Taking time off is a good thing. Too often cyclists make the mistake of going directly from their competitive racing season into a hard training block without any downtime. While it is tempting to keep training while you are fit, it is very risky and too often results in injury or burnout. To maintain your fitness and motivation all season, take some time away from the bike to ensure you are ready to build toward the next cycling season.
Since there are all types of cyclists, the ‘off-season’ can take many forms. Here, we tackle three scenarios:
1. YOU’VE HAD A LONG RACE SEASON
Many cyclists have at least six hard months of riding; they start with spring classic races in March and carry on through the epic summer events. It is not uncommon to race fall events (gravel, cyclocross and track). This is a long time to compete, do intervals and push yourself, so you will need some serious time off the bike.
Spend time doing ‘normal human movement’ like walking your dog, playing with the kids or perhaps doing a very social coffee ride. As a coach, I set a minimum of two weeks for this period with these athletes. The period will get extended if they are not begging to get back on the bike (lack of motivation), sleeping restfully, having fun socially or free of injuries.
It’s important to use the off-season to work specifically on these health and psycho-social elements before starting the next preparation phase since it’s harder to make progress on them while training and because these benefits magnify over time.
2. YOU DON’T RACE, OR YOU’RE WELL RESTED AND TOOK A MID-SEASON BREAK
Many athletes take regular breaks and only participate in events a few times a year. These athletes likely take a summer family vacation and adjust when they ride based on their work, family events and how they feel, versus pushing the limits of what they can handle each ride. For these athletes, a 3–7 day break is sufficient — try to plan it in the fall or winter when the riding isn’t as good and set a rule that there has to be downtime that isn’t used for productivity or travel. Take a weekend away from group rides to read a book and spend time with family.
3. YOU RACE BUT ARE ALSO BUSY WITH FAMILY AND WORK
These cyclists are my favorite to coach because I’ve built my business around helping busy people fit training into their lives. For these athletes, the race season is generally not that long and they usually have several weeks of disruption due to family and work commitments, but there is a need for an off-season to work on elements like body-composition, nutrition, sleep and injuries. They push their limits for much of the year so finding a week or two where they can step back and get some blood work, go to more yoga and strength sessions and sleep more can mean getting back to 100% before resuming cycling training again.
All cyclists need downtime. Whether you are a professional rider who needs a month or two to recover from the high stress and focus of stage races or an age-grouper who just needs a weekend of downtime, it’s important to plan your ‘off-season’ like you would plan your training camps and races.