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It’s that time of year again. The time when we look back, look forward … and look down, at that ever growing belly bulge.

“The end of the season is a mental test as much as anything,” says Ted King, former pro rider turned coach and unofficial King of Gravel. “You’re either operating somewhere on the spectrum of peak fitness after a year of diligent hard work, or are frustrated with how the previous nine months went and want nothing more than to double down going into the next year.”

That’s where the inGamba #fitbyspring plan came from. The one we have been working with for a few years now, with varying degrees of success. The idea came about two winters ago when we promised ourselves that the next one was going to be the year we finally dialed in our fitness and, thus, finally transformed into our best bicycling selves.

But even though 2018 was an amazing year for Mangia, Beve and Bici, we’re back in the same spot, once again wondering how we can improve on the Bici part of the plan in the new year.

As the saying goes, hope springs eternal. It overflows. We’re right at the source, bottling it, carrying it around with us in bidons, storing it in bunkers like a bunch of crazy survivalists. We’ve got hope covered. What we need is motivation.

“I feel that depends on the type of person you are and what your experiences were in the previous year,” says Jason Tullous, head coach at Tenac Training. “I’ve had athletes at events that were successful and they chose either to move to a bigger challenge or simply mark that event off their list and move to another bucket list event.”

We have some challenges coming up. It’s only a matter of weeks – Eek! – to the the 2019 Coast Ride and a few short months away from our beloved season-opener in Paso Robles.

“The truth of the matter is that this end of the season block of cool weather is the one step backwards that corresponds to the two steps forward to a bigger better subsequent season,” says King. “Fitness definitely transfers from one season to the next.”


So what do we do?

“I would start by writing out your goals for the year and share them with your coach, family, friends, and teammates,” says Tullous. “ Then build a week-by-week strategy to accomplish those goals.”

Tullous also stresses the plan needs to be solid, but also have flexibility.

“It should include time to recover as well as work hard,” he adds. “And absolutely should include time to enjoy the holidays.”

King agrees: “It’s just a matter of fitting the holiday season with all its gingerbread men treats and double helpings of mom’s whipped cream that you need to be aware of. By all means, have that second scoop. Just anticipate a solid block of training to help bust into the early season without a new belt buckle hole. Or two.”

With access to Strava and Zwift, and with them a virtual cornucopia of training plans and training partners, real and virtual, it seems spinning away those long, dark winter days would be less painful. Or maybe more painful, just less boring. The interesting thing is so much of the added plump and fewer efforts seems to be blamed on the Holidays. The pumpkin pie and the Christmas goose take a lot of abuse in the “why my fitness is waning and my tummy is expanding” camp. But truthfully, when I talk with my friends the number one reason for lack of fitness, or more likely the loss of fitness, is work.

That’s right, gainful employment is the one common denominator amongst pre-ride rants. “Things are really busy at the office.” “Work has been a bear.” “I haven’t had any time for anything other than the business.”

It might seem strange coming from people who work for a bicycle touring company, but we, too, suffer from the “work is crushing my fitness” syndrome. It seems we can always find some reason not to kit up. Whatever business you’re in, there’s always going to be something that “needs” to be done right away. It’s just important not to get overwhelmed, and stay focused on the big picture.

“Take care of the small things,” says Tullous. “This could be learning and practicing better nutrition, on and off the bike. This could be working on your pedal stroke or cadence. This could be learning how to breathe better. It’s small things like these that add up to big changes in your fitness.”

“Having a plan, using formalized training, keeping it fun – it’s all part of a successful off-season and a Happy New (cycling) Year.” says King.


Colin O'Brien

Colin is an author and journalist from Ireland. He first met inGamba's founder João Correia back in 2013. João handed him a bidon full of Chianti Classico and took him to a three-course lunch. They've been friends ever since.