Six tips to improve your cycling during the off-season

Now's the time to plan, practice, and execute new skills, diet, routines, and more.

Photo: Marcelo Rypl

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Time always seems to get away from us. Each week seems to run into the next with never-ending tasks and to-do lists. It’s all too easy to feel like you have plenty of time to train, only to discover that the race season or summer group rides are already popping up.

Also read: Eight ways to find motivation to ride on the hardest days

Along with your normal off-season or base training, the winter months are a great time to take a step back to work on those things that you always claim you’ll get around to, someday or another. Here is my list of things you should work on in the off-season besides just your fitness.

1. Cadence

The off-season is a perfect time to perfect pedaling cadence. (Photo: Derek Weider // Pedalers Fork )

If maintaining a cadence around 90RPMs is something that you struggle with, the off-season is the perfect time to work on this element of your riding. Sometimes cadence patterns can be so ingrained in our riding style that changing them can be a huge undertaking. Work on cadence in the off-season so that trying to change your cadence doesn’t impact your hard workouts mid-season.

Don’t be surprised if changing your cadences causes your heart rate or power to temporarily change. It may be much harder to reach your normal numbers at a new cadence, but over time, you will discover that once you are used to it, riding somewhere around 90RPMs is, in fact, the most efficient.

2. Flexibility/imbalances
The off-season is a great time to work on your flexibility, mobility, or imbalances. In the winter months, you may be spending a little bit less time on the bike than normal and you can use that extra time that you normally spend riding to work on body mechanics. Try making it a habit of spending five to 10 minutes a day stretching and foam rolling.

Also read: Conquering the cold — eight tips to keep riding outdoors in cold weather

If you have an imbalance that you are aware of, the off-season is the perfect time to try to correct those imbalances. Many cyclists have weak glute medius muscles and for most people that is a great place to start. If you are unsure of what flexibility or mobility exercises you need to do then you could schedule a bike fit or a physical therapy appointment to learn more.

3. Strength training

Get your lift on, in the off-season, to make strength gains. (Photo: Ashton Lambie)

If you’ve been meaning to start your new strength training program, now is the time. Strength training can be very challenging to begin in the middle of the season because the initial muscle soreness can make it difficult to perform the training and races that you have planned. If you begin strength training in the off-season then you won’t be as sore when you continue a maintenance routine during racing season. A strength training program will help you gain muscular strength, muscular endurance, bone density, and more.

4. Nutrition management
Never try anything new on race day. You’ve probably heard that before. Practice your nutrition strategies in the off-season so that if something doesn’t fit well with you, you have time to make adjustments. Go beyond on-the-bike fueling and make any adjustments you want to try in your macronutrient intake during the off-season. If you want to try a diet or increase protein or any other significant change, start in the off-season so that if it doesn’t work for your body, you can still find your equilibrium again before racing starts.

5. Technical skills

Take the time in the off-season to improve your technical skills. (Photo: Courtesy Hannah Finchamp)

In the middle of the season when you’re trying to maximize hours, finish big routes, and hit big numbers, it can be hard to make the time to pause and session a section of the trail to overcome nerves or to perfect your technique. Use the off-season to session difficult sections of the trail and practice body position on the bike. If you live in a location where you can access trails year-round then this will be easy for you. If the trails are less available where you live, then consider practicing basic skills in a park nearby or even planning a little cycling weekend trip where you can practice skills.

6. Goal setting/race schedule
Finally, spend some time during the off-season to really sit down and think about your goals. Take a moment to write them down and share them with someone to hold you accountable. Your goals should include things you can practice every day as well as goals for results or performance goals. It’s important to determine these goals early in the year so that you can structure your training accordingly. If you structure your training according to your goals you are able to optimize your training and achieve more. Plus, if you determine your goals early in the season, you can use them to motivate you all year long.

Get Excited
Most importantly the off-season is the time to get excited for what’s ahead! Start dreaming about the possibilities and think about all of the places your bike will take you this year!

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