Being an athlete and a coach, the effects of Detraining is something I have to deal with every year. Here is a typical scenario: As a cyclist living in the Vancouver area, riding from early April until the end of September is fun. Sun is out and the weather is warm. The regular and constant stimulus of long, fast and hilly rides increases everyone’s ability to ride strong and the majority of the riders have their best rides in late July, August and September. They feel strong and have good endurance. Now that the wet weather and shorter days are here, many cyclists will put their bikes away and not think about cycling until next March or April. And then, it will be the same thing that happened in the past years. The first few rides will be rough! Hills will seem steeper; Keeping a certain speed on the flats will seem harder than the previous year; Butt will, once again, hate the bike seat; … You get the picture?
You will also be able to notice the difference which not exercising regularly for six months will make:
- Increased body weight and body fat level
- Your muscle mitochondria becomes less efficient at using oxygen to produce energy in your muscles. This decline can be up to 25 to 45 per cent after a 12 weeks period of inactivity.
- After 2 to 3 months of detraining, you will begin to notice more stress hormones are released during exercise. This means that the exercise intensity you used to manage becomes more stressful for the body, which in turn increases recovery times.
The good news is that you can definitely make a difference of what your 2016 riding season will look like by making changes to the your fall/winter workout plan. And yes, you guessed correctly, I am talking about keeping your bike out for some winter riding.
It is simple really. Researches and studies have proved it: To be a strong cyclist you MUST get on a bike and ride on a regular basis all year long! “Use it or Lose it”!
Yes, I know that when it is wet and dark outside, it is hard to get on the bike and go for a ride. And I do completely agree with you!
How ever, there are many other ways for you to maintain and even increase your cycling fitness and strength without having to get wet.
- Indoor bike trainers. They vary from the most basic trainer to the virtual indoor trainers which will make you feel like you are part of a group ride on the roads.
- Spin classes: There are a large numbers of spin class centers in the Lower Mainland area: http://www.bcliving.ca/health-fitness/vancouvers-best-spin-classes
- Indoor Track: We even have our very own Indoor Velodrome: http://www.burnabyvelodrome.ca/
- And yes, you can always get on your bike and go for a road ride whenever the weather allows you to.
Regarding how often and how long each rides should be, there’s strong evidence that even smaller volumes of the right kind and intensity of training can reduce the effects of detraining to a minimum.
Research shows that reducing your training volume by two thirds won’t harm your fitness, provided you include some very intense work, such as intervals, in the remaining one third.
My advice is to sit down and write yourself a weekly training plan and to try to include 2 to 3 hours of riding per week, minimum.
- Tuesday and Thursday: spin classes
- Saturday or Sunday: plan for a road ride if the weather is good or simply put your bike on your trainer and do a similar workout under the roof of your house.
By varying the type and intensity of these 3 weekly workouts, you will be able to maintain your hard earned riding strength and fitness and will be able to reach a higher level of riding in the summer of 2016!
See you on the roads.
Michel Pelletier/Bodyage Fitness