At this time of the year, there is a lot of talk about the “off-season” and “base training” or “base miles”.
Before I get into the Base Training, please check out the discussion on the real meaning of the “off-season”.
As I learned in my own experience with my own training and from my coach, retired World Tour Pro Tom Danielson, the time between the end of the outdoor/racing season and the next is best spent working to continue to develop our different power zones and systems. That means not neglecting structured training and, most importantly, spending time on ALL power zones. By doing “base miles” you will be left with a “uni-zone”, and a low one at that!
Why would you build all those power zones, develop a high level of fitness, to then burn everything down during the “off-season” by riding long, steady and easier? Why would you want to start from scratch again in the Spring and build your zones all over again, when you can continue to improve what you have already built instead?
What’s more, unless you have events that are longer than 3 hours right now, you don’t need to do long rides until 1-2 months before a long event (depending on the event and the cyclist’s experience and level of fitness). But even in cases where a cyclist needs to build endurance during the off-season because he/she is new to cycling, doing only one such long ride/week is sufficient when combining with intensity training.
Following a training plan year-around does not mean going super hard, ripping your legs off, crashing and burning (i.e., getting burnt out, fatigued or overtrained). In fact that is the very purpose of a training plan- to develop skills and fitness and avoid burn out/fatigue/overtraining. And “intervals” are simply a way to organize your efforts.
Here are a few helpful articles from other coaches on this topic:
This first one (from the co-author of “The Time Crunched Cyclist” is my favourite- and yes, “going slow makes you slow!”: