Short days and cool temps make this time of year natural for taking a break from regular riding. But before you hang up your bike and pack on enough pounds to fill out a Santa suit, follow this offseason advice from Stephen Cheung, PhD, coauthor of Cutting-Edge Cycling.
First, ditch the term offseason, says Cheung. Think of it more as downtime. To build on what you accomplished this year and come back even better next year, don't forget you're a cyclist. "Eat healthy and stay active most days of the week," Cheung says. Hike with your family. Go for a run. Hit the slopes. (Or, take this time to evaluate your fitness level with our Cycling Tests That Transform Your Every Ride.) It's also okay to chill out and enjoy the final season of 30 Rock—as long as you don't park on the couch every night with a bag of cheese curls.
If you ride, keep it mellow: Do a few short weekday outings and some long, slow weekend miles. Throw in a bit of intensity—sprinting to a town sign, charging up a hill—once or twice a week to stay sharp so you can get your groove back faster when you're ready to ramp up. And you don't need a bike to go hard. You can push the pace on foot, on cross-country skis, or in the pool. Or try explosive moves such as jump squats or kettlebell swings.
More: Planning Ahead for Next Season
Plan Your Downtime
A typical cycling season kicks into gear when the days grow longer and the sun gets warmer, before winding down in the fall. The amount of downtime you can afford to take in winter depends on your goals for the coming year. If you have a century ride, a bike trip, or a hard race scheduled for June or July, you can probably get away with a layoff of four or more weeks as long as you stay active, says Cheung. But if you have big ride planned for March or April, or your calendar is peppered with high-priority events from spring to fall, don't let the time drag out longer than a few weeks.
More: 4 Tips for Planning Your Cycling Season