How I hate February: Getting past a training black hole

Moving past that training #blackhole requires some insight. Here are my #ESPPodcast #tips.

I am going to wager that all of us have that month of the year where despite all our planning and hard work, training just goes pear shaped. In recent memory it has been February for me, and this month has not disappointed. Obviously, injury and illness can crop up anywhere, but looking back over just the past 4 years my training volume in February has been up to 50% lower than December-January. Even if this week and next week go very well, I am still looking at nearly a 17% drop in training time. Obviously, if you’ve trained for a few years you have realized that little drops in training have little impact on long-term goals, but they can still be pretty demoralizing.

If you see a pattern of falling training at certain times of the year, then here are some tips to maintain your morale, your sanity, and your fitness.

  1. PLAN FOR IT: In the past, I have tried to plan “better” to prevent such dips, but they often inevitably happen. I prefer to train well when I know my life and health are most stable, which is the Fall and early Winter. This is also the exact reason why your off-season is the prime time to make your gains. While the big pro’s can jet off to warmer climates, your better off building great fitness early and expecting a dip.
  2. STAY CONSISTENT: I picked up a nasty cold in January, which cost me a week of good training. However, I stayed active, even if it was going for a walk or a really short easy workout. Assuming you do not have a serious lung infection or fever over 100 d, this maintenance training can preserve a lot fitness, and may speed recovery. The key is that you need to keep it easy and relatively short. Added stress will only prolong your illness. However, consistency is also important when your family life cuts deeply into your training. If your plan says 3 hrs, but all you have is 30 – 45 min, then training in that range can still preserve, or possibly improve your long-term prospects. I would much rather see an athlete train 4 – 5 times during the week for 30 min, then try to squeeze in 2 bigger workouts. Consistency makes a huge difference.
  3. BE CREATIVE: Intensity is a great way to restore lost fitness and build some fun structure, however, creativity can also be used to optimize your training exposure. Case in point, I use Zwift’s virtual world to build some fun training sessions that hit multiple aspects of my fitness, from explosive and sustained power, to endurance, and even to race simulation. In fact this last month I’ve been able to preserve at least some of my run volume by doing short runs right off the bike. Will a 3 – 5 k run win me any races? Unlikely. But it certainly adds some extra training, and could help improve my runs off-the-bike. Find a way to turn your training lemons, to lemonade.
  4. TAKE A BREATHER: If illness or injury have side-lined you, view it as a break, or at least a chance to catch-up on life in general. It can also be a chance to add some cross-training. No matter what, you should take a step back and put things into perspective, because at the end of the day if we are still competing then chances are out lives are pretty damn good. And, 3 months from now you’ll never notice that down time in your performance.

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