This is that time of year where road and mountain bike seasons are coming to a close and some of us take a rest while others jump into the cross season. It can be a real awkward time of year from a training and motivational standpoint. We’ve just finished a huge block of hard work and continual building paired with our race goals and are looking for a little reprieve from structured training. If we’re not continuing on into the cross season, how do we manage to maintain some fitness while giving ourselves a mental break? The trick is taking some time to get back to our roots, remembering why we got into bike racing to begin with. That’s likely to look different from person to person, however we all share the commonality of enjoying riding and can usually find our own fun in doing just that.
My personal favorite early off season activity is setting a goal for an organized century or metric century with my dad. My dad isn’t in the same shape I try to remain in, but we still enjoy chatting about how we’re coming along for the event and spend time together before and after the event. It’s actually come to be something I cherish and see as a sort of bike vacation with no pressure attached. We typically use Tour de Tucson due to it’s timing, location, and the relatively good weather that time of year. It gives me time to rest up a bit after the season and get a few weeks of loose training back in the legs for Tucson. These type of events can really bring in the social component that we often lack when being super focused on racing and reminds us of the fun we can have when self imposed pressure has been lifted. Another event that is really gaining traction in the cycling community are gravel grinders. They’re known for their fun and easy going environment, which is great when you’re just trying to have fun.
Another great off season training strategy is to jump into a local pseudo race or even think about hosting one. These races are usually pretty loosely put together with the focus being centered on getting together for some fun and good natured racing. I recall one weekly race we would have in Texas that gained enough traction to be a pretty tough race, but once you were all finished you were hitting the taco truck while sipping margaritas and swapping race stories. This could be a good avenue to do some races that are of little importance, but still get in some good race simulation to keep your fitness and handling skills from dropping off significantly in the off season. If you don’t have any of these races in your area, hosting one would be a great way to give back to your cycling community while also giving you your local fun race. You don’t have to promote a big event, just find a cheap or free place to run a course, only offer prizes a few places deep to make placing riders easy, and set up a fun environment that encourages folks to hang out and have fun. If you also use some free labor in place of free race entries, you can have enough people to run the race while you get to race yourself. You may even reach out to some local race promoters to ask for some tips on promoting a race so you know how best to structure things from an organizational standpoint.
This time of year can be very beneficial in letting you recharge the batteries and gain some mental freshness. Right now you’re setting the stage for your mental acuity going into next season. Ignoring mental fatigue right now can actually end up being detrimental to your coming season. As I like to ask my athletes, do you feel like you race better when you’re having fun or when you’re mentally struggling to get through a race? Making sure you enter into the following season’s training block feeling mentally refreshed can give you the stamina to stay focused on your goals and subsequent training throughout the season and in turn give you the results you want.