Fall is in the air…it must be the Off-Season

Well, the off-season for the non-cross racers among us that is.  When I was road racing quite a bit I use to look forward to October to take some well deserved and needed time off from structured training. And October was a perfect time of year for that: with the change of seasons comes a change of routine for me.   As hard as it can be to take time off, the rewards are well worth it.  This rest period is critical to help you rejuvenate both physically and mentally. Typically this recovery period should be at least 3-4 weeks in length. And yes; you will lose fitness, but this is absolutely necessary if you want to continue to get stronger and improve the following season. 

You cannot expect to maintain your fitness from this season through the winter months. I like Joe Friel’s quote that  “Fitness is transient”.  A rider’s peak anaerobic endurance and sprint power fitness lasts for only a couple of weeks, whereas as peak endurance fitness will last a little longer, but not into the off-season. And an off-season isn’t just for the elite racers. I have many friends who ride recreationally and they put in just as much, if not more, time pedaling a bike. They too, need to have an off-season.

 The purpose of the prolonged rest period is to allow several things:

  • Mental regeneration
  • Physical regeneration
    • Your joints and muscles to heal and repair after many miles of training throughout the previous season.
    • Endocrine, nervous, and immune systems are upset by training are allowed to return back to normal.
    • Hormone levels to regain a balanced level.
    • Re-stimulate the central nervous system
    • Restoration of the energy-producing enzymes inside muscle fibers that are naturally broken down during training;
    • Refueling of glycogen stores within muscle cells.

 What to do with this extra time on your hands:
I use to use this period to catch up with (non-racing) friends, schedule all those appointments you have been putting off (like going to the dentist), start a house project, try a new sport (mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, etc.).  Basically tackle all those things that have been put on hold due to a busy training and racing schedule. You should still workout. Just don’t do it in such a structured manor. Don’t worry about how many miles, or how fast. Just ride for the pure joy of riding, swim for the pure joy of swimming and run for the pure joy of running.

Ride for the love of riding

Ride for the love of riding

Trying a new sport not only has psychological advantages, but can also help to compensate for muscular imbalances that can occur in athletes who practice cycling exclusively. Think about taking a yoga class and / or a crossfit class or something simmilar that integrates both core, strength, conditioning and movement.

Towards the latter half of the rest period reflect on last season’s results, start to think about goals/objectives for the upcoming season, get yourself mentally ready and your equipment ready to train throughout the winter months, and commit to any lifestyle changes you want to make (especially any nutritional changes).   
Preparing the following season:

  • Map out your race/event schedule. Prioritize the races “A”, “B”, and “C” races or events.
  • Set realistic race goals for each race/event. It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned pro or a novice; the fear of failure is common to all. When goals are not reached there usually follows a lack of inspiration. Make sure you set realistic race goals/expectations that are in balance with other life goals and commitments so you are not setting yourself up for possible failure.
  • Write a list of reasons for doing your “A” priority races/events.
  • Write a list of your life priorities for the following year. These should include things like: work, family, friends, house projects, etc.
  • Are your race/event goals and life goals in balance with each other?
  • Share your goals with your support network. Are your friends, family, partner in support of your goals?
  • Identify any issues that you perceive are between you and your athletic goals. Focus on issues that are under your control such as desire, money, education, time, opportunity, self-doubt, etc.  Some obstacles are beyond your control. Acknowledge these.
  • Identify solutions for the above issues.  There may not be solutions for all the issues you identified. Just as in other aspects of your life you may just have to take a risk by facing and accepting certain issues.

Now that I race cyclo-cross my off-season is pushed back to mid-Dec. This has been hard to adjust to. My body and mind have been so use to October as a down month for so many years. So for those of you taking some time off right now: enjoy. And for those racing cross: hang in there for a few more months.

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