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Toolbox: Five Offseason Tips
It’s the “offseason, “ at least in road cycling here in the US. Or is it? The offseason has definitely changed over the past years. I think when we use the word “offseason” we usually think of a traditional big team sport like football, baseball or basketball. But since we’re cyclists, what do we mean by that and what does it mean for us?

Races now go late into the year, then cyclocross begins! With its popularity growing every year and before you know it, the spring season is here and motivation is high for the road season again! Heck, here in NorCal, all the teams are already gathering for mini-camps and there’s even a race on New Year’s Day that racers are already talking about.

Let’s go over a few basic offseason topics that will help you make the transition to the 2013 race season:

Definite Break
Make no mistake about it, every rider needs a definite break or change in routine from the regular season. However, it is important for each individual to define his or her offseason for a variety of reasons unique to them.

The most important reason for an “offseason” is to allow the body and mind to relax and “catch up.” I like the analogy of weight lifting: you push your limits in order to break down muscle fibers, but it’s the recovery periods that make you stronger. It’s the same reason why you take vacations from work, as you’ve got to have a break from the routines and the stresses. The key here is everyone is different and what may be good for one may not be good for another.

I was just talking to a couple of my younger athletes this week. Both are motivated, both are great riders with a lot of potential. One needs to take total time off, go do other things, get as far away from the bike as possible. The other likes to keep riding, just needs to get away from the racing and sub-culture that constantly bombards us through the internet. Each is successful; each is different in their approach

Physical versus Mental
These two words are used so much in sport, let’s briefly clarify them. Unless you have over-trained and over-raced (which is actually easy to do in cycling because of the non-impact nature of the sport), the physical side usually can recover pretty quickly. Just take a week off the bike and your body can be rejuvenated. It’s more the mental side of the sport, the motivation, the commitment that can take longer to recover.

Do whatever it takes to get a break. Again, everyone is different. Some need to get away from the sub-culture, some need to do other activities. Just make sure of one thing; don’t start up your program until you are ready to commit to training 100%.

Other Activities
So now that you have decided to take a break, what are you going to do? Always a good question and there really aren’t any wrong answers. Whatever you decide to do, just be consistent with it for a specified time. For example, if you decide to do yoga, don’t just go once a week. Commit fully to an alternative activity to gain its benefits.

Review the Year
We are in the internet age where results, blogs, Facebook and Twitter posts are the norm. There are a lot of hidden stories in all this available information. Take some time to review results of races and how they were won (or lost.) Try to get an idea of how races played out and how you can use this information next year to your advantage. Bottom line is that your competitors love to talk about their races, so let them talk and gain some valuable information about them.

Teammates
Do your best to get to know your teammates on and off the bike. Ride with them, hang out with them, discuss strategy, etc. This is a great time of year to do longer but less intense rides, where you can actually have some conversations. Being successful as a team requires riders to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It requires them to be more than just another person wearing the same jersey you haven’t seen in 4-5 weeks. It’s called chemistry and having it is one of the more valuable characteristics a team can have because the sum of the whole is greater than their individual parts.

In summary, it may be called the offseason, but it’s far from that. It’s time to make valuable gains in all areas of the sport. Use it to your advantage and look forward to a successful 2013!

Ride safe, ride strong,
Bruce



About Bruce
Bruce Hendler is a USA Cycling Coach and owner of AthletiCamps in Northern California. For the past 10 years, he and his experienced team have helped athletes of all levels achieve their goals in the great sport of bike racing thru cycling training camps, cycling coaching and performance testing. To contact AthletiCamps, visit their website at www.athleticamps.com or follow them on Twitter.
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