Written by Jim Rutberg, CTS Pro Coach.

This month I turned on the heat for the first time since last spring, and there was snow on the top of Pikes Peak when I rolled out to ride to work Monday. Fall and hints of winter have arrived in Colorado (and many other parts of the world), and that’s going to lead to some changes in training and eating habits. Here are some suggestions to stay fit and lean when you can’t get those long rides in during the off-season.


1. Focus on Consistency Over Volume

Fall is often the time when athletes dramatically reduce their overall weekly training workload. Sometimes that happens by eliminating workouts (4-5 workouts/week down to 2) or by shortening workouts. The good news is that fitness is easier to keep than it is to gain, so it’s relatively easy to avoid detraining by maintaining your consistency even if your training workload decreases by up to about 30%. In other words, even if you shorten your individual training sessions, maintain your schedule so you’re training at least 3-4 days a week if you were training 4-5 days a week at the height of the season. This consistency provides the continual stimulus you need to retain your fitness. It is more difficult to keep your fitness by trying to cram all your training workload into 1-2 big workouts on the weekends.

2. Back Down the Calories

As the days get shorter and colder your workouts are likely to get shorter, too. Remember to reduce the calories you consume during training, as well as reducing the size of your pre- and post-workout meals. Short workouts often feel more costly – in terms of energy – than they really are. A hard 60-minute indoor cycling workout may feel like a huge energy expenditure, but it’s rarely more than 600-800 calories. Considering you started the workout with about 1600 calories of stored carbohydrate energy and a ton more than that in stored fat, a normal-sized meal will do just fine for starting you on the road to replenishing your glycogen stores and restoring electrolyte levels.

3. Carry More Gear

Always bring a vest or jacket on cool-weather training rides and runs. When you go out for intervals, you get sweaty and then ride home in cool air. Put a jacket or vest on once your hard work is done because otherwise you’re likely to cool off more than you intend to on the way home. Sounds like common sense, but people always forget for those first few cool-weather workouts. During the fall when temperatures change rapidly, rely on removable layers (gloves, arm/knee warmers, vest, skull cap, toe covers) so you can adjust for rapidly rising temperatures on a chilly morning or rapidly falling temperatures as the sun gets lower in the sky in the late afternoon.

4. Move Sideways

Many endurance athletes, especially cyclists, triathletes, and swimmers move in one direction: forward. And our sport-specific movements are also highly-repetitive. Fall is a great time to focus on using your body in other directions, especially sideways, to develop stability in the hips, knees, and ankles. You can do it with strength training movements like side lunges and monster walks, but you can also play basketball, tennis, squash, or racquetball to get some great side-to-side movement in.

Jim Rutberg has been a CTS Coach for 15 years and is the co-author of “The Time-Crunched Cyclist” and “The Time-Crunched Triathlete”. Ready to take your performance to the next level? 

Get started on a 3-, 4-, or 5-day Strava Indoor Cycling Training Plan and keep the fitness you spent all summer building! These 4-week plans are also a great way to keep from gaining weight during the off-season.