Over the winter, we get into our off-season routine to rebuild our strength and take care of what we neglected last summer. A time to strengthen those weak hips, fire your glutes and regain your posture. The weekends usually consist of some cross-training like skiing, cross-country and extra movie time on the -30 degrees days! This phase of training is important after a long summer of play. However, our bodies respond to "progressive overload" extremely well. What do you do after all the off-season preparations? How do you get to the next level this summer?
A lot of training plans recommend are to only increase your volume by 10% per week to prevent injury which is a safe method. However, it's also a method to plateau your fitness and even burnout.
How do you plateau? Our bodies improve when we are exposed to new stresses. Doing the same weekly volume and workouts over 3-6 months does not create the stimulus for change. It's a good maintenance plan. So, you need to change the routine when you start to feel "flat."
How do you burn-out? New workouts and more volume is the typical format for creating new gains in fitness. You need to do this more than a couple days per week to get a sufficient load to cause significant change. In addition, if you try to build by going longer every weekend, you end up getting over-tired or over-reached as you don't allow enough time to regenerate. The biggest issue is that it takes too long to get yourself ready for that big event you want to do this spring. Every weekend puts more stress on family and life as you are not there! This is the most common reason for burnout. Going "big" every weekend and no regeneration weeks. There is a better way!
A few weeks ago, we went to Spain for a week-long cycling camp that totalled 5 days of riding. We road close to 450km and 8000m of climbing. My previous weeks training load was about 1/5 of that volume. However, when all you have to do is eat, ride, eat, take a nap and eat, it is possible! No one gets overtrained and everyone completes the block regardless of age. The best part is that you come back and can focus on life, family and work without feeling guilty of "doing a big workout." You can take time to recover for a couple weeks with lower volume and easy weekends. Your body will regenerate and your fitness will be at a new level.
Training camps allow you to get ready for a new adventure, race or maybe kicking your friend's butt who didn't go to camp! My advice to you is to look ahead and see where you can load up for 5 days and then reduce your volume for 14 days. That should be achievable and may get approval from the family and one's closest to you. Get ready to be double-bounced!