Written by ALP Cycles Coach, Jennifer Sharp
Summer is winding down and many parts of the country have already seen a shift of weather, signaling the end of a long road season and for others the start of the cyclocross season. Whether you take a break now from structured training and racing or do it after cross, it’s important to get the most out of your off-season. This is where the biggest gains can be made.
The off-season is an interesting term in itself. As a competitive athlete, do you really get down time? And is “off-season” the best way to describe this time of year? Are you really taking time “off”? TrainingPeaks refers to this time of year as the “transition phase”, which is about 2-4 weeks in length when you do unstructured training as a means to recharge both mentally and physically. My husband, Benjamin Sharp (2012 United States Olympic Team Coach), refers to this time of year as training season, as compared to race season. Regardless of what you call it, the time of year where you take a break from competition and hit the reset button is a necessary part of the periodization process - especially if you want to continue to see improvement season after season.
So what exactly is the best thing to do over the off-season/transition phase or training season?
Address and rebuild your physiological profile. During the race season, it’s hard to gain fitness since you’re often racing and recovering. The training season is a great opportunity to get those foundation miles in and focus on the various energy systems you may neglect during the race season.
Address your nagging or lingering injuries. Do you have a little pain in your lower back/neck/shoulders/achilles/etc? Now is a great time to seek medical attention and give your tendons/muscles/body rest so that it can fully repair itself. Take the time to make an appointment with a physical therapist/body worker or doctor to get to the root of the issue and really dive in.
Lack motivation? Cross train! This is a great chance to run, hike, swim, practice yoga, strength train, cross country ski, or do basically any cardiovascular training.
Goal setting. What better time to take inventory of your 2019 season than now? What went well? What areas need work? Setting both process and outcome goals can help you stay motivated in the 2020 season and beyond.
Catch up with friends and family. Cycling can be all-consuming. You likely sacrificed some social engagements over the season. Make a point of spending time with your friends and family members without feeling like you have to fit some intervals in first.
Ben always says that everyone is making gains in the race season. But if you can go into the race season at a higher level by making improvements during the training season, you could be ahead of the game.
Commit to making 2020 your best season yet and come up with a solid training plan with your coach today.