Your Cycling Off-Season: To Train or Not To Train?

A great summer of riding has come and gone and some of us are still getting out weekly to enjoy the sunny fall days that seems to have settled in here on the West Coast.  Most of the races have wrapped up for the year and we’ve all set goals for how our 2013 is going to look, perhaps try out a new event or better our time at a race that we do every year. Maybe even FINALLY learn how to crush that nemesis hill that defeats us each time.

Whatever you plan to do come next spring, it’s important to take a serious look at your goals now and get a game plan together for the winter. There are three ways to tackle this based on each athlete’s motivation, weaknesses, commitments and goals in order to answer the question: what do I do with myself during the off-season?

Option #1

This is for the athlete that has just raced and trained their brains out and is losing motivation to keep riding.  They are no longer improving and they struggle to get on their bikes with a desire to ride. They are still trying to hang on but when push comes to shove, but there are other things that they’d rather be doing.  This could also describe the rider who is injured and continues to push through.  If this is you, I highly recommend REST and an entry into active recovery.  I like to encourage these athletes to switch things up, perhaps by doing another sport for the fall and winter and to take a full mental break.  Cross-training works brilliantly, allowing the rider to maintain some fitness, keep the pounds off and then to return in the new year with a fresh and motivated outlook on the season ahead.  If you are dealing with injury or ongoing irritations, now is the time to address these. No point in continuing to ride through and make situations worse. Hit the STOP button and take care of yourself, mentally and physically. The sooner you give yourself the break, the sooner you will be able to return to the bike as a motivated, rested and ready to ride cyclist.

Option #2

For the cyclist who loves riding and has been super inspired by the season they just had and wants to kick ass in 2013, I suggest making your off-season winter months count and getting to work sooner than later.  If your motivation remains high and you know that you have lots of work to do on the bike, then you should be spending your winter strength training, hitting spin classes and most importantly, getting on a program where you start to develop your weaknesses (i.e. – lack of power on the hills, unable to ride for extended amounts of time, finding it hard to move fast on the flats, etc.)  An indoor trainer or a facility that is offering CompuTrainer rides paired with a progressive and structured plan is just the ticket you need so that come spring you are ready to go with flying colours.   If you go with this option, I do recommend some cross-training or doing your favourite winter sport as well. Plan to make cycling your priority workouts with 3-4 rides each week and supplement in some other sports. If you train with focus over the winter, you will enter next season as a completely different rider.

Option #3

My recommendations here go out to the rider who has cycling goals for next year but also loves to train and do a multitude of other sports. If this is you, then I recommend finding a nice balance this winter of some cycling mixed with your other favourite sports.  So, for example, if you can still get on your bike 1-2 times a week, perhaps an indoor spin class one day and then an outdoor steady state endurance ride on another day, you will be able to help maintain some sport specificity while developing your aerobic engine (the platform for all higher intensity and power work stems from this.)  Enjoy other winter sports and make sure to incorporate some rest each week too. Perhaps spend some time addressing nutrition or working on your flexibility. Consider even signing up for a spring riding camp to really kick-start things again in March or April.
So there you have it. Take a few weeks to think about your goals and assess your motivation. Set your goals for next year and envision how you see yourself riding them. Map out a plan, whether that involves being on the bike or not and do what is right for you.  See you on the start line in 2013.

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