Updated: Oct 21, 2020
It's safe to say that the 2020 racing season has come to an end and the majority of the athletes I work with have over 6 months before their next event. Unless you're training for hill climbs and cyclocross. The transition phase is the most important phase of periodised training for an athlete’s mental health and motivation.
By the end of September , road-specialist cyclists have been training hard for several months. During this time they've had to deal with highs and lows, heat, cold, wind and rain. There may have been frustrating illnesses and injuries at crucial times, that can add another element of stress. Through all this you're expected to balance all this training with work, family, and other commitments. So i'm not surprised that as soon as riders get out of that training routine the suddenly feel drained and susceptible to illness. It is 100% normal and expected to feel unmotivated, generally fatigued, most of us spent the majority of spring on the indoor trainer during quarantine and really don't relish the thought of getting straight back into the pain cave. Just like you need rest periods in between intervals to be able to accomplish the workout, you need rest periods in between training seasons to be able to grow and progress as an athlete. So, how do you incorporate the transition phase of periodised training?
The transition phase allows for full and extensive muscular regeneration and essential mental recuperation. I prescribe a minimum of 2-4 weeks, sometimes this needs to be longer if the athlete is experiencing overtraining symptoms.
How to Transition
The transition phase does not need to be really structured or include top end turbo sessions. Rather the exact opposite! So, if work and family commitments get in the way don't try fitting in a training session just for the sake of it, take the rest it'll be more beneficial. So do anything that makes you happy and do not care about how it will affect your fitness or cycling, you will be getting into your base phases soon after anyways.
For the athletes I work with, I like to include a few weeks of “unstructured” workouts where it is completely their call if they want to train or not. I always recommend a few days of bodyweight only strengthening exercises to prepare their bodies for the off-bike strength and power training to come. After a few weeks, the athlete is usually feeling mentally refreshed, but this does not mean they are ready to start structured training again! Normally, I schedule an additional 2-4 weeks of minimally structured training and encourage cross-training activities to achieve more time away from the bike, as well as prevent cardiovascular fitness losses.
CAUTION: Even though you are in the transition phase, taking a full month off the bike doing nothing will lead to a great amount of detraining. Try and still do something to get the heart rate up a few times week that isn’t cycling! This can be hiking, running, rowing, elliptical, stair-master, etc.
Typical Transition Week
After the 2 weeks of “Unstructured” workouts…
M – Bodyweight only strength training (stability and function focused)
T – 60-90 minutes of unstructured cycling or cross-training
W – Bodyweight only strength training (stability and function focused)
R – 60-90 minutes of unstructured cycling or cross-training
F – Bodyweight only strength training (stability and function focused)
Sa – Group ride that is “fun” focused and not too taxing
Su – Group ride (or off)
I also like to include some mental training if the athlete is completely burnt out from a long season. One part of mental training I recommend is meditative primarily and focused more on relaxation versus getting fired up.
When to Progress to the Base Phase
I like to see my athletes re-engage with structured training after 4 weeks to prevent any additional detraining. In addition i want the athlete to have the urge to train again and be keen to get back on the bike. I will communicate with the athlete and in some cases go for a ride together to see how they are getting on first hand. Once long term goals have been established and we are both satisfied that we're ready to move into the base period, it's time for a INSCYD fitness test and a structured training plan.
Let's face it 2020 has been awful, so use the next few weeks to relax and truly embrace your transition phase. Don’t worry about structure, what your FTP is, your placing on that Strava KOM, and better still, put your Garmin in your back pocket and just look and listen to the world pass you by.