The Most Important Season in Cycling
By CEO Robert Forster, PT “Off Season” training is misconstrued by many cyclists to mean training that is somehow less important than “in season” or competitive season training. Perhaps because the early season low-intensity training is less painful, it is thought to be less important. The concept that only “hard” work produces significant gains in fitness and the greatest rewards in performance is incorrect. It may also be that Base Training benefits are not immediately obvious. A lot is happening beneath the skin and improvements are not readily apparent by outward appearance. In fact, the low-intensity off-season “Base Training” is where your most significant fitness growth will come. Impatient athletes may want to rush the early season preparation and get to the “hard stuff” too soon. Developing fitness is a recipe where adding the intensity ingredient too early will ruin the final product. In fact, to the extent you develop Base Fitness in the early season will dictate the extent of your peak fitness later. Like a pyramid-shaped building where the foundation needs to be broader than the upper floors, the Base fitness you develop early on must be broader than the ensuing layers of fitness you apply. For these reasons it’s important for the cyclist to intellectually understand the science happening under the skin. Most cyclists have by now been exposed to some elements of Periodization Training ideology and have incorporated these principles into their training. The Eastern European concept of breaking the training year into cycles or phases is not as foreign as it once was and cyclists now realize it’s the most effective way to train. Furthermore, most understand the importance of a preparatory phase to precede the harder work that follows. However, confusion still exists as to what needs to be accomplished in the off-season or Base Training phase of their yearly program. Developed by Soviet Era Sports Scientists during the Cold War, Periodization Training was developed in an attempt to dominate the world of sport. Specifically designed to avoid the performance plateaus and mental burnout in communist athletes; Periodization Principles were the result of controlled research techniques. In research, controlling variables is paramount and behind the Iron Curtain the Soviets were able to do so with impunity. Each country began, of course, with ethnically homogenous groups (Russians, Bulgarians, Germans, etc.) they then “centralized” their promising young athletes to isolated training facilities. Ability to control diet, sleep, and environment while ignoring research edicts regarding things like consent, they manipulated exercise stimulus in search of the most effective training program design. The results may have been ethically corrupt; but proved to be scientifically sound. What emerged is a model of human adaptation that provides predictable outcomes when exercise is orchestrated in a scientifically rational sequence.