A lot of us are at the end of our season. Even for those going to Nationals, the end of the season is coming up pretty quickly.
All that time you’ve spent training, racing and Instagramming are going to come to an end soon. What’s your plan to handle that transition? What are you going to do for the next few months?
Here are some do’s and don’ts I offer my clients every year as they head into the offseason, or at least a different season.
Do write it down. I know, “Ok boomer.” But there’s good evidence that writing things down—versus typing—helps better ingrain that information.
What do I want you to write down? Make a list of 3-5 things that went well this season, that you’d like to incorporate into next season. Maybe your pre-race routine was on point, perhaps a particular interval worked really well for you, things like that. Write down the things you did well that you want to keep.
The flip side is to write down is three to five things that you want to change for next year. Maybe you want to work on pre-race nerves or you had a hard time fueling after moving from a 9 a.m. race to a 1 p.m. race. There’s always something you wish you had done differently.
When should you do this? Ben Bergeron would tell you in the parking lot of your last race, or the day after, so that you still have the fire and passion of the season fresh in your mind. I prefer a more Jocko Willink approach and tell clients to take two weeks before doing so. That way you have a bit more objectivity and remove from it all. Either way works and like most things the important thing is just to do it.
Related to the above, do take some time to celebrate. You worked really hard and gave it your best effort. Celebrate that. If you continually tell yourself that you’ll be happy when X happens, but not till then, you’re never actually going to be happy. And if you’re not happy along the way, you’re not going to enjoy the sport which is key to getting the results you want.
“Happy racers go faster” as Dr. Kristen Keim says. Be happy with what you did. We always close out ’cross practice with a trip to the bar, in large part to celebrate the work we’ve put in. Maybe hang out with your team or friends, or just flip through Crossresults and look back on things. I will also tell you, as an old man who has been injured a few times, that there will come a point you’re going to wish you were as “slow” or “fat” as you are right now.
Do find something to do. You’ve got a big hole in your schedule now that ’cross is gone. It’s very natural to have some post-season blues. I recommend some well-earned downtime. But most of us are pretty active and doing absolutely nothing for weeks on end in the dead of winter is probably not the best move.
Find another activity to fill some of your time with. My wife and I find a series to binge watch, but it’s more of a way of reconnecting than anything else. Pick up another sport. Pick up a barbell. Find something to fill a few (but not all) of the hours you were previously devoting to racing and training to help stave off the blues and keep your head on straight.
Within that, don’t try to take your fitness with you. As I’m fond of telling people, cycling makes you really good at one thing that’s not very applicable to anything else.
In some ways, cyclocross is the best and worst about that. High intensity, running and odd object carries make you pretty robust as a person. (Hmm, funny, that all sounds familiar).
But your metabolic fitness is based around doing a series of very high-intensity efforts with recovery in between them. That does not at all translate well to doing long base miles. You’re kinda like a souffle right now and 90 minutes into a ride is slamming the oven door. If nothing else, your onboard glycogen stores are pretty minimal right now and don’t support longer rides.
All your roadie friends more or less pulled the plug in October and that break is key to getting back into longer miles. So don’t try to take your ’cross fitness right into long road miles with your buddies or try to use it as a base to support your spring/summer season.
You’ve spent the last year working hard towards a goal. And now that period is coming to its natural end. Take the lessons learned from the season and write them down so you can use them to guide you next season. Celebrate all the things that went right this season that you’re proud of. Don’t try to take the type of fitness you have right now and immediately try and parlay that into a base for whatever season comes next for you.
And while you should take a break, don’t let all those hours become immediately vacant. Let your batteries recharge for a few weeks (or more!) and come into the new season with a fresh start.