5 Mistakes to Avoid This Off-Season


As we enter the off-season for most cyclists in the northern hemisphere, attention always turns to how to make the most of this critical time. Many athletes focus on taking time off and pursuing rest and recovery as their primary goal. Others are excited to get a jump on the next season and go to work on weaknesses from the past season.

As one might expect, the best path is between these two extremes. Avoid these mistakes to have a good off-season and set yourself up for success in 2021!

Mistake #1: Taking too much time off

Many athletes take a multi-week break or even put the bike away for months in the winter. This might be okay if you are a winter sport athlete (XC skiing) and you need to focus your training on that sport. However, spending weeks on the couch is NOT a good approach. You may need a little physical and mental break from the bike, but this can be achieved without become a coach potato. Take a week-long break at the end of the season and then plan in one or two more full weeks off around the holidays.

Mistake #2: Too much intensity

For many the off-season means more time on the indoor trainer. This usually means shorter sessions and there is a tendency to make these higher intensity. This is even more true now with a full Zwift racing calendar or training camps like the Zwift Academy. While some intensity in the off-season is okay, this is probably where you most need a break for your mind and body. You want to be highly motivated to get back to hard training in the pre-season. If you’ve been turning yourself inside out doing intervals all winter, you may find your motivation depleted in February/March when your training plan calls for some hard work.

Mistake #3: Not enough time in other activities

The off-season is a great time to switch it up and engage n other aerobic activities you enjoy. Make running, hiking, xc skiing, swimming, etc., a regular part of your program. Group sports like soccer, basketball, hockey are also great additions. 30-50% of your training time could be done in other aerobic or other physical activities.

Mistake #4: Not working on imbalances developed during the season

So much sitting on the bike can develop muscular imbalances. Spending some time in the gym working on your overall strength and mobility can keep you comfortable and injury-free on the bike. That extra stability will also allow you to handle more on-the-bike training in the coming season. 2-3 sessions per week is a good plan for a few months during the off and early season.

Mistake #5: Not training enough on the bike

Remember that cycling is still your primary focus. You can’t drop the bike for a couple months and expect to progress from year to year. If you lose everything during the winter that you built through the season, then each year becomes a repeat of the last. In order to get better you need to start each year from a better place than the last. At least 50% of your overall training time in the winter should still be spent on the bike.

There you go! Have a great off-season and I wish you the best of luck in 2021!

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Jeff Winkler

Former professional cyclist, programmer, lawyer. Coaching cyclists since 1993, USA Cycling Level 1 Coach, ISSA-certified Nutrition Coach & Personal Trainer.
Cycling, Mountain Biking, Gravel Biking, Road Biking
Boulder, CO

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