Your season has come to a close. Should you take a break from the bike? For a lot of cyclists and racers, it’s not easy to hang up the bike after a long season of building strength and fitness. The fear of de-training is programmed into our athlete brains. But the truth is, taking rest from on-the-bike training can be hugely beneficial, reinvigorating your physical and mental freshness as you prepare for the year to come.
It’s okay to let go of the bike. In fact, riding and training 12 months out of the year is a recipe for burnout, injury and mediocre fitness.
The off-season is the perfect time to improve weaknesses, address muscular imbalances, improve mobility and give yourself a much needed break from the stress of the season,
Don’t Freak Out – Detraining isn’t a big deal
Afraid to take a break from the bike? Here’s the deal. Our bodies can improve through training in two ways: structural changes and biochemical changes. The structural benefits we gain through training include increased capillary density, muscle fiber ratios, and heart size. Lucky for us, those beneficial structural adaptations will remain in place and relatively unchanged even when taking 12 weeks completely off the bike. Great news, right? When we experience de-training, we are primarily referring to a drop off in biochemical changes like blood stroke volume. What we need to remember about biochemical changes is that while they subside quickly, they also return rapidly. In fact, with rest you will re-sensitize your body to training and come back stronger.
Our top 10 reasons to take an off-season:
Racing and training is mentally taxing. Taking time off the bike and focusing your attention on other activities like strength training for a few months can help cultivate desire for the upcoming season.
Fitness is the sum of stress + rest. If you’re not giving your body ample rest, you will likely overtrain and miss out on the benefits of all the hard training you’ve put in. It can take several weeks or months to come back from the fall out of over-training.
Address your Weaknesses
Did you have a hard time getting over climbs last season? Do you want to improve your sprint? Did you struggle with bike handling? The off-season is the perfect time to focus on and spend time improving your weaknesses.
Taking an off-season can help us avoid overuse injuries and give us an opportunity to address muscular imbalances and improve stabilization. Weight training is a fantastic supplement to cycling.
Reap the Benefits of Weight Training
Weight training can’t be overemphasized when it comes to improving cycling performance. It’s a great way to build muscle, increase bone density, boost metabolism, prevent injury, correct muscular imbalances, and strengthen your core.
Adjust Nutrition Habits
As we know, it’s hard to make changes to nutrition habits during the season when we are burning large amounts of calories and can get away with ingesting foods that aren’t ideal. In the off season, when training intensity drops and carbohydrate cravings lessen, it can be a lot easier to adjust nutritional habits. For example, you can take this time to focus on eating low-glycemic carbohydrates, increase your intake of nutrient-dense vegetables, and reduce sugar consumption.
When it comes to cycling, mobility and flexibility are just as important as strength. Spending time increasing your range of motion will help prevent injury and optimize muscular contractions.
Try New Things
The off-season is a great time to explore other activities like running, skiing, hiking, yoga or pilates. Other activities can also help correct muscular imbalances that have developed over the year.
Time with Friends
With less structured training comes the opportunity to spend more time with friends and family. The flexibility offers you a chance to jog with your wife, rock climb with your besties, hike with you family, or simply spend the weekend relaxing not waiting in line for a port-a-potty.
The off-season is also a great time to review your bike fit and log easy miles on the new fit to allow your body to adapt.
Every cyclist should take an off-season. The hard earned break from structured training will help you refresh and re-focus for the year ahead. You’ll improve yourself as a well-rounded athlete and come back stronger next season.
AchievePTC – Why every cyclist should try weight training
Huffington Post – Why taking time off exercise is good for you
Sports Fitness Adviser – Off Season Training