I have received several questions about the “Timing a Seasonal Break” article which ran in the December USA Cycling communique. Author and three-time Olympian Brian Walton has decided to follow up with an answer to the question, “Do I really need a break, or should I toughen up and keep working?”
QUESTION FROM CYCLIST:
“I am a 40 year old cyclist of 20 years and I race as a cat 3 road and expert mountain biker. Every year at the end of summer I lose my edge and just feel dull. My cat 1 roadie buddies tell me I need to “punch through” that feeling and continue to train hard through the winter. I have been dreading much of the rides. Is this good advice?”
Great question! Cutting right to the chase I’ll be honest; you don’t need to listen to your Cat. 1 road buddies. You need to listen to your body! When I hear the advice to “punch through”, about the only time I think that is applicable is at the end of a race and you’re about to get dropped on the last hill! We’ve all been there. The need to “punch through” might also take place during a building phase of training, when you are in your third week of increasing volume and you’re already REALLY looking forward to your upcoming recovery week. Do yourself a favor, take the break now. Don’t dread those rides. That’s not what it is about at this time of year. You either take your break on purpose, or something like injury or illness is going to force you into it. And by the way, almost every cyclist I’ve ever worked with feels this way at some point in the year. It is VERY normal. Relax, give yourself the break you know is going to only help with your motivation and strength in the future.
COMING BACK FROM THE BREAK:
If you’re planning your yearly training hiatus, there are a few points to remember in order to ease the transition back to riding.
1. Don’t get fat! Hey, no problem. Loosen up the reins on your diet a bit and indulge in the holiday cheer, but that doesn’t mean gaining 10 pounds in the next month is going to be a great idea! If you are over 40 like me, you might notice that it will probably take until next July to get rid of that unwanted FAT that you’ve put on through December. One strategy we used back in the day to control our racing diet was “ALL YOU CAN EAT MONDAYS.” Yeah that’s right, whatever you wanted, go for it on Monday. But be disciplined the remainder of the week.
2. Don’t expect to feel great, all the time. I always love when an athlete approaches me and is frustrated because they are “just not feeling great”. Guess what, it’s the winter, you are not supposed to feel great unless you are peaking for CROSS NATIONALS!! You have given your body a rest and now it’s coming back from its slumber! Relax, it will come. The only time that you’ll honestly feel great day after day is when you peak. And man does that last for just a short time! It’s a tough sport!
3. Spin to win. If you take one thing away from this article, hone in on this point; spin to win. Go easy on those legs and keep the lower cogs clean and BIG RING shiny and new! Focus on your leg speed during your endurance rides, especially during the second half of your rides. You might be going slower, but who really needs to be going fast in December anyway? Forget about the pace, and build that leg speed. You’ll be spinning out your 53×11 soon enough! A few tools to consider to help with your leg speed: rollers and if you are a little more experienced, try a fixed gear bike.
Some things to consider for next time: how can you benefit from a group ride when all your friends didn’t take that winter break? And how do you benefit from that group ride when you are peaking and everyone else wants to take the tourist route?