By: Christina Vipond
Most sports have an off season which allows an athlete to have some well deserved time to take a physical and mental break. The off season also allows an athlete to return to basics, work on building a strong foundation and work on skills. For cyclists, this may be difficult to schedule into the season as there are so many opportunities for training and racing the entire calendar year. Gravel racing alone runs from March through October. Cyclocross season takes over from there and fat tire races happen all winter long. There is also mountain bike racing, crits and indoor racing. For many athletes, training and racing an entire season is not an issue. For other athletes, it may be beneficial for not only an end of the season break but also a mid-season break.
A cyclist usually plans the race season around peak or big events mid season and at the end of the season. Training and racing up to those events helps prepare for peak performance. Peak performance requires a huge amount of energy and focus. Most people can identify acute fatigue, this is what is felt after a hard workout. Athletes can generally recover quickly with nutrition and rest. However, it can be more difficult to recognize chronic fatigue which accumulates over time. It’s a slow build up from stress on the body’s systems, physically and mentally. By mid-summer, an athlete may have been training and racing for months to prepare for a peak event. A well timed mid season break following the event can be beneficial for the second half of the race season.
It may seem counterintuitive to take a break in the middle of the race season. However, many studies show fitness will not be lost with a short break (up to 10 days) and can help avoid burnout and injury. A mid-season break is different for each athlete. Some athletes may require only a small break, while others may require a few days completely off the bike. Just like the end of the season, a mid season break is a good time to focus on basics such as proper sleep and nutrition. This time can also be spent with easy activities such as walking or gentle stretches. This period can be followed with a few days of short, easy rides.
After the mid-season break, it is time to start rebuilding aerobic capacity, endurance, and mental focus. A structured training program is key to the overall performance and health of an athlete during the entire training and racing season. Be sure to talk with your coach at Athletic Mentors about your program, stay strong, stay focused and have fun the entire race season!