lose your endurance base - You already have an endurance base carried from the previous year. Their goal is to maintain their base fitness, thereby avoiding having to rebuild that base.

?Slow and Steady ?The longer you take to get fit, the longer you stay fit. If you try to “force?your program by taking a long break then cramming in a lot of training in a short time, this will lead to a season of inconsistency (characterized by short periods of feeling strong, followed by relatively longer periods of decreased power and general lack of peak performance on the bike). For most athletes their incorrect solution to this problem is to train harder and longer, which creates over-training. Training slowly but completely optimizes your fitness for the entire season.

?Mental and physical down time refuels the “will to win.?Physical recovery really doesn’t take that long. Thus, for many athletes, a few weeks of minimal activity following a season is all that’s needed to recover. A properly trained athlete will have the desire and motivation to train consistently with enthusiasm throughout the year.

?Trial and Error ?Good professionals are always looking at what they have done and make necessary adjustments to their program. Training programs are ever evolving structures, based on the individual athletes?goals and current state of fitness. Nobody knows you as well as you do; use this reality to your own advantage by learning about yourself as much as possible and being honest because you are your own best coach.

I also think it’s worth noting what Bobby mentions regarding “gaining strength thru executing on the bike drills.? Nothing replaces bike time and whenever given the opportunity during the winter months, riding should be a priority.

Cyclists have an enormous amount of enthusiasm about their sport. As the season approaches, their desire to compete (or ride big events like centuries) begins to dominate their programs. More than ever, it’s important we take what Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, Levi, Bobby and Mike are clearly saying ?Use the off season to work on your weaknesses, recharge mentally and prepare a plan for a successful campaign.

Have a training question you want to ask the pros? Send an email to and let us know what's on your mind!

Bobby Julich’s website.

Mike Sayer’s HealthNet Team site.

Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at


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