Well the time has come to wipe the dust off the bikes and start the process of getting back into shape. Granted this is posted about 2 weeks later than I had planned, but the real world has affected my schedule as well. So here we go, let's get on with the pre-season phase of a training plan.
Generally speaking this is the time that you gradually coerce the body back to some semblance of fitness. The operative word being gradually! By and large the months of January and February are designated for building an aerobic base and putting base mileage into your legs. Assuming that one may start in mid January the plan would be to start easy and then add 10-15% of the total mileage per week. For example, let's use 100 miles as a starting point, assuming that 10-15% is added per week for the next 6 weeks the mileage would end up being roughly 160-200 miles per week. During this time, it is also very important that hills and high HR training are kept to a minimum. This training is dedicated to LSD (long slow distance rides). If you feel the need to get your heart pumping, or develop do some strength training, then do it in the gym or by cross training. This on the bike time should be mellow and non taxing.
As for the gym and cross training, the preseason is a great time to get back on the stick for general conditioning. Take advantage of the weather and do some other activities that will boost your aerobic capacity, such as running, snowshoeing, nordic skiing or swimming. This is a great way to maintain if not increase your fitness levels, while avoiding excessive time on the bike. The biggest pitfall of the preseason phase of training is the temptation to over train, and thus become a Winter Champion. The Winter Champion is a common phenomenon and not one to be proud of. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this is the athlete that takes advantage of the warm weather, goes for the gold, and trains far too hard, way too often, and way too early in the season. The end result - burn out by the time June rolls around. It takes a significant amount of self-control on those rare 60 degree days in January to limit your ride to 2 hours or so, but it will pay off. The benefits are fresh legs and enthusiasm when the spring rides and races arrive.
Why are the fresh legs important? Without them the coming interval, speed, and hill work will be much more difficult. With fresh legs, nicely primed with a month or two of base work, the fun can really begin, and a solid foundation for the rest of the season has been established. It is this foundation that will help you achieve your goals in August or even September. While I don't have the specifics on the article(s), USA Cycling coaches clinics state that a person with an established base training program has a better opportunity to achieve results and maintain a higher level of fitness over a person who just jumped in and started training with intervals and the like.
It is important understand the base mileage concept. This time frame of January and February is instrumental in determining the outcome of your cycling season. Start training too late and you will be playing catch-up all summer. Start too early and you run the risk of being a Winter Champion. The work you do now will be beneficial for the next training period and the early season racing and rides. Hopefully, barring any "real life" catastrophes there should be another link about intervals, speedwork, lactate training, and hills coming in the next 4-6 weeks. Until then enjoy the riding and email me (Mike Mitchell) if you have any questions.