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Three Tips to Enjoy and Leverage the Offseason – Chris Mayhew

~Originally posted Jan 24, 2017 – via Cyclocross Magazine /Chris Mayhew

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Coach Chris Mayhew heeded his own advice and took a brief break from cyclocross season’s efforts, but the author, racer and coach is back. Whether you raced 2017 Nationals, have road or mountain bike goals or just hope to improve on this past cyclocross season, coach Mayhew of JBV Coaching has some helpful tips to make the most of the offseason…

What should I be doing? It’s a question I’ve been getting almost every day from new clients, friends, and clients just coming off cyclocross season. Most of us are pretty driven and like to feel like we’re doing work every day so this time of year can feel discomforting. It’s a long way from next cyclocross season but sitting around isn’t something most of us are good at. I have three suggestions that will get you through the next couple of months till the weather breaks.

If you went to Nationals this year, congratulations. That was one for the books, no matter how your individual race went. If you did go, chill out for a month and don’t feel obligated to do anything but eat and relearn the names of your loved ones. Come back to this column in a month or so. It’ll be here.

Conditions varied in Hartford, but if you raced there, coach Mayhew says a break from training is unconditionally mandatory. photo: Snowy conditions greeted racers to start today's racing. 2017 Cyclocross National Championships, Masters Men 30-34. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Conditions varied in Hartford, but if you raced there, coach Mayhew says a break from training is unconditionally mandatory. photo: Snowy conditions greeted racers to start today’s racing. 2017 Cyclocross National Championships, Masters Men 30-34. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

If you didn’t go to Nationals then you probably ended your season sometime in mid-December. What’s your next goal? Many people race only cyclocross, so they’re not competing until August or so. Some people race mountain bikes or road during the offseason and will be racing around April in colder climates, or sooner if you live in areas like California, Texas or Florida. If you’re planning on the latter, my first suggestion is to get on some sort of organized plan (created by you or a coach).

Plan out your offseason training and workouts to slowly build back fitness. photo: Justin See

Plan out your offseason training and workouts to slowly build back fitness. photo: Justin See

The journey from offseason to race shape takes three to four months and you’d do well to get started on that now. That’s particularly important if you plan to race on the road, which is not a lot of fun if you aren’t in razor sharp form, unlike mountain bike racing and cyclocross. Keep in mind the words “journey” and “fitness,” I want to circle back to those in a bit.

“If you did go, chill out for a month and don’t feel obligated to do anything but eat and relearn the names of your loved ones. Come back to this column in a month or so.”

If your main goals for the summer are simply to ride, have fun or do Jeremy Powers’ Grand FUNdo, you have a bit more time on your hands, which is nice. That means there’s less pressure on you to get into shape now when riding often means riding indoors or outside in less-than-desirable conditions. What should you be doing with that time? I’d encourage you to do two things:

One is to do things you haven’t done at all, or want to get back to. Cycling takes place all in one plane of movement and involves relatively few muscles. Anything you can do to develop strength in muscles long ignored (or never developed) is great. Plus, your training load is low right now and shouldn’t be focused on cycling, so you can do things that would normally leave you too tired for cycling. Start lifting weights, do CrossFit, go running, go swimming.

The offseason is a great time to try something new, like Crossfit, says coach Mayhew. photo: Artic Warrior / Justin Connaher

The offseason is a great time to try something new, like Crossfit, says coach Mayhew. photo: Artic Warrior / Justin Connaher

Get started on a yoga program or increase your practice by a few days a week. All of those things encourage strengthening and involve movements you’d never do in cycling, which are good things. Moreover, they let you check that box of “doing work” every day which is good for any athlete’s head while developing a sense of self outside of cycling. A lot of us can get depressed around this time because we’re not riding and that can be related to not getting your endorphin fix from exercise. So get moving in some form that’s not cycling.

Second, I realize that we do like to ride our bikes, and so if you are going to ride your bike, there’s one workout I’d encourage you to incorporate at least once a week: threshold training. The classic version of this workout is two efforts of twenty minutes each at lactate threshold, functional threshold power, or however you choose to anchor your intensity level schema or want to define fitness. If you don’t have an anchor, think about doing a steady time trial for 20-30 minutes and riding at that pace in that manner. (Pro tip: start the effort easier than you think you should and try to increase the effort a small bit every five minutes) I think 2×20 minutes is something to work up to. Start with smaller blocks, but no shorter than 8 minutes. Do 2×8 and add a few minutes to each block every week. When you get to 2×20 then you can think about adding intensity to the workout rather than minutes.

Trainer work isn't fun for many of us, but doing threshold work now will pay off later in the form of fitness, speed and results. © Cyclocross Magazine

Trainer work isn’t fun for many of us, but doing threshold work now will pay off later in the form of fitness, speed and results. © Cyclocross Magazine

This work is not that exciting and can be somewhat laborious. But it’s the flour to build your cake in the analogy for which I am so fond of using (see Hiring a Coach and Training for Gravel, Embracing Offseason Training and Turning Down Volume and Upping the Power for key steps to that recipe). It takes a long time to build threshold power, on the order of several months, so you’ll need to do a lot of these, which means you should get started now. This is a workout I think you should do 40 weeks out of the year, give or take.

The hard part about riding your bike right now is that you’re at the beginning of your journey back to regaining fitness you once enjoyed. And for weeks or months of doing threshold workouts, or any ride, you’re not going to be where you were. A lot of people tend to get really down about how fat or out of shape they feel during this time. What they’re doing is comparing where they are or “should be” to where they are right now. I would really encourage you to avoid that mindset. Focus on where you are now and embrace it. Spend your mental energy on figuring out what you can do today, to work towards your goal. No single workout will make or break your season. It’s a large body of work, over weeks and months, that matter.

Think about what you can do today and be happy with yourself when you do that thing. Do you get mad at yourself because you’re not on vacation right now and think poorly of yourself? Or do you figure out a plan of where and when you can go on vacation, look forward to that, and make sure you pack everything you want for that vacation? Look forward to the journey and doing the work. If you’re just looking for results, you won’t last long in this sport because those are far and few between. If you can learn to love the journey and take pleasure in it, you’ll ride your bike for as much of your life as you want to.

“Spend your mental energy on figuring out what you can do today, to work towards your goal. No single workout will make or break your season.”

I think actor/DJ Idris Elba has some good words here in that regard:

Lastly I’d tell you that even if you could get into August form tomorrow, somehow you’d spend all of February thinking you should be fitter or leaner. Learn to be happy where you are and learn to love making small steps to another place, day in and day out.

Have your best cyclocross season ever with all of our Training and Technique Tuesday pieces here from coaches Mayhew, Adam Myerson and Kenneth Lundgren and others. Can’t get enough? See our Cyclocross Academy and Cyclocross 101 articles here. Mayhew expects to contribute Training Tuesday installments every two weeks in the offseason. 

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Want to be a better cyclocross racer? Avoid the avoidable, says coach Chris Mayhew.

With the upcoming United States Cyclocross National Championships , we invited JBV Coaching’s Chris Mayhew to share his thoughts on how to prepare for the big race at hand. Mayhew has actively raced for over 25 years – toeing the line at elite cyclocross, road, MTB and time trial events.  He puts on cycling training camps, cycling skills clinics, and rumor has it, he’s also quite the bike mechanic. In other words, Chris lives and dies for cyclocross and has the experience to know what makes a bike racer successful.  Anyone prepping for that “big race” has trained their body to be ready. Chris’s tips can ensure your bike is ready, too.
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You’ve spent months training and analyzing your data, hours researching the right hashtags and filters for your #crossiscoming posts and then on race day all that hard work comes undone from a preventable mechanical. Bummer.

Ben Bergeron says there are 5 things you can control as a racer: sleep, recovery, nutrition, training and mindset. I would add that for bike racing you can also control the initial state of your equipment. That said, I realize it’s challenging to put in the work as a bike racer and then have to be a bike mechanic too. My experience has proven there are two really easy ways to provide the best return on your time and keep your equipment in for cyclocross season.

First, wash your bike.

Bill Marshall (KCCX) getting the job done in fine fashion.

This can take many forms, and it’s somewhat situational dependent. After a muddy ride or race, the minimum you should do is lean the bike up against something and hit it with a hose to knock the majority of the mud off. This will keep your sidewalls and any metal parts on the bike happy along with the cables, if you still have any of those! Spend two minutes on this.

It doesn’t need to be perfect, it needs to be clean enough to lube a chain and see the details of the drivetrain components. The real action happens with a deeper wash, which should happen once a week. Remove the wheels, install a chain keeper, and put the bike in a repair stand. I prefer dropout-style repair stands for washing and detailed work, but also have the luxury of a standard upright repair stand too. Get a bucket, some brushes and some Dawn soap and go to town. This isn’t about being a black shoe, white sock roadie. Think of this as an active meditation with your bike. Clean all the surfaces, making sure some sort of cleaner (soap for the bike, de-greaser for the chain) gets liberally applied and washed off. As you do this, have a close look at the frame and all the moving, rotating and gliding components. Spin the cranks while you clean them and feel for looseness or crunchiness in the bearings (bottom bracket, pedal and derailleur). Think about any issues you had with the bike when you last rode it – the minute I dismount my bike, I seem to forget any problem I had until the next time I ride.

This whole bike wash process should take around 15-20 minutes from the time you fill the bucket until you put the bike back in storage. The main point in all of this is to engage with every part of the bike and catch things like bent chain links or worn cables before they become a problem on race day. This is a great time to quickly check your brake pads too.

So yes, you get a clean bike out of it, but more importantly it’s a bike inspection and preventative maintenance.

In tandem with the above, and maybe even while you still have it in the stand, check your bolts.

You don’t have to do this every week, but once a month run through the stem, seat-post and saddle bolts at minimum. I’m in love with my Feedback Sports Range for this sort of work. You can loosen and tighten any bolt with it (unlike most torque wrenches) and it comes in a very handy little case that keeps all the bits in one place. All my other torque bits are scattered somewhere across my work bench at this point. I’ve taken to just keeping my Range in my race clothing bag as a race day essential.

As I said earlier, bike maintenance is definitely something you can control – it’s called “preventative maintenance” for a reason, and it’s a great use of your time – I’ve witnessed too many races undone by the avoidable. And as with any task, the right tool makes it easier and faster to do, which means you’re more likely to do it.

Racing bikes is hard work, on and off the field. Don’t let all your hours of training and preparation come undone by one loose bolt. Spend some time owning the state of your equipment. Get it clean enough to notice any small issues before they become a race day nightmare. Run through the bolts periodically to make sure nothing is loose and don’t forget the bolts in your shoes. If you want to make all of the above easier  to perform there are some Feedback Sports items that would be worth putting on your wish-list.

Good luck at your races, and remember: you can often make your own luck.

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Thanks for the words of wisdom, Chris! Follow Chris on IG, Facebook and Twitter for more. You can also catch his articles on Cyclocross Magazine. 

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Training Tuesday: Avoiding Common Mistakes in Your Indoor and Outdoor Preseason Riding

~Originally posted Feb 6th, 2018 – via Cyclocross Magazine / Chris Mayhew 
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Hopefully you’ve taken some time off since your last race, be that Nationals or the last race of your local series. If you’ve been really good, you’ve actually found another activity to occupy your time. At some point you’ll be drawn back to riding bikes, hopefully because they’re fun for you and because you enjoy riding and the process of training. I have been counseling clients about some common mistakes to avoid, and I am working on not repeating some myself. Let’s see if we can shorten your learning curve a bit with this article.

Moderate Your Indoor Training

First, whatever you are doing, do it in moderation. You’ve probably been off the bike for a while and you may be doing other activities like strength and mobility training. Don’t go from two weeks of relative inactivity to ten plus hours of on and off-bike work. You’ll be fresh and motivated enough that you won’t feel the effects of such a steep ramp up immediately. But eventually it will catch up with you, often in terms of an overuse injury like IT band issues or a strained back.

Ease into whatever you are doing and start with very modest goals. For the first few weeks back, I just like client to “check the box” X number of days per week. Be that cycling, yoga, weights, whatever, just be active for an hour a day for X days a week, say three to five. From there figure out a modest, sustainable increase in that activity level and stick to the program.

Weight lifting for cyclocross offseason, cyclists.
photo: Barbell by Mark_K_ on flickr.

Whatever offseason work you are doing, Coach Mayhew recommends an hour a day, three to five times a week.

Next, there are the particulars of indoor and outdoor riding. If you are riding indoors, I have three recommendations for you. One is, again, to limit what you’re doing. If you’re on rollers (which are great!) or a non-Zwift connected trainer, you’re burning mental matches every time you get on. Keep that to a minimum; you’ve got many months to get in shape.

My general recommendation is no more than three times per week, no more than an hour at a time. If you’re on a Zwift-compatible trainer, training is less of a drag and I’d say three to four times per week. But there I would caution you against always racing. There’s a lot to be said for diminished intensity right now and not always going to the well with fight or flight.

Our tester putting down the watts in testing the Feedback Sports' Omnium Trainer. © Cyclocross Magazine
© Cyclocross Magazine

Trainer workouts are good, but don’t overdo it and tax yourself mentally.

Whatever you’re doing indoors, GET A FAN. Clients of mine are probably chuckling at this point as I am constantly banging the drum on this. For every one watt of power you are generating, you are dumping three as waste heat. So even at 100 watts, which is a very easy pace for almost anyone, you’re generating 300 as heat. That blotchy skin you get is blood pooling below the skin in an attempt to cool you. That blood should be going to working muscles, but it’s not.

In addition, you’re sweating buckets to cool but there’s no air moving over you to carry the heat away. What happens without a fan is that the same effort feels harder and harder when it’s actually not and your ability to produce power diminishes. Get the biggest fan you can blowing directly on your core. This is another reason to limit indoor workouts. Those fans can only do so much, and it’s a losing battle. Hours and hours on a trainer mean more compromised cooling.

*Click here for the rest of the article (and you’re going to want to read the rest).
Massive thanks to Coach Chris Mayhew and @cxmagazine.com!