If you want to avoid burnout and stay in top shape, use these tips to have tons more fun all year long.
You Pushed Yourself All Summer
You trained hard, ate right, and did some big rides and races. So why do you feel as flat an IHOP pancake? It's called burnout and it affects everyone from pros to weekend warriors. Just as short, intense efforts can tire your legs, an unrelenting ride schedule can leave your muscles persistently sore and fatigued—and your brain checked out. To help you break out of a late-season rut, we tapped slump-buster John Verheul, head coach at JBV Coaching, for his best advice on getting back up to speed.
Most training plans call for one or two easy days a week to recharge your muscles. But it's tempting to turn those mellow spins into hammer-fests. If your recovery rides last longer than an hour or involve town-sign sprints, you're missing out on the benefits. Verheul recommends limiting them to 30 to 60 minutes of easy spinning.
Try this: To keep your pace tranquillo, join a group ride and match the speed of the slowest member. Relax and make new friends—your jaw should get a better workout than your quads.
Take a Stravaction
Social-media apps like Strava can turn every ride into an energy-sapping competition. Verheul recommends unplugging from all ride-tracking devices, even your GPS, until you fully recharge. "You should avoid all numbers for at least a week," he says.
Try this: Resist the temptation to go hard by shifting into an easy gear and keeping it there. Then lift your head up and pay attention to the scenery instead of your computer's display.
Change Up Your Workouts
Doing the same training week after week can leave you stranded on a performance plateau. Relieve the monotony by switching up your regimen. "Riders who train with power meters love their 2 ? 20 minutes at threshold," Verheul says, "but even such staple workouts need to be changed."
Try this: Instead of two intervals at 20 minutes each, try three at 15 minutes, or eight at five minutes, with one minute of rest in between.
Say Yes to Carbs
In an effort to drop a few pounds, some cyclists completely cut out carbohydrates. That's a mistake. The sugars and starches they contain aid in the production of the feel-good hormone serotonin, which can make you feel happy, focused, and energized. Hard sessions in the saddle already drain your carb reserves, so reducing your intake can send you into an overtrained funk. Over time, it can hinder recovery and performance. "If you're training hard, you should aim to get at least 60 percent of your calories from carbs," Verheul says.
Try this: Eat more whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. They are packed with essential carbs but are more nutritious and often have less sugar than pasta or bread.
Hit the Reset Button
It's tempting to keep doing the same kinds of events or races, Verheul says. But repetition can overwork key muscles and lead to boredom. "Changing it up provides different challenges and slightly different physical stresses," he says. That can ignite new muscle groups and add excitement to your rides.
Try this: Reset your goals and find new challenges. If you're primarily a roadie, try a cyclocross or mountain bike. Then search Bikereg.com and enter an event or race you've never done.
Bench Your Bike
Late-season fatigue often results from "chronic under-recovery," Verheul says. "Planned breaks from structured training are critical to staying fresh." To get the rest your body needs, he suggests spending an entire week away from your bike--you don't need to sit on the couch, but you should avoid riding.
Try this: Head to the beach and learn to surf. Go rock climbing. Spend a week camping and hiking. You'll work different muscle groups and give your cycling legs the break they deserve. When you jump back onto your bike, you'll be raring to go.
Ready to ride? Search for a cycling event.