Finishing up a long mountain or road bike season, many people feel relieved to spend some time ‘just riding’ and not training. You may not even want to look at your bike. You may be ready for running, hiking, skiing or other non-bike exercise. Racing or participating in other goal events requires dedication and commitment, exhausting but fulfilling efforts both in body and in mind.
These are all signs of overtraining or simply a buildup of fatigue after a long season. When it comes on during the season or before we are ready to take a dedicated break, it can be more complicated to manage, as a break isn’t ideal at that time. But this time of year, when most people are winding down their seasons and commitments, it is important to disconnect from the bike and let your body and mind recover. How long that break should be varies from person to person and also depends on the length and intensity of one’s competitive season.
Despite needing a break from the bike, here in the Salt Lake area we are lucky that it is possible to ride pretty much year round. With some indoor House of Watts style interval sessions and those occasional 30-40 degree sunny days, we can make it happen. HoW is awesome for building fitness through the winter and the community it builds prevents the burnout brought on by suffering alone. I also recommend mixing in some more winter-friendly off-the-bike activities, especially December through January (assuming a competitive season that begins in March) to mix things up and keep it fresh.
I recommend 2-3 days per week on the bike earlier in the winter, shifting to 4-5 days later in the winter. Those days could be a mix of HoW training and outdoor riding when the weather allows. On your days off the bike, mix in some fun winter activities that you enjoy and that will provide similar cardiovascular benefits; XC skiing, snowshoeing, ski touring, etc. Downhill skiing and snowboarding are also great but fit in more as a strength component. Winter is also a great time to get in the gym for some strength development.
One common mistake many people make is forgoing coaching during the winter. Racing is not as immediate so it is easy to think the cost savings would be beneficial. To the contrary, well-planned base training through the winter is imperative to set oneself up for a successful season. Hiring a coach once racing has begun does not give you the time to properly prepare your body for racing and does not give the coach enough time to work their magic.
The weather is about to turn less pleasant and daylight savings comes to an end this week. It is time to think about all of this stuff! Take a break from your bike, make your winter cycling plans, choose some alternate winter sports and prepare to ride into spring fit and ready for another season!