Strike the perfect balance between taking a deserved break and not losing your hard-earned fitness. We know the offseason is still a bit away for most of you, but we just launched our 2024 cycling trips (and they’re filling up way quickly), so we wanted to get at least ahead of the proverbial ball when it comes to getting some useful content out to you.
Before you either try to power through the winter with the same intensity or just completely hang up your bike, consider these guidelines for tackling the off-season months.
Rule No.1: Take a real break.
If you’ve been consistently logging miles since the first sign of warm weather, now is the give your body an opportunity to hit reset and do the things that are difficult during the year. Give yourself a mini recovery checklist, which may include a deep-tissue massage, a commitment to weekly yoga classes, or finally getting to the physical therapist to fix that pesky injury. Schedule social time with friends or family you haven’t seen while you were focused on training, or plan a vacation that consists of chunks of “do nothing” time. Your body and your mind will thank you.
Rule No. 2: Allow yourself to lose some fitness.
We get it. You logged all those hard climbs, you set a bunch of PRs, and you’re feeling great. But don’t attempt to carry that fitness through to spring. The reality is that if you had a breakthrough year—or even if you had a mediocre one—you could actually be hurting your chance for gains next year if you don’t recover properly. If you shift your mindset to overall health and well-being instead of striving for more Strava KOMs, and it will serve you better in the long run.
Rule No. 3: Do the opposite of what you did in-season.
Depending on which coach you talk to, the winter is either for maintaining an aerobic base with long, Zone 2 rides or it’s the time to cut back the volume and concentrate on short, intense workouts. A smart approach is to simply do something different than what you did throughout the year.
If you’ve been doing mostly long coffee rides, consider doing one-hour workouts filled with short, intense efforts with a lot of recovery. (For instance, something as simple as 10×1 minutes all-out with 2 minutes recovery will give your power output a bit of a boost.) If you’ve been diligent about your interval sessions, tone it down a bit and go on social rides with friends—if the weather allows where you live—or power up your favorite show on Netflix and spin on your trainer. Both parties could likely benefit from concentrating on technique with single-leg, spin-ups, and cadence drills.
Rule No. 4: Build strength off the bike.
Some athletes are apprehensive (or too lazy?) to tackle strength work during the season, which makes the winter the ideal time to hit the gym. Injury-proof your body now by working your muscles in different ways than you do on the bike. Incorporate plyometrics (i.e. box jumps), lateral movements, and core work to build a more solid foundation for next year.
Rule No. 5: Consider your goals next year.
Everyone needs a break, but not all off-season plans are created equal. If you’re a competitive cyclist who anticipates a full race calendar next year, you can’t afford to completely ignore your bike for a few months. If you’re more of a recreational and casual rider, opting for spin classes during the holidays is definitely OK. In either case, targeting an early-season cycling camp is the perfect way to ramp back up base miles after giving yourself a rest.
Alright, that’s it for now. More useful content is on its way.