Heart Rate: 5 Steps to More Effective Off-Season Training


Winter is on its way in and temperatures are declining.  Temperatures and shorter daylight hours can make it difficult to keep your body in the shape you want.  Whether you are new to competitive cycling, a seasoned racer, or just looking to better your fitness, there are a few simple steps to improving your abilities in preparation for the coming season.

1.  Setting Goals
When entering the off-season, the first step to a successful upcoming year is planning.  Take a look at your previous season and assess which aspects went well and which didn’t turn out as expected.  Think of what you want to improve on this year, set a few goals, and make necessary plans to reach those goals.  Perhaps you had great endurance but not very much power.  Maybe you felt fast on the flats but not as quick up the climbs. Adjust your training to improve your weakest areas of riding.

Plan out your approaching race/ride calender and focus on the events most important to you.  You’ll want to be hitting your peak fitness at these times.  Planning can make a huge difference in your season.

2.  Decrease Training Intensity
Fall/Winter is a time to slow down your training intensity.  If you were to train year-round at your maximum ability, you are likely to burn out much too early.  Instead, you want to start your off season at a much lower intensity, then gradually work your way back up to your peak when the time is right.

To regulate yourself, you should consult a target heart rate diagram easily found online. You can customize your own training plan to your age and limitations.  First you need to determine your Maximum Heart Rate (mhr). One method to determine your age adjusted mhr is to use this equation.

Male: 220 – (age) = mhr

Female: 226 – (age) = mhr

Once you have your mhr, you can effectively plan your off-season.  Start slow by riding at 50-60% of your mhr. In a month or two bump it up to 60-75% mhr. Next, when early spring hits, you can jump up to 75-85% mhr.  Then, when the event season starts, you can increase up to 85-100% mhr. Not only will this allow your body to work its way back up to peak fitness without overtraining, but you will increase your endurance by training your body to work at different heart rate zones. To more effectively monitor your heart rate, check out the cycling computers we offer.

There are many approaches to building your base level of cardio.  For a great article on base training be sure to check out Garret Rock’s article – The Importance of Base Building: Heart Rate Training
3.  Add Variety
It can be difficult to get out and train often in the Winter, especially if you live in a cold climate, but there are many activities you can do to stay fit.

    • Get a trainer or rollers.  They are simple to use and you can stay fit while riding your bike without leaving the house.  Check out the Cycleops trainers we carry.
    • Running, swimming, tennis, basketball, soccer, cross-country skiing, and snow-shoeing  are great for cross-training
    • Pick-up some leg and arm warmers to keep warm when its cold out
    • Start interval training more when you get closer to the race season.
Ultimately your goal is to keep training and have fun doing it.



4.  Weight train
The off-season is a great time to use weights to your advantage.  Weight lifting can build and tone your muscles while increasing your muscle endurance.  Although your legs will be most important to improve, focusing on other muscle groups will improve your overall athleticism as well.  The goal isn’t to bulk up, but to increase endurance.  This is best achieved by using smaller weights with higher reps.  For an in depth article about specific weight training exercises, make sure to check out – Top 5 Weight Lifting Exercises for Cyclists


5.  Discipline
The last thing to keep in mind over the next season is to stay consistent.  It’s easy to get out of the routine when you become busy with other things, I’ve definitely fallen victim to this before.  It is important to keep your goals visible and set time aside to train, even if you can only manage a little bit at a time.  Staying on track and consistent will guarantee greater success for the coming year.

Make sure you are having fun throughout this process!  Following these steps will improve your riding ability and help you have a more enjoyable year.  Good Luck!

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