Pre-Season Training: Give Tabatas a Try

We’re about three weeks out until Dani and I head to China to kick off the cyclocross season at the Qiansen Trophy Cup with an impressive assortment of international racers… gulp! As we charge into mid-August it feels like spring and summer swept by in such a hurry that it’s hard to believe we don’t get to use the hashtag #crossiscoming anymore. Instead we’re stuck with Grant Holicky’s year-round reminder that #crossneverleft…

Anyway, this rush into ‘cross season isn’t anything new. The season always seems to sneak up too quickly as we finish up long gravel adventures and find our regular groove on the local mountain bike trails. Then, with a blink, it’s fall and ‘cross is in full swing and it’s hard to remember what we even did during the summer let alone early spring. Even the US world cups are super early again this year, falling mid-September (fingers crossed Dani will be out racing both World Cups this year!). So, there’s really no excuse to be surprised, at least that’s what I keep telling myself as I dive into some ‘cross-specific training on these 100-degree August days.


Historically, I’ve been a slow started when it comes to the season and I don’t typically dive into the first races super sharp and race ready. In fact, on multiple occasions I’ve had people come up to me after the first few races and ask if everything is OK, if I’m actually planning to race that season... seriously!

But I know that spring and summer are exceptionally busy seasons for me with work and supporting Nick in his adventures and I just need a little time to ease into racing before finding my legs. It’s a tactic that has worked out well the past few years. I haven’t had that mid-season slump that so many athletes slog their way through in November and sure, I’m a little off the back to start the year but I seem to come around quickly and then finish things out strong with a solid State and National charge.


This year, however is a little different. Not only is the season shorter with Nationals falling mid-December instead of January, but as I mentioned to start, Dani and I are heading to China for a couple UCI races. Nothing like kicking off the season with a bang… right?! With this in mind, I’ve been putting a little more pressure and emphasis on the pre-season training and preparation than usual. There won’t be time to race myself into shape this year. From equipment to physiology to skills, everything has to be sharp. Well, at least not as blunt and dull as usual at this time of year.

Thankfully, Dani and I have some great resources around Boulder including some incredible friends who are willing to go hammer themselves around a practice race course for the next few weeks so we can all hit the season running this year. I also made a pretty concerted effort this spring and summer to keep a good number of high-intensity workouts in my weekly schedule. Even with a 350-mile gravel race and 3-day bikepacking race on the schedule this summer, I was doing several days of short intervals each week to keep my head and my legs in the game.


I’m already a big believer in always doing some high intensity training no matter how long your event, so it wasn’t a big departure from what I’d normally do to train for these ultra events. But setting out with the goal to keep my peak power up throughout the whole season is lending confidence and giving me a step up as I make the transition from 8+ hour patience races to 45 minute sufferfests.

Right now, my favorite workout is the age-old, well-tested and proven Tabatas. Neal Henderson and Grant Holicky of APEX Coaching first introduced me to Tabatas years and years ago when I was racing triathlon and over the years, these short and sweet little efforts have become a staple in my year-round training. Here’s a great overview from FasCat Coaching about what Tabatas are and how to implement them into your training.


As the cross season quickly approaches, Tabatas are going to be popping up more and more frequently in the training plan. For me, these repeated short efforts with little rest are the closest thing I get to actual race simulation without actually racing friends or doing practice races. Some ‘cross racers dabble in crits throughout the spring and summer to keep their edge, and I think that’s a great (if not the best) way to stay sharp. But for those of us who can’t commit to road racing or don’t want to anymore, or if you just need a little push to get you into the ‘cross mood this year, give Tabatas a try and you’ll be flying in no time!

Kristen LeganComment