Off Season - Things to do and think about

I think for most of us off season has arrived or is fast approaching (except for the ones tearing up the cross races!). There are more people on Zwift, more races, more events, more more more. Since I am not an active outdoor winter sport person, Zwift keeps me fit and sane. I have been good so far, but the urge is there to do all the fun things on Zwift. My A event was in August and since then I have been doing all the workouts and enjoying casual rides with my sweetie. Now I am beginning to feel a little antsy, especially since the days are too short and cold now for long outdoor rides.

Can we talk about how to do off season? How do I keep from going overboard with Zwift events? I actually enjoy training, so it’s the days when there isn’t anything scheduled that I struggle and in looking for something to do, risk doing too much.

Also, goals for next year. What are some things to consider when thinking about them? I am currently stuck at “improve my time on certain events” which is good but is not exactly exciting or super motivating.

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I’m antsy too - so decided to try cx this season, i’m not doing it for competition - just fitness and in hopes that my bike handling skills will improve. Each race im seeing an improvement in endurance and skill which is great. Good luck to you!

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This is a great topic @Stefanie so thanks for posting it! I offer up my considerations below… let’s keep the conversation going!

The true meaning of the “off-season”…

The term “off-season” means different things to different athletes.

For pro-cyclists, it means they take their volume and intensity way down. They might even take some time off the bike completely. They can “afford” to do some of that because of (a) how busy and demanding their schedules are with big events all over the country/world; and (b) their lives are built around training, so when they get back to hard work, that’s all they do, and they have all the support to make that happen because that’s their job.

For amateur cyclists, it should (in my opinion) mean changing training focus, and not time off the bike or taking intensity down. The volume will go down naturally if you have cold winters, because you will be indoors more, and won’t be doing long rides/events as often. But training should continue. If you (as an amateur cyclist) follow a well-structured, well-balanced training program, you won’t need to take time off because you won’t be burnt out, over-fatigued, or over-trained. That’s the best approach because we lose fitness very quickly. It would be a complete waste of time, energy, and money to let everything you worked so hard to build go down the drain.

So the key is to continue to progress, continue to build on what you already have over the winter months (or indoor season).

Our indoor season training plans

With the above as a background, you can expect to continue to have engaging and effective workouts during the indoor season while training with us. We will continue to build your top-end (zones above threshold), as an effective way to raise the zones below it. We will also focus on skills that will come in handy later outdoors, skills that will make you faster. Also, during these months you will have more room for fun and experimenting.

For the month of December, when people are extra-busy, traveling, and even stressed out, we will have a “holiday special” fun month with feel-good workouts that will make you feel accomplished and energized.

How to not go overboard on Zwift in the winter months?

This can be a tough one. It’s a little like overeating… and you may need to ask yourself- what is it that you are after? Is it boredom? Is it wanting to compensate for being more sedentary in the winter or eating more? Is it FOMO because everyone else is riding and doing these events all the time? You see where I am going with this… It helps think about your reasons for wanting to do more to help you design your days to get what you are really after, and what is going to be good for you.

Depending on the answers, you might try to add some new activity in the winter that is not bike-related. Strength training and yoga are good examples.

Scheduling these events alongside your training is the easy part, and I can help guide you along the way. If you decide to do a race, that replaces a workout. Feel bored and want to just ride more days - you can always go easy- and even join a faster group by changing your weight so that you are not going hard. You can still do longer rides on weekend if you want on the trainer - as long as it is not a 3+ hour steady ride! Do some climbing, change terrain, change power, cadence, body positions (seated/standing), etc.

And for some people their main season is their indoor season!

Goals for next year

Having a main event or events is usually something that helps many athletes keep focused on their training. Or, instead of having one or two big events, you could have several and smaller goals or targets throughout the year, such as a race series in Zwift, or being able to PR at a segment, or simply being able to do something you could not do before (or do it better).

At the end of the day, it’s about consistency and progression on the training side.

Then on the personal side, it goes back to what’s inside of you. What is it that keeps you going, day in and day out? What makes you excited and fired up to train every day? The answer to these questions are INTERNAL reasons, and not external (such as an event), so finding it and knowing yourself better will help you keep the motivation going.

I am the opposite of having a big event/goal. I don’t like having them because they stress me out from the moment I sign up to the moment they happen. I don’t like outcome-based goals and don’t have them as a result. I like to have weekly or even daily mini-goals, such as accomplishing a workout; matching the intensity of a training week with good nutrition; getting progressively stronger/faster/smarter; learning/improving skills; trying something new. I have “general” goals such as - focus on gravel and cyclocross rides/events/races. So my training has a general direction, but I don’t have a time goal or podium goal. I will go and give the best darn performance I can give, and that is my goal for these events.

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Hi everyone - just getting back into really training and riding again after Terry’s accident in July - I have really tanked on fitness and feel a bit over whelmed at starting all over again - so happy to see this as my first post - seems I may not be alone in feeling confused as to where to go on an off season training plan.

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Nice to have you back @mpatton!

Ow wow, I really should bookmark and reread your post every so often @Coach_Theia!

I too feel overwhelmed with all the events going on at Zwift. And also, I feel really lost in where to start etc when it comes to riding. In the past all my sports were just about ‘doing something’ and not really focussed on training, progression, building and improving.

In my mind I’m trying to make the shift, as I want to improve. But I am lost at the same time.

As ZA was a really good motivator for me to ride with more consistency, I’ve just joined a team on Zwift. To have the feeling of support and a reason to try to keep up with riding regularly. But I’ve also planned to not just hop on various group rides etc on Zwift, just because that’s what ppl are doing. I’m hoping to maintain the idea of two workouts a week that have a building focus and then complete that with a group ride or race with my team. Will be a challenge, as FOMO is always there.

I don’t really have a goal for next year. I don’t like to plan ahead that long. Only thing I’ve booked is a cycling weekend in Germany, and I know for sure that if I can keep building this winter, progression will be there anyway. No need to make that a focus.

So I guess, my focus will be all about building, consistency and progression from where I am now for this winter. Thank you for giving me a ‘goal’!

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Oh! This is exciting!

I see my seasons split in two with the outdoor season dedicated to long endurance rides and indoor season to short, intense rides and races with the occasional I’m going stir crazy 100-mile Saturday ride. :grinning: I’ve got no FOMO issues and I don’t generally gain weight in winter, it’s more of a cooped up boredom thing I think. Plus I like Zwift races because it tickles my competitive side in a way that outdoor endurance events don’t quite satisfy in the same way. And since my allergies typically don’t bother me in winter, it’s fun to go hard and actually be able to breathe!

I will have to do some thinking about goals. There is a hill I am currently 6th on for women that I didn’t get to test myself on this year that is calling out to me . . .

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@Stefanie are you talking about a strava segment hill?? I love pushing myself on those…

Yes @mpatton, a Strava segment hill. We have so few actual hills around here it’s exciting to have one to throw myself at. It is creepily similar to the Zwift hilly KOM. There is another hill about 10 miles down the road that is about a block long that starts at 14% grade before shooting up to 30%. I have never dared try that one and have been using the excuse that my bike isn’t geared for it. Hmm, maybe one of my goals will be to really work on low cadence and climbing skills and make an attempt at Chilkoot Hill. There’s a cafe at the top so I can treat myself when I make it! :grinning:

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As far as goals and other activities I would like to very very slowly ease into running a bit. I miss it but not sure my hips and knees can take it anymore. Next season I am not sure yet if I want to keep crit racing or just stick to road and TT, but crit racing is very popular here on Colorado and my team goes for BRAC cup points - and well I’m competitive :wink: sooooo gotta go for the points.

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Oh nice!! You should totally try that 14%+ hill!! You are a goat for sure!!! We want an update when you do decide to go for it🤪

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We’re just leaving our summer/slow indoor season so this is fresh in my mind. I really like a lot of what Theia said. During the off season here I try to do 1-3 workouts a week during the week and then get outside at least once on the weekend just to stop from being so stir crazy. Other than ZA completion I don’t really get a lot of FOMO and I pretty much ignore any Zwift event that doesn’t interest me. There are at least 2 new routes that I still haven’t seen because when I do zwift workouts I ride the flattest route possible to maximize the mileage that I get out of it.
I’m one who does like having a goal during the on season so that I have a reason to keep riding through the off season and start off strong, rather than having to spend the first month of nice weather rebuilding what I let go.

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This is such a great topic. I was injured much of this year - 9 months of sciatica, so my in-season became my off-season. I learned a lot during that time, particularly it’s okay to change your goals, distances and timelines and still have a good time.
I will be turning to more inside riding soon. I do like having goals to give me some motivation to ride and train. I am not a racer but do like to try different adventures. I may race a little more on zwift just to push myself.
This fall/winter I am adding swimming and weight training to my routine. It is during this time that I put together a calendar of events I would like to participate in. I mountain, gravel and road ride and we have lots of great events and opportunities. I am doing another week long bike tour in Maine and am looking at another in Iceland.

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What is ‘off-season’?! LOL! My multisport season officially ends this Sunday, but I always try to keep something on the calendar otherwise my motivation is in the tank! I’m doing a stairclimb race in December to change things up. My A race for 2020 is in May - Ironman Tulsa and the course is a hilly one so I plan to spend the winter strengthening my legs and working on hill training.

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Off season/on season… not sure I have a great differentiation except for the fact that I don’t ride as much in the winter. That changed last year with Zwift and hope that I can keep it up this winter also.
Question for @Coach_Theia and others: how do you feel about strength training and cycling? For the last 4 years, I have been going to a HIIT/Bootcamp style gym anywhere between 2-4 times per week (depending on the season) and it just closed. I am feeling at a loss… Coincidentally, you started this program last week so I have been able to keep working out at least on the bike. But I don’t know if I should start again strength training while we do this challenge, or wait… Any suggestions? I don’t want to lose everything I have gained the last few years and have to start over, but I don’t want to counter the benefits of one with the other. I appreciate any and all comments :slight_smile: Maria

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Another fantastic topic!

Strength training is important for every human body. Specially as we age, as we lose muscle at a fast rate every year, so it takes strengthening to simply maintain muscle! Strength training is also key to strong bones. So overall, strength training is one of the best things you can do to have quality of life as you age.

However, the strength training I am referring to is weight training - as in - lifting iron! HIIT and Bootcamp are more cardio/endurance and not the same as lifting weights. Yes, it helps with developing muscles, but it is similar to endurance training - low weight, lots of reps. So while it works several parts of your body, it is not very different than cycling. As such, it might not be the best investment of your time. Although if you like it, go for it - but keep in mind that it is probably “competing” as opposed to “supporting” your cycling.

The strength training you should be aiming for is fewer reps and heavier weights - so yeah, those you do in the weight room. Those are also the ones that will benefit you the most on the bike.

@NUGirl this topic might interest you as well…

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@sjelinski :heart: Thanks so much!! I’m excited to get back at it!!

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I was about to post about this. I am part of a fitness program called My Peak Challenge. There is a fantastic workout program with a heavy strength component. I was doing really well with it until knee issue ps derailed me last year. I’m ready to get back to it, but quite honestly I’m not sure I can take the pain of getting started with weights again! I need suggestions for easing into weights again without totally killing myself and not being able to walk for a week. I did 10 minutes of a ballet training DVD yesterday and I’m feeling it in my quads today, and I know it will be worse tomorrow.

My plan is to do strength 2 days per week. Is it best to do short sessions at first and gradually build up? Or just suffer with the soreness until I get over the hump?

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I do strength training 2-3 x plus Pilates or Barre usually 2x and 1 HIT style class a week - i do use these in lieu of coach’s Core/plyos some days since Pilates/barre for sure is core and with the strength training, it depends what my personal trainer has me do or he has our group class do. Since I started working out with @Coach_Theia he’s had me focus more on strength and less cardio since he knows I get that from my bike WOs. There are weeks I swear the 2 have talked even though they’ve never met each other :sweat_smile: I started doing all that just because I dont want to be the old lady that can’t get on the bus in a few years - now i keep it up because i know its an important balance in my fitness plan

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That’s a great sign, @PaleGail!!