Angel: base miles Devil:CYCLOCROSS who should I listen to?
October 10, 2008 1:01 PM   Subscribe

The angel sitting on my right shoulder calmly says "base miles base miles base miles." The devil on my left screams CYCLOCROSS!! Can I keep both of them happy?

Over the last few years, I'm showing end-over-end improvement in my cycling. I'm certain that I'll be racing in '09. My goal is to become a better road cyclist/racer. I would also like to lose about 10 lbs.

Another important detail is that as the cycling season draws to a close, I'm pretty fatigued. I think I experienced a second peak in September and am now tapering off a bit.

A friend, who happens to be a very talented, and experienced cyclist says base miles from now until next March are the key to getting faster. No basketball, no mountain bike rides, no nothing except base miles. He says that any strenuous work is damaging my muscles and that I should be focused on building type I muscle for speed and endurance.

Another friend, who's a professional coach, says that's an outdated way of thinking and that I should basically be doing what I want.

Obviously, I'd like to work toward my goal of becoming an efficient racer. However, I'd like to enjoy the Oct-Dec months - CX, basketball, etc, and then focus strictly on base miles from january(end of CX season) until March. I don't necessarily mind LSD work, I just throw some music on and am able to lose myself for a few hours.

Can I still improve my aerobic base while suffering through CX races and other sports?

Anyone go through this? I'm willing to make sacrifices in order to become a better racer, but I'd also like to try CX and keep my basketball fitness as well.
posted by neilkod to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you already have base miles in, speed and strength workouts are essential to improving your performance, and other sports are fine as long as you aren't doing anything likely to result in a major injury or overfatigue.

In other words, you might not want to go 100% in your basketball practice just to lessen the chance of a pulled muscle or burnout, but otherwise, go for it.

(former competitive runner and cyclist)
posted by zippy at 1:34 PM on October 10, 2008

What would be worse for your '09 racing season: (1) being so sick of trainer base miles that you're ready to throw your bike into a river and go play basketball or (2) being relieved to be able to ride on paved roads in January after 3 months of sloppy fun in the mud?

A leading question for sure, but your body isn't made to do one specific type of intense exercise year round. It needs significant time off to recoup.
posted by turbodog at 2:58 PM on October 10, 2008

race-ready or not, when riding stops being fun, it's no fun... especially if you must keep riding. personally, i've almost always tried to set my sights on fun... but i'm a take-it-or-leave it racer with little left to prove, and even less to show for years of off-and-on racing.

such wisdom as i can bestow:

training can be fun; long miles into the wind on the inner-ring are good for the soul, and maybe you've got the head for putting in this sort base-mileage... most of us don't. not day after day. not alone. unless there's a paycheck in it. which there isn't...

'cross racing (or riding such a bike all winter on trails) will teach you to suffer, to handle your bike in new, important ways... how to be cold and abused. it will make you want to grow your beard and your leg hair, and cause you to consider (at length) enlightening esoterica such as the relevance and utility of differing tire-knob patterns, brake pad compounds and wool blends in exciting new ways.
posted by RockyChrysler at 3:45 PM on October 10, 2008

Base miles till March? Jesus. A sure way to induce burnout. When does your season start?

Yes to the "do whatever you want" approach. Basketball, running, boxing, yoga, aerobic classes. Whatever gets you out of the usual training rut. Riding is fine, but do a muffin ride with your "slower" friends, or ride on your old bike.

But it's also okay to listen to the cross devil. Just don't sweat the cross races. Don't try to compete, just work on your technique, dismounts, cornering, whatever. Get muddy. Fall down. Drink a beer and laugh. Cross is not about building base. The races are too short and the efforts are too intense.

And don't try to lose weight now. However, you need to not gain weight, esp. as the holidays approach. When you are logging the longer hours and starting to put in serious intervals in the spring, that's when you'll see the weight drop.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:37 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Six months of base is crazy and unnecessary. You'll undoubtedly want to do several months of base before next season, but you can definitely start up in January without any bad effects.

'Cross is awesome. Racing it will be fun, and will help refocus you for the next road season. You probably won't lose weight, since your training and racing will be short and intense, but you'll be a stronger racer next season (and you can lose weight in a few months). For someone coming off a long road season, who's probably already pretty fit, the best strategy is probably just to ride whenever and however you want, race with the goal of having fun, and don't worry about focused training for another few months.

(I say all this as someone who likes cross enough that I actually moved from the US to Belgium for it. This doesn't necessarily mean I know what I'm talking about. Just as an indication of how much it is -- that's fun you'll miss if you don't do cross.)
posted by dseaton at 11:55 PM on October 10, 2008

I think it's fine to do a few 'cross races, as long as you're okay with this approach.

Another friend, who's a professional coach, says that's an outdated way of thinking and that I should basically be doing what I want.

yes. this exactly. you're not getting paid to do this either, so (as a cycling coach myself) I'd rather see you come into spring with good *general* fitness and excellent mental attitude. You can continue adding base as the daylight savings period commences, because to get into good specific fitness for racing, you really only need 2 hard cycling workouts per week to bring you onto form. Which I completely guarantee will not happen if you slog road / trainer miles all winter. Trust me, I've been doing this for over twenty years. We have a term for these people who log shitloads of smallring mileage or do 2500k on the trainer. We call them "winter stars". They're the ones kicking ass on the training rides in early March and who win the spring training season events, but by mid June when state champs come around? They're either hurt, or cratered, or can't be arsed to get on a bike.

I quit "training" altogether about four years ago. This season I had the best racing season of my life and only finished off the podium twice through a combination of always riding with stronger riders, and riding my bike everywhere (because I don't have a car). All I really make sure to do is: rest when I'm tired and go do a hard fast ride when I'm well rested. Beyond that, and a shitload of miles, I have zero structure. I basically race into shape. While not everyone can do this, I think it's a good demonstration of the fact that every rider will find that something different appeals to them and works for them.

also? base miles in the offseason for an amateur cyclist throughout the months of november-February should be as unstructured as possible while still being meaningful aerobic exercise. Meaning: take the 'cross bike you just bought for the fall season and go ride it on trails you'd normally want your hardtail for. Take spare tubes and get crazy with it. Fall down, get covered in leaves and act like you're twelve. After an hour or 2 of this on Saturday, go play a pickup game at the gym with your friends. Basketball is EXCELLENT plyometric (google it) exercise that more cyclists would be well advised to crosstrain with.

You will absolutely become a better first-year racer for not drinking the "train all winter" kool-aid.
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:05 PM on October 11, 2008

« Older Trace a call that can't be traced?   |   What's the least amount of coverage I need to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.