Off-Season Bike Training: What It Should Look Like and Why It’s So Important

In any form of training, there are many reasons using a periodized approach to the year in focus is essential for developing a well-rounded athlete. Using an Annual Training Plan provides a means to periodize and structure purposeful, and quality approaches to every “block” of the year. Whether you are a runner, cyclist, skier, or a jack-of-all trades in mountain sports, periodization allows each phase of the year to have a focus for improvement in a specific area, but not all areas of improvement need to be sport-specific. For instance, the training performed in the spring months as you prepare for a strong season on the mountain bike should differ significantly from the training you might perform in the Fall and Winter months as you are coming off a long, hard season of training and/or racing. We often hear athletes express being ready for their “off-season”, or being “burned out” on racing and training. This is a natural progression, but changing the rhetoric of “off-season” to something more pragmatic and purposeful is also something I would like to discuss in this article. A “transition season” or “post-season” is meant to provide time for the body and mind to recover, refresh, refocus, and refine skills in other areas of fitness and overall health. This will help you come back to the specific training with a better foundation, improved durability, and a healthier mind. In no way does “off-season” imply, “go do nothing for 3 months and expect to come back stronger”.

If you don’t use it you lose it

There is a lot of truth to this statement. As we get older, our VO2 Max and anaerobic capacity will gradually lessen - especially if an athlete goes for a lengthened period of time without tapping into these systems, thus making your regular sport training an essential component of your “post-season” or “transition season” training by maintaining some form of stimulus to hold onto that hard-earned fitness. A post-season plan includes a focus on maintaining some aerobic fitness and anaerobic capacity, but this time of year is not when gains are made while only performing your specific sport! Taking time to grow athletically in your post-season requires a shift in focus to something seemingly unrelated to cycling, running, or whatever it is you do. Although this can be a tough pill to swallow (especially for avid cyclists and other endurance athletes), it’s essential to getting stronger. However, you will return to sport specific training hungrier than ever with a newfound groundwork of strength that will carry tremendously into your fitness on the bike, in your run, or in whatever another mode you find yourself doing in the mountains!

Endurance and Strength are Oil and Water

Above, I mentioned doing “something seemingly unrelated” to cycling or running during a post-season or transition season of training will benefit you tremendously both mentally and physically. This can mean a myriad of different activities, but most importantly, your goal should be to build strength, stability, mobility, and technique in something new. Although one cannot make endurance “gains” while improving strength in the weight room, the newfound muscle recruitment and proprioception can be directly applied to the time you are spending maintaining your specific sport fitness and can be very motivating when it's readily applied. This shift in focus is purposeful, will help improve body composition, and ultimately translate into improved stability, power, and overall dynamics on the bike or run when you enter into pre-season training for your sport! Take the macro approach seriously, don't be afraid to change things up, and make the "off-season" a time to refresh, reset, and improve in a new and creative way!

Pat Casey