September traditionally marks the beginning of the end of the cycling season. Big events like the Old Kentucky Home Tour and the Hilly Hundred for tourists, or the A to Z Classic for racers, give an air of excitement to this time of year. Yet at the same time, as the days get shorter, enthusiasm for day to day riding begins to wane. A loss of interest in riding is normal this time of year, and differs from the burnout of overtraining in some important ways. Unlike overtraining, you may have a positive attitude and just not feel like riding. You may feel completely rested but be unable to meet performance marks set earlier in the year. These are signs that the season is drawing to a close. Whatever the reason, the enthusiasm just isn't there.
What can you do? First, realize that what you are experiencing is a normal reaction to a long season. Cycling enjoys one of the longest seasons of any sport. Many of us have been riding and training hard since January first or even earlier. Now is the time to sit back and evaluate the season; contemplate the failures and bask in the successes. This is also a good time to begin thinking about next season. Use the accomplishments of the season that just ended as building blocks for the coming year's goals. After outlining your goals you can begin to think about training plans.
Next, park the bike for awhile, or at least dramatically taper back on the mileage, and do something else. Something else does not include piloting a sofa while doing 16-oz. curls and a finger workout on the remote control. You have spent too much time building a fitness base to let it all go to beer and bean dip. What you're looking for is something that is fun, physically challenging, and different from cycling. There are a wide variety of activities you can choose from; but, keep in mind some basic principles. Your primary goals are fun and fitness, whatever you choose needs to meet these criteria first and foremost. Secondly, you want something that gives a full body workout. The idea here is to begin to correct any muscle imbalances that developed during the season, (between the quadriceps and hamstrings, for example) and prepare for the more strenuous work that begins in early winter. Finally look for something that emphasizes agility, flexibility, and balance.
‘Tis the time for cross training! There are a great variety of sports available to keep you fit and interested during the off season. Group or team sports you may consider include soccer, volleyball, Ultimate Frisbee, and basketball. Individual activities like running, hiking and backpacking, swimming, and inline skating are very good. Mountain biking is also an excellent choice of activity. Though you are still on a bike, off road riding offers an exciting change of pace and scenery, and is also an excellent way to improve your bike handling skills. Remember to ride responsibly if you decide to bike on the trails.
Take advantage of this time of year to recover both mentally and physically. Reflect on your accomplishments, begin thinking about your future plans. Explore as many new activities as you'd like. There is no reason to limit yourself to just one. Most importantly, realize that this is just part of a larger cycle of the sport we call Cycling.
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