Training through fall - Colby Pearce's insight on the changing seasons.
From his base in Boulder Colorado, Colby Pearce established himself first as an athlete and has since distinguished himself as a coach. With his teachings central to our training philosophy, we got his take on how to approach training in fall, which pitfalls to avoid, and how to embrace the descent into off-season.
Seasonality is inescapable. Leaves turn, snow comes, plants blossom, and eventually, the sun will return. As athletes, we fundamentally have to understand that these rhythms aren’t just those that govern the cycling calendar, but the entire natural world. Athletes and humans don’t sit on separate plains – athletes are human too, and your form should have natural rises and fall.
Performance is cyclical.
When it comes to fall, most riders are looking to wind down their efforts for the year. The best weather begins to tail off, and so do the main events. Ordinarily, this is a season for reflection – to set goals and maintain a strong base, while accepting that you’re not going to be smashing PBs on every ride.
This attitude of stepping back from performance isn’t typical, you don’t hear it all that much and there are plenty of reasons for that. Primarily - it often doesn’t fit the narrative of performance that we’re exposed to – it's about always extracting every last ounce of effort or speed. That’s a misnomer though that misunderstands biology – if your foot is always flat on the gas, you're going to ruin your engine, and that’s what we call overtraining.
Reconnect with riding.
With a time intensive sport like cycling, it's easy to see why people get hooked and obsessive about it. There’s no reason to hang up the bike, but there’s also no need to be hitting hugely intense intervals just yet.
Instead, I would try and use fall as a time to appreciate and reconnect with the reasons you love to ride. Yes – we all love a blast on a climb from time to time, but also riding with friends, and taking in your surroundings.
Steady on the bike, stable with your diet.
While you should be taking your foot off the gas, it’s not time to steer the car off the road. The area that it’s easiest to lose control of is nutrition. After a long season, you can often feel like you deserve whatever you want – and to some extent – you do deserve a reward. The trick is maintaining self-control. While a couple of big meals, unhealthy choices and maybe even a drink won’t ruin you – it's not easy to stop the rope once it’s running through your hands.
Focus on the destination and enjoy the journey.
The biggest pointer I can give in this regard is to quickly shift your mindset towards what you want to achieve. It’s easier to make rational choices with an event in mind. When you’re on the road towards everything, it’s easier to see each decision as part of a continuity that leads towards success.
It’s this self-accountability and discipline that can be the hardest. It’s often aside from insight and training expertise one of the things that can be so valuable about coaching – you’re not rationalising with yourself, but with another person who has a broader perspective.
Aside from that, fall is simply just one of the most beautiful times to ride a bike. It’s not too hot, it’s sometimes a bit too cold, but watching the scenery change is a fantastic way to reflect on why you ride and where your journey on the bike is taking you.