Abi-Smith: The art of off-season. Offseason – the bittersweet end to the year of racing. On one hand, the complete relief and relaxation that the constant riding, day in day out, can finally be put on hold for a few weeks. On the other hand, the constant riding, day in day out, is all that we ever really want to do!
I won’t lie; the few weeks of not having to do anything, of not having to set an alarm, not having be anywhere – feels so good. It’s almost indulgent. Watching friends and family carry on with their everyday jobs while I lounge about, eating, sleeping and doing whatever I wanna do, does make me feel just a tiny bit guilty… but then again, it’s part of the job right?! The race season is so full on, so hectic and so tiring that this is what off season really is all about. Work hard, play hard.
I haven’t been doing this professional bike racing stuff long, so I’m still figuring out what works for me, but this year I’ve had around 3 weeks off the bike. The occasional MTB easy pedal, walk or run, but nothing too strenuous at all. It’s nice to pick up other things you don’t usually have time for – this I could recommend to anybody to do for just a few weeks of the year actually.
For professional riders, cycling once started off as just a hobby. From then it has grown and grown, to become a much bigger part of our lives, and is now a full time job (of which I feel incredibly privileged to be able to say). Now though, sometimes it is hard to separate hobby and job, and so having a variety of other things to enjoy in our spare time becomes important to keep the balance.
I know that for me I have a particularly busy and creative mind – I like to spend my time productively – to have goals and projects to focus on, and feel like I have achieved something useful. The main one for me is art. I love to paint and draw, and recently have had a few commissions which I find are a good challenge and really rewarding.
I also like to do a bit of strava art (incorporated into training). This started during lockdown, to keep myself entertained by finding funny shapes or animals I could ‘draw’ on the map. Most recently I have done a Halloween special (picture attached below along with some of my other ones). They’re surprisingly difficult to do, but by all means I’d love to see any that you readers have tried!
More recently I have taken up learning French. It’s slow progress… but it’s a good little task to do everyday to keep my brain ticking over. It’s fair to say that I might need some help from my Canadian teammates when we all meet up again! I also did a coaching course in October, just to see what might take my fancy in the future, along with some other creative writing projects and of course some baking (which does not last very long in my household). I don’t really know what I want to do after cycling – hopefully that is a long way off(!) but it’s always good to think about other options and other aspects of my life off the bike – we are not just cyclists after all – there are many riders who have lots of different strings to their bow. I have quite a lot that I am interested in, and one day I would like to do a degree, possibly in something biology-related. But that can wait just for now 😊
The other thing that’s been keeping me busy is buying a house. Unfortunately the markets are pretty crazy right now, and as a first time buyer I really do feel like a very little fish lost in a very big ocean, but we are getting there and hope to move in by the end of the year.
By the last week of the off season, the legs start to twitch and the brain says ‘right, I want to get back on my bike!’, which is a good sign that I’m feeling ready to train again. Not long enough and the body won’t have had long enough to rest and reset itself ready for the Winter training. Too long and the body will start to lose too much fitness, which doesn’t feel too good when jumping back into training!
I have really enjoyed my off season this year, really taken time to wipe the slate clean and to figure out my new goals and motivations for next season. And going on holiday abroad without going to a race really was quite nice once in a while! But I can’t wait to get a good Winter of training under my belt, and be back at the racing next year.
I’ll see you there!
Here is the link to my art Instagram page if you would like to see some more of what I am painting and drawing (or would like a commission!)