How to Minimize Your Losses During Offseason Recovery

In Part I we reviewed the concept of reversibility, or detraining. The column reviewed data on fitness losses when athletes stop training and continue only with normal life responsibilities.

At the end of the cycling season, fitness can be lost fast if you stop training. All the hard work that you've put in during the summer months can wither away in a matter of weeks. This hardly seems fair, but it's reality.

The good news is, to keep most of your fitness during the offseason, you don't need to continue with your normal training volume. In fact, an off period is recommended for most cyclists to recover mentally and physically from the season, as long as you don't stop exercising all together. By structuring your recovery period the right way and by incorporating the right cross-training activities, you can pick up where you left off and begin next season stronger than ever.

Why Recover at the End of a Season?

Most athletes know that weekly recovery, which includes days off or a reduced volume of training sessions, is necessary to become stronger. Competitive athletes know that in order to go faster or further, while minimizing injury risk, they must periodize training so that the body receives stress followed by periods of recovery.

More: 4 Offseason Cycling Tips

Those that try to go fast or hard in every training session, day after day, end up with mediocre results. They're too tired to go fast and too afraid to go slow or take a day off. Fear-based training isn't effective for improving performance, and, in most cases, it only leads to injury.

Similar to recovery workouts or days within a week, most athletes include recovery weeks or periods of 5 to 10 days where volume is reduced in order to bring the body to a higher performance level.

I have all of my athletes, professional and competitive recreational, take at least one recovery period each year. Sometimes I will have them take two—one of which is in the middle of summer. The summer break tends to be shorter, only one or two weeks. 

More: Pro Cyclist Ben Day's Offseason Training Secrets

The concept of recovery, hard segments followed by a period of rest, also extend to months and years. Training volume and intensity must see an overall reduction at some point within a year in order for athletes to reach personal-best performance levels. How much time you assign to recovery within an annual cycle depends on the individual athlete and his or her goals.

In addition to training and performance factors, your body also needs a period of recovery. The winter is a good time to heal injuries and care for your general health, something that you may have placed on hold during the race season.

Finally, most athletes that follow a rigorous training schedule need mental recovery. The mental and emotional cost of constant focus on training and racing takes a toll. Many athletes underestimate how mentally exhausted they are until they've had an opportunity to experience recovery for a couple of weeks.

More: 5 Offseason Tips for Bike Racers

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