5 Workouts For a Cyclist’s “Day Off”

Peter Glassford
by Peter Glassford
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5 Workouts For a Cyclist’s “Day Off”

Finding the perfect balance of training and rest can be a moving target, but there’s no question rest days need to be part of a solid plan. When training for cycling, there will be days you feel off, tired or unmotivated and there must also be planned ‘rest’ days. In many training plans, this is programmed in to allow 1–2 rest days per week and a rest or ‘de-load’ week every few weeks.

Rest should include some form of activity you enjoy and helps you maintain your movement routine while avoiding overtraining. Having a list of ideas for what to do these days helps you maintain consistency and adjust your training plan to fit your needs each day.


While you don’t want to practice skills if you are very tired, a short skills practice could serve as a recovery activity and might be different enough from your endurance training that your fatigue doesn’t affect it. For those with low motivation, the change in focus to a skill session versus a training session can be hugely rejuvenating.

Drills working on spinning a higher cadence can help you feel great on the bike. Riding a pump-track or working on cornering on a series of flat pavement corners might be done with easy pedaling to get back around a loop. You might even use a chair-lift or push your bike up a hill a few times to enjoy a ride down a smooth flow trail on your mountain bike.


Sometimes you are better off not getting on the bike if you are tired or lacking motivation, or need some true cross-training. Yoga is a great way to move your body through a full range of motion and get the benefits of active recovery. Consider an easy at-home core session and a few essential yoga moves — or take a yoga class. Some days these can be more vigorous and strength-oriented while other days can be more gentle and traditional-yoga focused depending on your needs.



Taking a casual spin on your bike is the classic rest day activity for cyclists. This could be a spin to the coffee shop, a gentle ride with the family, a commute to work or errands, or simply just a flat spin well under your normal duration and intensity. The goal is to move your legs lightly to elevate blood flow to those tired muscles, not to cram training. It is important riding on an off-day or low-motivation day makes you feel better mentally as well as physically. If you find riding easy is hard to do, taking a complete rest day might be a better strategy.


On your next off-day or low-motivation day try putting on your shoes and going for a walk. Walking has so many benefits for health and wellness. As far as ‘cross-training’ activities go, it is among the best because it is low-impact, low-cost and has a low-skill requirement. You get a light cardiovascular workout, move your body through much more range of motion then by cycling, and you can do it with a friend, while on a phone call, in nature, to get to errands, appointments or to work.


If your training lacks steady pedaling or intervals, it may be that you need to use some group motivation to get in a workout. While you wouldn’t use this on a scheduled off-day it can be a great way to motivate yourself on days you are feeling less motivated — or if your training is getting monotonous. If you have been training alone, doing a lot of mountain biking or skill-oriented training, then a more aerobic- or cardio-oriented session may actually be a good variation from your normal routine. The music and exuberant instructor might be the extrinsic motivation you need to squeeze one more training session into the week.

About the Author

Peter Glassford
Peter Glassford

Peter is a cycling coach and registered kinesiologist from Ontario, Canada. He travels frequently to work with athletes at races, camps and clinics. He also races mountain bikes for Trek Canada and pursues adventure in all types of movement. Follow @peterglassford on Twitter, or check out his online and in-person coaching at www.smartathlete.ca.


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