Some riders who come out full swing in the spring find themselves plateauing by July. "It's mental as much as anything," says Andy Applegate, a pro-level coach with Carmichael Training Systems who is based in Asheville, North Carolina. "Riders get tired of the structure—doing the same routes, gearing up for races—and it starts to wear them down." These simple training tweaks will keep you fresh and refreshed all season long.
Roadies, go for a mountain bike ride. Mountain bikers, hit the road. If you own only one type of bike, find a friend who rides what you don't and arrange for an occasional trade. You'll both be better off for it, says Applegate. "The trails are good for roadies, because there's less volume and more short, punchy efforts," he says. "So you get a little mental break while staying sharp." On the flip side, mountain bikers benefit from using smooth road rides to give their bodies a break from the wear and tear of rough terrain.
Two or three times a week, jump into the group ride for fun, carefree training. "We tell people to avoid group rides in the early part of the season because [that's when] you want to build a base and follow your plan without getting sucked into what the group is doing," says Applegate. "But now is when cyclists start wanting to shoot themselves if they have to do another set of structured VO2-max intervals. If you find a good group, you'll [inadvertently] be doing your intervals and efforts by sprinting for signs and charging up climbs—and it'll be far more fun."
Sometime in July, do not think about riding a bike for seven to 10 consecutive days. Instead, do something completely different, like hiking or swimming. Or take a family vacation. "You won't lose much fitness, but you'll gain a ton of freshness," says Applegate. "A good midseason break will help you keep focused on your goals without getting fried." If you're a serious cyclocross racer, take an even bigger summer break. If you absolutely can't tear yourself away from your bike, a couple of no-intensity, low-volume rides won't hurt.
Plan your recovery the same way you do your training. Take one or two days off the bike each week, scale back the intensity of your rides one week each month, eat well, get plenty of sleep and treat yourself to a massage. You'll feel brand new.
Selene Yeager is a USA Cycling certified coach. Read her blog at bicycling.com.