Most of us have already closed the book on our 2022 season. Perhaps you’re already in a transition phase and craving some much-needed soul riding. Once the season is finished in earnest, usually taking 2-3 weeks away from structured training can be one of the best things you can do for yourself to start to set yourself up for success the following year. Now is the time to ride for fun, reflect on the past season and start planning out what 2023 might look like. Did you meet your race/ performance goals this year? If so, what new challenge will you progress toward? If not, what caused you to stumble?? After a period of reflection, it’s time to start setting goals for next season.
For those of us living and training in Southern California, the timeline of a typical 7 month competitive season looks quite a bit different than most other states in the country. Racing typically kicks off in January and is usually winding down by mid-July, whereas in a state that has regular seasons might not start racing in earnest until mid-March and carry on through September. Some athletes even prefer to race year round but will change up the tire size and tread appropriately. For these reasons, planning a SoCal race calendar is going to look a bit different than planning a race calendar in New England for instance.
Everyone’s individual calendar should look a little bit different. Perhaps you want to be competitive in the California Bike Racing (CBR) series; if that is the case, you’ll need to be race-fit come January. Perhaps you have plans to race nationals or do an out of state stage race in the summer; if that is the case, you’ll want to time a peak for later in the year. You’ll need to ask yourself “what races do I want to be at the top of my game for”? Pick races that suit you, that look fun, and logistically make sense. Once you have a tentative race calendar, use a simple method to rank/prioritize the races you want to perform best in. An easy way to do this is to rank races as A, B, and C priority races. “A” races are the main target, these are the top priority and play a large role in how you periodize a training calendar. It might only be feasible to have 1-3 A races depending how long your calendar is. “B” races take second rank priority and should support your “A” race goals in the buildup. “C” races are often used for experience and training with less pressure to perform.
Once a tentative race calendar is set, it’s time to work backwards from your first “A” race to figure out how to structure your training. There are many different periodization models we can apply to your training and what works for one athlete may not be the right approach for another athlete. This is where a coach can offer some guidance in how to best optimize your schedule to work with your current lifestyle.
A simple periodization scheme might be the way to go if you’re new to proper science based training. It would look something like this: After an offseason with some true rest, move into a preparation phase. This phase might include some cross training, gym work, some light riding and skills work. This phase can last anywhere from 1-4 weeks depending on your background and timeline you are working with. The next phase is the base phase. The base phase is all about building general fitness and is often achieved with lots of volume targeting improving aerobic fitness. The base phase may last 8-20 weeks, again timeline dependent. Following the base phase is a build phase of 8-12 weeks. Training might start to look more and more specific as you focus on overcoming your limiters in preparation for your target race. Finally, coming into your goal race for the year, you’ll have a taper and peak phase where the primary goal is to maintain your hard earned high fitness level while simultaneously shedding accumulated fatigue from a stressful build phase. Taking this macro approach is a useful template for learning how to periodize certain portions of the calendar year and can ultimately help with long term development and prevent stagnation.
To break things down even more specifically, let’s plan a macrocycle for criterium racer living in SoCal. Hopefully you have had a refreshing offseason and are ready both physically and mentally for a long stretch of focus ahead. “Offseason” is somewhat of a misnomer, meaning there isn’t any racing taking place, but it should be anything but off as this is the time where the majority of your fitness gains will be made coming into the new racing calendar. For those of us living in SoCal, starting to train in October for the following year is not unheard of. This allows you about 13-14 weeks before the first race of the year (Keep in mind that a full-fledged base and build can take up to 32 weeks). The majority of that time should be dedicated to long-term aerobic improvements and laying a heavy foundation in anticipation of the build/race season. Once racing starts, that can be a good point to transition into your build phase. Early in the build phase, energy should be put towards improving weaknesses and race limiters, whereas you can hone your strengths in the latter stage. For instance, if you have a great sprint but never feel fresh enough to use it at the end of a crit, perhaps it would be best to dedicate the early portion of the build phase to improving your threshold and the latter portion towards sharpening your sprint/anaerobic ability. If you are targeting a top performance at, say the Barrio Logan crit, your taper and peak can begin 2-3 weeks out. As counter intuitive as it may sound, taking a very light rest week about two weeks out will help shed a lot of fatigue and then one week prior, maintain race like intensity but continue to keep volume very low. At this point the training has been done and focusing on feeling fresh and ready to race hard will take priority. At some point during the long season, you’ll be due for a short summer break. This will allow you to rebuild and refresh mentally and physically for the back half of the season.
However, success often hinges on individual variabilities and recent research has focused on publishing individual results . This is where having a coach is very useful as they can tailor the training to fit your individual abilities and lifestyle. There are a lot of nuances that go into planning an effective training calendar and the calendar should always be evolving based on goals, life stress, training responsiveness, and enjoyment. Remember that it is supposed to be fun and if that element is lacking, it may be time to rethink goals and pivot. Don’t be afraid to throw it out the window and start from scratch if something just isn’t working for you, because everyone has a different responsiveness to training stress/adaptation. Oftentimes looking for improvement is a double-edged sword of not stressing the body enough to warrant adaptation and risking overtraining and watching performance fall off due to not enough recovery. Look for the balance and make 2023 your best season yet.
Thanks for reading.
Coach Taylor Warren