Winter training with Anne Haug
Make the best of 2020, with the CeramicSpeed-riding World Champion
Like most of us, Anne Haug uses her winter to build for the following year. And like many of us, the German Olympian isn’t in love with the worst of the winter weather. With her coach, Dan Lorang, Anne uses the form from the past season to prepare and build for the next… although unlike almost all of us, Anne most recently used that process to turn her 2018 Kona bronze medal into a gold one in 2019. She’s following the same principle of incremental self-improvement that can apply to every athlete – it’s just that she’s operating at a higher level.
The reigning Ironman World Champion tells us about her winter training regime and her thoughts and advice on some of the ‘accepted wisdom’ around off-season training.
“I’m not a fan of cycling in the cold,” says Anne, getting straight to the point. “I’m very lucky that I have the opportunity to escape the cold German winter and train at Club La Santa, in Lanzarote, where I’ve found perfect training conditions the whole year-round. But even at the Olympic Training Center in Saarbrücken, I find very good conditions for training during winter.
“That’s the reason why I do all my training on the bike indoors in winter. And if there’s too much snow I will also do the run indoors – on the treadmill.
“The focus of training during that time is base endurance, technique and very short, sharp intervals. The work is just to build a solid base for the races. I record all my training data and sent it to my coach, so he always knows what fitness level I have.”
Anne’s favourite winter training tip: “Listen to nice music and always think about the goals you want to achieve in the summertime. That’s my biggest motivation.”
Ahead of her brilliant performance in Hawaii, Anne’s season was affected by an injury to her lower leg. It was shortly before the European Championships at Frankfurt, which had been one of the year’s focus points. Even through the disappointment of missing the big ‘home’ race – where she had made her full Ironman distance debut only a year earlier – Anne had to look forward: “I have to focus now on rehab and get myself ready to qualify in August,” she posted on her social media channel in June. “The road to Hawaii has changed, but not my goal to be fitter and better than last year.”
No-one wants an injury, but sometimes their timing can add to a story. And there can even be an element of serendipity to the timing of recovery, peaking and tapering that comes with ‘Plan B’. As Dan Lorang noted in the build-up to Kona: “Her injury gave us an opportunity to do a bit more work on the bike.”
Anne recovered in time to compete at Ironman Copenhagen in August, the only chance to validate her qualifying slot for Kona. It was the German’s superb bike leg that, despite a rear-wheel puncture late on, set up the win in a superb time of 8:31:32 – almost 18 minutes clear. The watts-saving efficiency of the CeramicSpeed Bottom Bracket, Wheel Kit, OSPW System and UFO Chain Anne runs on her Cervélo made their contribution to her bike leg, as they had throughout the 36-year-old’s training, recovery and remaining races.
And it was the big event in October that was still on the horizon. Overhauling Lucy Charles-Barclay and Daniella Ryf to win Kona in a time of 8:40 was another storming bike leg setting up a smooth, fast run – with tarmac and sunshine reaping the benefits of the treadmill work when the snow was piling up.
Was Anne worried that she might not have the form?
“Sadly, I have a long history of injuries,” Anne told us, with the most notable being her 2014 hip stress fracture which threatened to end her career.
“And the older you get the more you start believing that anything in life has sense… sometimes you just don’t know it. Therefore I try not to waste mental energy with things I can't change, but focus on these little things I can do right now. And that was my approach for Kona as well. I concentrated on every single day and made the best out of it, always believing that anything is possible, no matter how bad the current situation is.”
So with this history, presumably Anne must always temper her training to avoid overuse injury?
“If you do high-performance sports, you always train on the edge and injuries are sadly sometimes part of it. But I do my very best to prevent it by seeing my physio almost every day and work specifically on my weaknesses.”
“Accepted winter wisdom”
There are some pieces of often-referenced winter training wisdom – what does Anne make of them?
1. You need a block of post-season time for recovery.
“I’m definitely convinced that the body, as well as the mind, needs a proper break after a long season. All batteries have to be recharged. And although it sucks, fitness will be gone and has to rebuild again. Especially in the beginning, you might always think you will never get back again. But I have full trust in my coach and in my team that they can see the big picture. I just do what I can every day.”
2. Invest in warm climate training camps.
“It depends when your most important race is. If it’s early in the season, it’s a good choice to spend time in a warm climate. But with all the possibilities we have nowadays – indoor trainer, treadmill, etc – training camps are nice to have, but not a ‘must-have’.”
3. Swim more!
“If you don’t have the opportunity to go to training camp the volume on the bike will be lower during the winter, which means more time to improve swimming.”
4. Mix up your cycling – try CX, gravel or MTB.
“I think it’s very good to mix up training with XC MTB and work on bike skills. But I absolutely don't like the cold, so I’m rarely outside in winter.”
5. Do more short runs/rides to increase power.
“It depends on what kind of athlete you are. If you have a short course background maybe you have to work more on your endurance. Training is always very individual and there is no ‘one fits all’.”
Getting the benefits and looking forwards
Using the best equipment helps Anne in the wintertime, which in turn helps her come race season:
“Training in the wintertime is hard. Especially on the turbo indoors when it’s dark and cold,” she explains.
“But riding a great bike with the beautiful CeramicSpeed parts makes me smile. My favourite is the Oversized Pulley Wheel. There’s just less friction on the chain, which has a big influence on my riding performance.”
“I believe that every year is a new year and you can’t compare it, so I don't analyse races, etc, I leave that up to my coach: he has an objective view. We have to find out which fitness level I have at the moment and start building from that point.
“For sure Kona will be my main focus in 2020.”
We wish Anne the best of luck, and although Hawaii in October 2020 seems far away, what’s happening now is the investment for then. Whatever your targets for the coming year make the winter work pay off the way you want it.
Imagery photo credit: Tom Schlegel