The end of the road and mountain bike season is here, with autumn drawing in and winter soon to follow.
So what exactly is the ‘off-season’? And how does it relate you to as a racer or non-racer?
Essentially, the off-season is the time away from racing, typically over winter. Many professional cyclists use this time to first take a break from the bike completely for a couple of weeks. This is an important time for mentally resetting and reflecting on the season so far. How did you do, was it a successful season? Did your performances stack up to what you expected?
The off-season is also a great time to work on your weaknesses — think strength training, fixing imbalances or niggles you’ve picked up during the year, and you can always think about trying a new discipline now you’re not racing or training towards an event.
Training tips — remember that it is okay to lose fitness! It is something that goes up and down, and you can’t expect to be in form all year round. So don’t get disheartened if you see the numbers fluctuate.
Resetting your goals
Before embarking on a winter training plan, it’s a good idea to sit down and reflect on your year so far. If you made any goals prior to the season, did you achieve them? How did your year on the bike go for you? And what have you learned that you can take into next year?
Think about what went well and what didn’t. As athletes, we tend to learn more from our losses than our wins. And this is one of the many things that makes cycling such a great sport! There is always a way to improve, and something to learn and move forward with.
A goal sets the direction of your cycling training, but it does not mean it’s the ultimate judge of your success — contrary to what many cyclists may think. Focus more on the process of what it takes to achieve the outcome you want in cycling, and this will build momentum.
Of course, for some riders, winter is when they begin their racing! If you’re a hill climber, a cyclocross racer, or a Zwift racer, your season is just about to begin. If this is you, you’ll now be looking to increase your intensity ahead of the first race of the season.
If you are racing indoor cycling, there’s a propensity for riders to do a bit too much on their smart trainer. Particularly if you race on the indoor training platform Zwift, there are races available every single day, throughout the day. This makes it rather tempting to take part in as many as possible. We would suggest you don’t do this — the 80/20 rule still applies (80% low intensity to 20% high intensity) in a week. You might see an initial spike in your overall fitness as your race and training load goes up, but pretty soon you’ll be knackered and won’t be able to get the best out of yourself over the rest of your winter training.
Coming into winter from autumn doesn’t have to be scary (we know it’s cold if you’re in the northern hemisphere). Think of it as an opportunity. Now is the time to rebuild your base fitness, get some good quality winter training in and mentally prepare for the year ahead.
Whether you spend your winter training on your road bike, indoor training, or building your fitness elsewhere, it’s key to stay motivated and focus on your goals ahead of the next season. Work on your weaknesses, build some muscle strength and use indoor training where it’s unsafe to ride outside.
The weather might be crap, but the work you put in now will pay dividends come springtime. There is a reason the saying goes, ‘winter miles = summer smiles’!