Written by Mark Fenner
Establishing an off season used to be quite easy when I lived in the UK as the natural seasons of the year could be used to determine the all-important time off and the subsequent start of next seasons training. With so many events and races all over the country and world these days structuring a season's training can be increasingly difficult. Without the help and knowledge of a coach the self-trained athlete can and often does get to the very point in the season when they want to be in top form only to find they are fatigued and wanting to hang the bike up. The questions we need to find answers to are many and varied, but, a few are listed below.
In this article we will look at answering some of these commonly asked questions. We look at the data usingToday’s Planto help determine the answers to these questions and help you on your way to the best season ever in 2017.
When should I take a break?
The all-important off season is a time to allow the body and mind to recover from a season of racing or targeting specific goals. This level of application, determination and commitment can leave us tired and in need of some time out to come back into training refreshed and ready to go again.
For every athlete I have ever looked after the answer to this question is always different and this difference should permeate through all your decision making processes when planning the year and structuring your training and rest. Each of us will be able to handle various levels of stress, this can be load in terms of the duration/intensity (T-Score – training load) of our training, as well as the off bike stressors (work, family commitments, etc) which affect our ability to recover and remain motivated to get up early and get out the door to train. Each of these should be considered in relation to your specific situation and will affect the timing, length and structure of the off season.
If we look at Chris Hamilton’s (Newly signed World Tour rider with Giant Alpacin) Seasonal Planner Chart we can get an understanding of the way his season was structured and periodised to allow for two major peaks in the season as well as a mid and end of season break added.
A few noticeable patterns can be seen when looking at Chris Hamilton’s Seasonal Planner Chart.
How long should I take off in my off season?
The length of time an athlete should take off the bike should be an individual decision determined by a few different factors including, but, not limited to:
What should I do in my off season?
During the off season Chris will still do a few rides on his MTB and join his mates for the coffee shop ride, but, there will be no structure or intervals set. I advise riding if you want to only, this relaxed approach allows the athlete to just enjoy being out on the bike. If I see that Chris is still riding too much or too hard I will intervene and discuss the bigger picture in terms of next year’s goals and target races. The off season is also a great time to start a strength and conditioning program based around strengthening the whole body and working on known weaknesses to make sure when the season starts again the body is ready to handle the load.
Other things to do and not to do during the off season can include;
How long should I build towards my target event?
The time it takes for each athlete to reach peak condition is again varied. Some athletes are fast responders to training and are able to gain race fitness quickly, others take longer and need more time and a bigger load. In general, I would aim to allow at least 12 weeks and up to 16 weeks to become race ready. Later in the season when starting from a greater level of condition this peaking period can be shorter. Some considerations to think about when thinking and planning for next season’s first peak could be:
Now is the perfect time to start planning your off season break and start organizing the activities that will help you recover and come out swinging in the new season like Optimus Prime.