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27/02/24 4

Cycling training: how to resume after winter

To understand the correct way to resume training after the winter, we must first quantify the break. Our starting condition must also be assessed: an elite athlete has much more challenging goals that require more preparation, but also tends to have a better starting fitness that is difficult to maintain.
Although many people feel de-trained as soon as they get off the bike, we consider any period of more than three weeks to be a relevant stop for our organism.

What happens when we stop training

The faster the physical decline, the higher our average performance. This is due to the fact that to perform at a high level we move further and further away from the ‘average’ performance to which we tend to return in a semi-sedentary state. It should also be remembered that aerobic performance suffers from training loss faster than strength or lifting performance.
The first effect of a prolonged break from training is weight gain. Of course, a break is often also a holiday period in which one eats more or worse. In addition, the average calorie consumption of a cyclist is very high, without which a few kilos can be gained.
The most important effect of a stop of more than a month is a reduction in VO2max, an objective indicator of our aerobic capacity under exertion and thus of our state of fitness. One month away from the pedals corresponds to a loss of around 10% of VO2max. In the case of 3 months or more, even more than 20% according to the most widespread estimates.

Resuming cycling training after a break

Any kind of break from training, whether because you have been on holiday, sick, or because of the weather, requires a gradual and progressive return.
One or two sessions to assess your state are therefore preferable. If you don’t have the tools, you can base it on your feelings, measuring the kilometres and deliberately doing less than you think you can do.

A return plan after breaks of 1, 2 or 3 months

After a month’s break from cycling training, you can structure a planned re-entry over 3 weeks, in which you look for a progression that adds a quarter of our maximum kilometres per week for 3 weeks (50%, 75%, 100% of the kilometres we covered weekly before the stop).
A two-month stop, i.e. between 5 and 8 weeks, requires more attention. Rather than working on weekly recovery periods, it is better to divide this up over tens of days, starting with even a third of our total kilometres (the kilometres we were cycling before the stop per week).
Finally, a stop of 3 months or more requires above all a mental effort, not to be frightened if our capacities seem to be drastically reduced. We will be able to return to our ideal form, but with a much slower progression than working over periods of 3 weeks each.

General recommendations

Firstly, do not challenge your body, but listen to it as well as not throwing yourself into desperate and unmotivated diets. Divide your weekly sessions over 3 or more outings instead of focusing on long runs or major differences in altitude; take advantage of this to take up strengthening exercises (such as repetitions) or muscle strengthening, as well as technique.

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