Rule No. 2: Focus on short, intense workouts
Instead of long aerobic workouts, McCrann advocates a different approach: Do short runs and bikes that will boost your lactate threshold and power output.
“You can only add so much volume every week to see progress, so we decided to ask people to do something different than what they would normally do in the off-season,” McCrann says. “Volume is easy to add back in and your body processes it very quickly. It’s the high-end fitness that’s not easy, which is why we do it in the winter when you have no other volume considerations. You don’t need to do a four-hour ride, so instead you can do some hard work and recover.”
McCrann calls his off-season plan the OutSeason because it’s one of the most important parts of the year for his busy athletes. The plan is 20 weeks, training only six to eight hours a week (four bikes, three runs, minimal swimming), with Mondays and Fridays off. McCrann says this low volume allows athletes to focus on “being excellent at life”—as in work, family and friends—all while boosting performance in a way that’s difficult during the season. The plan includes lots of VO₂max intervals and Zone 4/Zone 5 efforts aimed at gaining speed.
“The amount of time you’d have to spend riding at 17mph to get physical adaptations would require quitting your job,” McCrann says. “It’s just like lifting weights: If your max is 100 and you want to get to 150, you’re not going to bench 80 all winter.”
Plus, boosting your threshold and power can be a huge confidence builder going into next year, something McCrann refers to as “building a mental six-pack.”
Of the 3000 athletes Endurance Nation has taken through the off-season, they claim an average 10K improvement of 2.5 minutes, half-marathon improvement of 4:46 and 50 percent gain on functional threshold.