Bike racing has one of the longest and most intense seasons of any endurance sport. As your body and mind begin to tire and look forward to the off season, you should give yourself a pat on the back, because racing and training for nine or ten months is a significant challenge in terms of staying strong and focused. Whether your season (and life) allows you to be structured in your training or, like most "nine to five" athletes, you attempt to make it through the year by training and competing when life allows you, here are a few suggestions and choices to help take you through the last few months of the season:
The end of year is a great time to review your original season goals, see what you have accomplished and possibly set some new or readjusted goals for the remainder of the year. Reviewing and updating goals should always be a part of your yearly plan. If you haven't done it so far, this is a great opportunity to start.
Perhaps your major goals are behind you. It may be a good idea to approach the last months with the idea of training for maintenance. In general, your fitness level is pretty much set for the rest of the year. The key is to stay sharp and prevent over-training. This can be done by shortening your training rides and eliminating excess "garbage" miles and focusing your workouts on the style of races you have remaining. For example, if criteriums are the only races, design your workouts to stress lactate clearance and anaerobic power.
Build and taper
You may need some results to get your final upgrade points and are taking the end of season very seriously. Another option may be to refocus and recommit to these goals, then do one more build and taper. This option may be just what the doctor ordered to focus your training and get that last increase in fitness.
Spice up your regular workouts and experiment
No matter what approach you choose, it's always a good idea to alter your current workouts or try some new ones. Do repetitions in different locations and modify the structure of these workouts. For example, instead of just going out with friends and team mates and hammering up the hills, play a little game where you send one or two riders off the front with a time handicap and the remaining group has the job of chasing them down. It's little adjustments like this that can add motivation to your rides.
Mentally, give yourself a break
Or maybe you need a completely different approach. Endurance athletes are famous for obsessing over their training, racing and fitness levels. We think about this stuff pretty much all year. Give it a rest, take a few days a week to just kick back and do something else. I know this can be difficult, but you may be surprised as to how well this may help your performance over the last months of the season.
The long season wears on every level, professionals and amateurs alike. Sometimes, even careful planning throughout the year will not prevent a tired feeling and lack of motivation near the end of the racing season, and you may just feel like you are going through the motions. The Tour may be over (bummer!) and the fall may soon be approaching, but there is plenty of time to get a lot more out of your season. Give yourself a real positive boost of confidence going into the off season. Good luck!
Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling-specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com.