Rest for Road Racers – Should You Take an End-of-Season Break
Fall is finally here, and for many of us roadies this means the end of the racing season has also arrived. It’s time to take a well-deserved break from all the hard work you’ve been doing on the bike. The question is: how much rest do you need after putting your body through a long season of riding and racing? Should you just keep riding or not ride at all?
You may hear people say that the preparation for next season begins as soon as the current season ends, and this is true to a point, but the first step in that preparation is a much needed period of rest. A mistake that many athletes make following the racing or riding season is to look back on how their season went and start immediately training for the next season without taking a break. Training like this can lead to reaching peak fitness too early, over training or burnout. The main thing athletes should focus on for a month (more or less depending on how much you raced and how much opportunity you had for recovery during the season, in other words, how tired you are) following the end of the season should be rest. A period of rest post season is not only meant to help recharge you physically but also mentally.
Taking a break from riding this time of year may be hard, the weather is still nice and maybe that dusty mountain bike is begging you to take it out for a ride. Resting does not necessarily mean that you have to be inactive. Feel free to go out and ride that mountain bike or do a favorite ride you haven’t done in a while. But when you do exercise during your rest period, volume and intensity should be low. Effort level for the most part should be in your Recovery Zone or low in your Endurance Zone and your weekly volume should be at most half of what you normally average in season.
If you have been incorporating adequate periods of rest into your racing and training throughout the year you may not feel physically tired, but you should still take a break from your bike. Studies have shown that athletes who take a break from their main sport post season are less likely to suffer from over training or burnout later in the year. I suggest to athletes that you should spend at least one week away from the bike during the rest period and monitor how you feel physically and mentally. You will probably notice that sore back or tight IT band that has been nagging you for the past couple months is going away, and if this is the case, continue to take time off from exercise until you feel that you are no longer making progress in your recovery and have stabilized for a week or more. Don’t worry about losing fitness while taking a break from exercise, the amount of fitness lost will be minimal and there taking the break will allow you to get stronger on the next season.
Think of the period of rest as part of your training program (because it is). After taking a little time away from the bike you can look back at the past season and begin planning for the next. A few weeks of rest will leave you really refreshed and motivated to tackle the road ahead.