We’ve previously spoken about the importance of rest and recovery on the blog from a physical point of view. Your muscles become stronger after a period of stress and a period of recovery.
So, if rest and recovery is a crucial part of keeping our bodies in top form, should we consider it for our minds too?
“The most important thing with having a break from the training schedule is a mental rest so that you can come back stronger and eager to do it all again for the following year,” explains former pro-rider and Wattbike Ambassador, Dean Downing.
“I always used to love having a break from the training structure of the season,” he says. “This meant some time off the bike, so my October always used to be my time off.”
Three Ways You Can Benefit From A Mental Break
Rather than simply recline into inactivity, there are in fact objectives we need to achieve in this period:
- Reduce stress - Despite how invincible you feel after smashing a killer Wattbike session, almost everyone gets stressed during the season. Work and family commitments are bound to squeeze your time, leaving us all feeling like we can’t train as much as we’d like for our big event. Unsurprisingly, whether you acknowledge it or not, our minds and bodies are continually trying to counter this stress. A sustained period off will give your mind a thorough rest.
- Rekindle passion - In today’s world where it’s all about competition and data it’s too easy to lose sight of why you fell for your sport in the first place. If you’re feeling bored or frustrated going into the off-season, it’s time to take a break. Even if you’re still hitting training sessions high off the momentum of a successful race season, there’s nothing to say you won’t burn out in a few weeks. Give yourself time to miss training. Taking a mental break is as much about prevention and mind maintenance as it is rekindling spirits and ensuring you prepare for the next season with optimal form and mindset.
- Address strengths and weaknesses productively - Being human, we often focus on the negatives and quickly turn our attention to the goals we’ve missed. Taking a mental break and get out of your own head. When you do this, you might find you achieved more than you thought. Setting goals in this period will help to maintain a little focus and prioritise what’s important without the added stress of trying to train to a regime.
How to take a productive break
Now you know the benefits of taking a mental break, it’s time to share some of our top tips on how to go about it:
Establish a time period
Set yourself a clear and reasonable time period to take a break and stick to it. Anything longer than a week is ideal to give your mind a proper sustained period of rest and recovery.
Ditch the data
Take advantage; it’s the only time of year we’ll encourage you to drop the structured sessions on your Wattbike. Try to stay out of your typical training regime as much as possible and give your ego the break it needs. An easy pedal with an HR belt to check you’re in a moderate zone is fine, but you certainly don’t need to be smashing the sprints or clocking mileage in this period, so drop the data. Leave the Garmin at home. It won’t be long until your passion reignites, you’re itching to get back on the bike and crunching the numbers again.
Do the things you’ve been abstaining from all year
If taking a complete break or holiday isn’t possible during this period, reset your internal batteries in other ways. "In my rest period, I used to like riding my bike simply when I wanted to, and when the weather was nice,” says Dean.“A bit of MTB fun with the lads was always good, something fun and different. After a few weeks of relaxing with days off the bike and maybe a holiday away with the family to sunnier climes thrown in, I felt ready to get back to it.”
If you plan ahead properly, there will be plenty of time to hit the hard workouts in the weeks ahead, and trust us, your mind will appreciate the new head space.
Use the time to plan and review
Maintain your focus and prioritise what’s going to be important next year by setting goals. It’s impossible to make measured gains without sufficient planning, so take the time to review your season carefully. That doesn’t mean simply hanging out on the sofa confirming whether you now have additional bragging rights over your mates, or questioning if you should quit and take up something else. There is a helpful process that can be followed by reading our guide to reviewing your season carefully.
Take stock of what you’ve achieved
Put to bed what you didn’t achieve and think about what you did. Whether it was a summer ride with your mates that turned into your first 100 mile bike ride, or finally working out the perfect pacing strategy for your 10 mile time trial - you can find hidden pockets of achievement everywhere when you stop focusing 100% on what you missed.
It goes without saying that time off during the off-season to take a mental break, as well as a physical one, will ensure you’re refreshed, ready and motivated to start the season ahead.
That’s a strong place to start towards your best year yet. For more advice on planning your off-season, including advice on when to take a break and what to do during your break, read our guide to planning your off-season.