With a summer of hard training rides and races behind you, the question is what to do now? Suddenly you have a lot more free time and while it may be tempting to hang up the bike for many months and go into hibernation, it is beneficial for most riders to continue to train. Rather than doing the same thing though, try mixing up your training intensity, duration and mode.
ASSESS YOUR SEASON AND RECOVER
Before you get started with new adventures, take time off to recover mentally and physically. Typically 1–2 weeks is enough time away from training for most athletes. During this time, take care of things like bike maintenance and reflect on your season. If you struggled on steep climbs on your weekly group ride, technical sections in mountain bike races or high-speed flat sections in time trials, this gives you an idea of where you might focus more during the upcoming season.
EASE BACK IN
Use this time for lighter training loads that won’t tax you mentally or physically, but will serve to maintain some of your fitness and also allow you to work on technical skills. You can also ease into cross-training, like running and strength training, along with some more gentle mobility work like yoga. The nice part about these few weeks is the lack of structure: You’re just looking to experiment, play with new options and see what you’re drawn to. Avoid too much structure, intensity or volume during this period and fight the urge to measure your fitness or be concerned about numbers.
With no races in the near future, this is a great time to finally dial in your strength routine. Take a very gradual approach and ease into strength training — possibly just using body weight for the first four weeks to progress your ability and allow your soft tissue to adapt. Work up to adding weights and consider finding a strength coach to make sure all of your lifts are done with proper form. You have time to dedicate to this kind of work now, so take advantage of it!
EASE INTO CROSS-TRAINING
Even if you are lucky to live in an area with year-round cycling conditions, it is worth spending some time doing other activities to allow a mental break from the demands of cycling and also to challenge your body in different ways. Running, hiking, cross-country skiing and rowing are common activities cyclists can use, but any activities that you enjoy and that you can do with friends are great. Again, these do not need to be hugely demanding in terms of focus, intensity or volume. Easing into these activities early in the fall allows you to adapt to changing routines as cycling becomes difficult due to weather, travel or the holidays.
If your race season left you feeling like you want a few more races before hanging up your racing kit, consider trying a cyclocross race or two. You can use a cyclocross-specific bike, a gravel bike with knobbier tires or even a mountain bike if you just want to try cyclocross or do it for fun. The sport essentially mashes road and mountain biking together and adds in some obstacles that require you to dismount and run while carrying your bike, so it’s a great way to improve your skills and your strength, especially if the weather is not great where you live.