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Training for an uncertain future

Training for an uncertain future

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Knowledge Level: Intermediate

Normally at this time of year, many riders would be starting to think ahead to spring and the start of the racing season, maybe some early time trials or some sportives. The lack of certainty about what shape the 2021 season will take can be demotivating, holding a performance peak “just in case” unsustainable and knowing how best to spend your precious training time hard. Follow these tips to stay healthy, happy and ready to turn your pedals in anger as and when you can.

Take the pressure off

Racing and sportives aren’t going to start-up again overnight with little warning so it makes sense to take a step back, a few deep breaths and look at what you’re doing on the bike with a bit of calm objectivity. Take the positives out of the current situation that you’ve got a bit more time to get ready for your target events and that there’s the potential for you to be even more competitive than before when you do pin a number on.

Lay strong foundations

You can view the weeks ahead as being a great to chance to extend your winter training. By continuing to follow a plan that, along with cycling workout, also emphasises the importance of off the bike conditioning, you can build really strong foundations for your fitness to carry through into the rest of 2021. These foundations will facilitate both improved cycling performance and, as importantly, enhanced robustness and resilience. Without the need for “race fitness” right now, you can devote a bit more time to laying down these foundations.

British Cycling 12-week “Real Life” Winter Training Plan

Maintain some quality

Just because you might be extending your “winter training” into the spring, this definitely doesn’t mean that you have to be putting in lots of steady paced miles in the name of the outdated concept of “base training”.

For amateur cyclists, who have to balance their training with work, family and other commitments, sticking to steady paced riding just isn’t making the most of precious pedalling time. Maintain some intensity in your training - the more time starved you are the more important this is.

Winter Cycling Myth Buster

Race virtually

By racing on Zwift you can get your competitive fix and a solid workout in one hit. Be a bit careful about overdoing the number of races you do as it can be addictive but, as a substitute for midweek workouts, it’s hard to beat.

Try a race on Zwift

Just ride for pleasure

Another plus of not having the season looming is that you can just head out and ride for pleasure, mental health and just to get a bit of fresh air. Riding doesn’t always have to be training and sometimes, leaving the power meter or heart rate monitor at home, can be really liberating.

Work on your skills

With less pressure on the need for fitness and a requirement to be sensible about where and how you ride, now’s an ideal time for working on some essential skills. For road cyclists, learning to ride rollers is a great goal.

For cyclo-cross and gravel riders, all you need is some local parkland or playing fields for a brilliant skills based workout.

Mountain bikers can make less technical local trails more exciting by adding in some skills challenges.

How to ride rollers

Cyclo-cross skills videos

Trail Smart MTB videos

Drop a few pounds

Counter-intuitively, when you’re training at your hardest and looking for peak performance is not the best time to try and shift a few pounds. Your workouts and performance in events can be compromised by lower energy levels associated with trying to lose weight. If you feel as though you might benefit from losing some fat, take advantage of this lull and delayed start to the season to achieve this.

Safe weight loss for cyclists

Try something new

Adding some variety to your training can be a real boost both physically and mentally as you challenge yourself outside of the confines of your regular routine. Whether it’s dabbling in some off-road cycling if you’re a dedicated roadie, adding in some strength or mobility work, trying some yoga or Pilates or simply heading out for a run, it’ll help improve all round robustness and rekindle your motivation for cycling if you’ve slightly lost your mojo.

Off road cycling for road cyclists

Back and lower body mobility routine

Fitness classes for cyclists

Cross training for cyclists

Work on your weaknesses

Although it’s always tempting to do the things we’re good at, chances are the gains you stand to make in these areas are relatively small. Take this time to be honest with yourself, identify your cycling weaknesses and to tackle them. For example, if you always tend to get dropped on the hills on your club-run, focus your training on improving your climbing strength. Whether this involves hill reps on a local climb, big gear sessions or targeting hilly events and routes on Zwift, we’re not saying you’ll become a mountain goat but you might surprise your club mates when you do ride with them next.  

Don’t worry about finding your form

When we do know when the season will start and what shape it’ll take, don’t worry about riding your peak form. If you’ve kept things ticking over and stayed fresh, both physically and mentally, by following the tips above, a relatively short block of training will take you to where you want to be. Also, by not having overcooked things during this extended off-season and focussed on building a broader foundation of conditioning, don’t be surprised if you hit your best form ever.

British Cycling 4-week Sprint Training Plan

British Cycling 4-week Circuit Racing Plan

British Cycling 4-week Time-Trial Plan

British Cycling 4-week Climbing Plan


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