Preparing for 2011 and PBP

At this time of year, we reflect on the cycling season that just has ended, and make plans for the next season. For me, the highlight of 2011 will be Paris-Brest-Paris. The famous 765-mile ride still is 9 months in the future, but now is the time to begin preparing for the upcoming season, whatever your goals may be.

I don’t ride much during most of November and December. It’s important for my body and mind to recover and rest, so that I can start the new year fresh and excited about cycling. It’s not that I have stopped cycling altogether: I still go on a leisurely 60-mile ride with a friend or two every 7-10 days. It’s nice to get out, and I don’t want to lose my body’s adaptation to cycling. Otherwise, my cycling consists of commuting for deliveries to local bookstores and bike shops, to pick up mail, etc.

So what do I do during the “off-bike” season? My core strength and flexibility are not what they should be. This is a common problem among cyclists that can manifest itself in knee problems (from the kneecap being pulled out of alignment by tight hamstrings and muscle imbalances) and even in shoulder, neck and hand pain (due to the upper body not holding itself up on the bike, and resting too heavily on the arms and hands).

To work on core strength and flexibility, I do a combination of yoga and strength-building exercises. It’s not something I greatly enjoy, but it makes for a much better cycling season. I try to fit in 5-10 minutes every day, doing stretching exercises recommended by a physical therapist together with others learned in a yoga class, plus some push-ups and sit-ups. Running also seems to help my core strength, so I go for a run twice a week, including some stairs (can’t resist that cycling-specific training!).

I poked around online a bit, and Bicycling magazine has an article on core strength with some exercises that could serve as a good starting point. Most of us know what we need to work on… and now is a good time to lay the foundations to a successful season. How do you prepare your 2011 season?

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. One of our companies, Bicycle Quarterly Press publishes cycling books, while Compass Bicycles Ltd. makes and distributes high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
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8 Responses to Preparing for 2011 and PBP

  1. don compton says:

    jan,
    i am not into “pbp”, but your writings can help many cyclists. i have been doing a lot of upper body and core in the gym since 1998, and, it has really helped my back issues on the bike.
    thanks, don c.

  2. Alexander Krauß says:

    Here in Germany we have an early winter with temperatures below 0 C and 30 cm of snow. Winter training traditionally is cross country skiing, working the whole body, snowshoeing and cyclo cross becoming more popular. Also MTB is a good alternative the forest protecting from cold wind. Yoga quite popular, but I personally dont know anybody who manged to do this gymnastics stuff on his/her own. So it seems to be a exercise in mental strength in the first place. Friends from Brevet starting location Osterdorf are doing night rides all winter long. http://www.randonneure.de/

  3. Perfect timing. I recently underwent knee surgery, so have been completely off the bike for about 6 weeks. Mandatory rest period, I suppose. Now I’m riding again and needing to consider not just bike fitness, but general fitness as well. My Physical Therapist has me doing many similar exercises to what was pointed out in the Bicycling article you linked to, so core strength isn’t just important for cycling goals but for overall fitness as well. In addition to the added core building, I outlined what my typical preparations are in a recent blog posting here:
    http://tinyurl.com/2bwdp8o

    Dan Boxer chimed in and offered a few good notes as well.

    See you at PBP…

  4. Richard James says:

    I row indoors in the winter– it’s a good cardio workout and uses a lot of the same muscle groups as cycling (plus some others: strengthens back, shoulders, abs, and arms as well). It’s a less efficient activity (on the machine only half of your body’s movement is used) and the cadence is much slower than pedaling (~20-30 strokes/min), so it feels qualitatively different to complete a 700-1,000 calorie workout (which takes 45-60 min). It also is easy to row indoors while traveling as there is essentially one brand of rowing machines worldwide so nearly every hotel, gym, etc. in the first world will have the same one or two models.

    Transitioning from bike to rower is not easy, but in the Spring hills will be (more) fun on your bike. One downside is that nobody rows for hours at a time, but if you must be bored indoors then it’s nice to be done in less than an hour. I use some of the “found” extra time to do resistance training…

    I will point out that proper form is really important whilst rowing, even indoors on the machine. The sticker on the front and instructional animation on the screen are both correct, but almost everyone you see rowing at the gym is doing it wrong (including the personal trainers, in most cases).

    Rowing is a much smaller sport than cycling, but many rowers are also cyclists

  5. My December “training” is all about rest. I don’t try to maintain the same fitness all year, because I can’t. If I want to be in optimal shape in August 2011 for PBP, I need to rest now, then rebuild my fitness from a healthy base.

    I actually enjoy the fluctuations of my fitness with the seasons. The snow-capped mountains on clear January days are associated with long “base” miles in the valleys at a leisurely pace. With the first cherry blossoms come the first focused outings into the steeper hills. The training comes to a crescendo in the heat of summer, then tapers off as the leaves turn colors, when it is time to bid farewell to my favorite mountain rides, only to rediscover them again the following year.

  6. Kole Kantner says:

    As many know, I keep riding all year long. I do notice that my average speeds really drop in December and January. I don’t know if that is the road conditions, draggy tires, dirt, higher density air, or just fatigue from the last 10 months of intense cycling.

    Last year I recommended hilly permanents to friends interested in endurance and climbing faster. This year I am thinking of taking my own advice on hills in a training sense instead of as a means to attain an arbitrary goal like 1,000,000 vertical feet per year, although I still find the small specific goals like that to be highly motivating to me and other similarly obsessive people.

    The Alplet and Alplet+ rides both pack lots of climbing into relatively short rides that are highly accessible to cyclists living in Seattle. At 100k and 6,000 feet of climbing the Alplet ride starting in Factoria is a great after work training ride for those that don’t mind riding in the dark rain.

  7. audaxing says:

    I’ve been preparing by getting a bike that works properly
    I made a new rear wheel for it a couple of weeks ago.
    Due to snow and ice I haven’t been out on it since then.

    I am commuting to work each day (30 mile round trip) on heavy ice tyres to keep my fitness ticking over

  8. Chris Cullum says:

    I have heard strategies of a “quiet” off-season to give a chance to rest, recuperate and frankly do other non-bike related activities. This is generally my approach. I still ride, mostly commuting and around the city but occasional recreational rides. However with the advent of “permanents” it seems a lot of riders are still logging high mileage in the off-season. This can probably maintain a higher fitness going into spring but does not give much of a respite. I guess this is part of personal preference and what works for you individually.

    It also seems to me many more riders are logging huge mileage in the brevet season. Looking at my rando club yearly totals there are quite a few riders that are over or approaching 10K km, which looking at the archives is unheard of a few years ago. I read an article recently about the phenomenon of runners doing several marathons in a year. There was some question whether this was fairly detrimental for their long term heath and probably undermined their ultimate performance in individual events. It said in the article that elite runners only do 2 or 3 marathons a year because of the stain and subsequent decrease in performance.

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