5 ideas to take advantage of your OFFSEASON

For many amateur athletes, the term “offseason” means they forget about their bikes, or simply noodle around a couple of times a month with friends. Beer, taco, and chocolate consumption increases, and overall activity wanes as the days grow shorter. Many athletes take several weeks or months completely off after six or nine months of working hard – sometimes too hard, leading to burnout.

Almost everyone can benefit from a break. Athletes with goals to improve on race performances, change body composition, or simply stick with the ‘A’ group on the weekend should take a modest break completely away from riding – the offseason is an ideal time to run if you enjoy running, hike with the kids, swim, or whatever activity you enjoy. It’s not the time to become a complete couch potato and let your fitness decline to the point where you’re back to square one – you’ve worked too hard for that!

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Take two to four weeks completely away from the bike to refresh your desire to ride. Wait until you miss riding, then wait another few days.
  • Stay active – run, swim, hike, even go for easy rides if you really want to get on the bike.
  • Review your last race season – did you improve? What do you think worked? What would you like to improve for next year? Be specific. (For example, I have not sprinted well for years since an accident almost a decade ago. For 2021, I plan to overcome that and regain and compete my sprint again.)
  • Think about goal events. Do you just want to race crits this year? Would you like to try your hand at a road race? Maybe a 5-hour century is your goal.
  • Incorporate strength training. Many athletes think they have to lift heavy to make good use of strength training; others worry that they’ll gain weight to carry around the bike. For most endurance athletes, a simple progressive set of bodyweight or kettlebell squats, planks, pushups, and pullups would be beneficial and make them a better, more durable athlete. More on this soon.

Make good use of your downtime and you’ll come back mentally refreshed, physically recovered, and ready to ride. Progress is achieved with consistency, and productive time off can ensure you avoid burnout without dumping all your hard-earned gains.

A word of caution about off-season running: your aerobic fitness from the bike will tempt you to run faster and further than your legs can handle. Approach with great caution; I recommend starting with “embarrassingly slow” pace and relatively low duration to avoid days of muscle soreness afterwards!

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