If you’re like us, you’re watching the pros race the final major events of the season, the Last World Cup and the World Championships, and maybe you’ve mostly hung up your cyclocross bike for the year, aside from the occasional spin or Rockville race. Maybe you’ve even taken care of your bike after a long season of use. But are you sure about what to do now for your body to optimize performance for goals later in the year or even next cyclocross season?

Chris Mayhew of JBV Coaching offered up some thoughts on how best to handle the start of offseason and what to look at and watch out for as winter really sets in across much of the country. Mayhew has been coaching road, mountain and cyclocross for ten years with JBV Coaching. He’s learned a lot of things the hard way so you don’t have to. See here what he has to say about the looming offseason and some much needed rest.

While we typically run training pieces on Tuesdays, we’re bringing you this special Saturday edition as many out East stare down a blustery winter storm. Some morning reading over your cup of coffee, if you will.

Pace yourself in the off-season...even while just reading about 'cross.

The season’s over for many of us. Are you sure what’s next after cleaning up your bike and washing your kit?

by Chris Mayhew

I find it funny how clients will do any workout I ever ask of them. I have yet to have a client buck over a workout. I get some complaining over Tabatas, but that’s after they get done. Ask a client to take two weeks off the bike though and the negotiating starts immediately.

Two whole weeks? What does off the bike mean? Off the road bike? Does a mountain bike count? How about I take this week off, but do 200 miles with some friends this weekend? It’s pretty funny. Anecdotally, women generally enjoy the break, men always buck.

Many wonder, why take the break? There are in fact mental and physical reasons.

Physically, the better cross shape you are in, the less robust your fitness is. You get very good at going hard 30 seconds at a time, with recovery, for 45-60 minutes. But that does not at all translate into good base fitness. You’re essentially all icing and no cake at this point. And, when’s the last time you rode for more than 90 minutes at a stretch? If you’re like most amateur athletes you’ve been in a taper since September, riding just enough to not crater, but not so much you come into a weekend fatigued. So you need to do some long miles, or at least steady riding. But to enable that and not burn out you need a clear line of demarcation between the two types of riding to wipe the slate clean.

The second, and maybe even more important reason for the break, is mental.

You’ve been going hard, putting in a lot of training and have been gone on the road, spending homefront captital. The intensity of cross is very hard on your endocrine system, essentially replicating fight or flight with every race and probably your mid-week training to some extent. You need a break from all that.

Also, unless you live somewhere you can ride year round with ease, you’re going to get forced off the bike around this time of year anyways, or at least severely restricted. With that and the lack of seeing your peers every weekend and the attendant competition you’re probably looking squarely at some depression. One of the best ways to deal with that is to find some other way to define yourself other than as cross racer. Get into yoga (with your partner!). Get a fat bike. Knock out those chores that have been sitting there since Labor Day. Find other things to keep yourself busy, and maybe to get your endorphin fix, but that don’t involve the bike. It’s also good practice for if you get injured and are forced off the bike.

In practical terms what are we looking at?

I like to see clients off the bike for two weeks. Honestly I’d be really happy with 6 or 7 days but if I ask for 14, maybe I’ll get 6. Shoot for the moon, hit the stars. Cut loose, enjoy yourself and don’t think about it. Around that 14 day mark I like to have clients think about the past season. What went right? What went wrong? What do they want to keep or discard? What are the goals for next year? Two weeks is enough that you can remember the season in detail and are still fired-up, but far enough away that you can have a little distance and objectivity.

From there it depends partly on your local weather and partly on off-season goals. The main things I’d encourage are a loose schedule, some global goals (i.e., ride X times per week but not worry about duration or intensity) and in general not falling off the wagon too hard. You don’t have to be a monk, nor should you, but doing some work now means you’re less behind the eight ball in April or July. For me, right now, it’s yoga two times a week, ride three days a week and a stair climbing workout on Wednesdays. I’m doing something every day but not too concerned with exactly what. If you ride during the week I’d highly encourage doing a threshold workout just to keep that in the mix. Threshold is something you want to be hitting almost year round anyways, and it’s the best use of your time. Keep it short and sweet on the trainer.

Also start thinking about when you need to do work for your summer goals. If you’re only racing cyclocross don’t even worry about it as the summer will take care of itself. Base miles in July are as easy as falling off a log. If you’ll be racing road or mountain bikes in April, you’ll want to start getting “serious” around February or so.

As you start to wind down from a long season of racing, following advice like this is a good way to ensure you have the best chance to keep riding happy and healthy as you start to look towards future goals. We’ll be bringing you more training advice from experienced coaches throughout the year.