Taking a Mid-Season Break And Regaining Fitness After Time Off The Bike
The cycling season (especially in California) is an exceptionally long one. I have lots of athletes who want to jump straight from the road season into cyclocross, and vice versa. In California, the racing season begins in January and doesn’t end till late September. Add in a solid base season and many racers only have a month long off-season. For those athletes who want to race well early and late in the season, a mid-season break is a must. This break serves as a time for both physical and mental recuperation from the tolls of racing and training.
How Much Time Should I Take Off
Start with taking one week completely off the bike. Use this time to relax, spend some time with your significant other, and catch up on all things non-bike related. Once you get the urge to get back on the bike and start training again, stop, take 2 more days off, and then you’ll be ready to go.
There is such a thing as too much time off the bike. Once you get into the three or four week range, you’ll have become severely detrained and have to go through another base period to rebuild your fitness. This however is recommended for cyclists whose focus is on cyclocross. A June off-season/July base will lay a good foundation for October/November fitness.
Unlike the end of the season where riders are starting to feel burnt-out and intervals have been replaced by easy riding between bouts of racing, a mid-season break is usually preceded by a period of near peak form. Taking a mid-season break results in less detraining than an end of the season break. Riders tend to come back with their fitness still intact. I have my clients go straight back into a rebuild phase. I have them skip another base phase, as I tend to find that endurance is not affected by <14 days off the bike. The first 10 days consist of tempo like efforts (lots of 2 x 20’s, 3 x 10’s) followed a period of low-end anaerobic work (VO2, hill repeats) work, a rest week, and a period of high end speed work (sprint work, pyramids). Within a month or so, my clients are back at a high level of fitness and ready for the second half of the season.
This also works for cyclists who are recovering from an injury. I recently broke my hand and have been going through this myself. Since this is more of a forced break than a voluntary one, cyclists with injury-forced breaks tend to jump back into intervals with more rigor than those who take a break voluntarily. Relax, rebuild, and restrain yourself from going back into training too hard, too early. Remember, if you are forced off the bike for > 3 weeks, you’ll need to rebuild some base (long rides) before you start back into tempo work.
Adam Switters is a former professional cyclist and currently races for Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase. He is a USA Cycling Certified Coach is the owner of Switters Coaching. You can check him out at his website www.SwittersCoaching.com. Feel free to comment if you have any ideas for workout or questions.