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.