Here in Australia we’re lucky enough to be able to cycle all year round. The winter here is road season and the summer is track and crit season. What more could you ask for???
The downside of this is that if you’re motivated enough to jump from season to season of never ending cycling heaven, burnout can easily creep up on you. You can prevent this by setting some rest periods throughout the year before burnout occurs . The temptation is that sometimes you’ll be riding really well and feeling fit and you won’t want to stop. This is the trap and this is exactly what will happen.
There are three of different types of rest periods that I try to stick to:
1. Schedule a rest week after every 4 weeks of training. This rest week doesn’t necessarily mean no riding. It means that your ride 2 or 3 times that week and don’t kill yourself doing it. Your body needs this break even if you are feeling good.
2. Schedule a rest week after the second 4 week period of training (i.e. do a 4 week period, rest week as above, another 4 week period). At this stage I will usually take the week completely off the bike. I’ll try to change things up a bit by doing a bit of surfing, running or swimming. Don’t worry – you’re not going to loose any fitness in this time. This rest week can come in handy to get caught up in work or personal things that you’ve been neglecting.
3. After about 4-6 months of continuous training (along with those breaks mentioned) take 3-4 weeks off the bike. Missing this rest period is often where the fine line of progression and overtraining is crossed. Since we’re not forced to get off the bike because of foul weather here in Australia, I have been guilty of continuing on through this time fearing that I’ll loose all that I’ve worked so hard to gain. I’ve gotten caught into the trap of riding harder and longer because I feel like my performance is diminishing. This is classic overtraining. You probably will lose some fitness in this time off but you’ll be better for it in the long run. Sometimes you need to take one step back in order to get two steps forward. This is a good time to take that yearly vacation with your wife and do something that she likes to do. Cycling can be a selfish sport and this is a great time to give back and show her how great of a guy you are!
Creating a training plan with these rest periods scheduled far in advance while you’re thinking objectively is extremely important. When creating this plan you can see a macro view of your racing/training year and you’ll know exactly when your important events are and when you should take a break. Overtraining is an easy trap to fall into and it’s difficult to see for yourself if you don’t have a coach.
On that note, I’m off for a two week vacation in New Zealand. I’ll try posting tips while away but they may not be every day (and they may not be about cycling either!).