My social media feed is filled with athletes talking about their off-season or restarting training for next season at this point in the year. Off-seasons can look different for everyone, and everyone needs something different to switch off from the season that just finished. A key to going into an off-season is understanding the reason for taking one. Some people may see time off the bike or away from training as a negative to future performance. Time away from exercise to let your body recover and not be under high stress for a couple of weeks is crucial to continue progressing as an athlete.
I am not qualified to speak on the science and physiology of the benefits of rest, but when you look at the top athletes in the sport, you will see them taking time away from the bike. I also can say from personal experience that spending a couple of weeks away from cycling and high-performance training allows you to rest fuller than the “rest days” you take during the season.
I won’t talk about everything I did during my offseason, but I will talk about how I feel coming out of it and restarting training. In this way, I can share the importance of taking time off. As the title implies, I feel rested and focused for the season ahead. At the beginning of my rest period, I did not want to think about the 2024 season. I enjoy setting goals and planning, but at that point in the year, I simply wanted to focus on spending time with family, catching up with friends, and doing activities I could not do during the season.
By entirely shutting off from cycling, I got the physical and mental rest I needed from the 2023 season. I needed to understand that I didn’t need to rush back into training for 2024. I allowed myself the freedom to decompress and find the motivation to start riding again without any pressure.
A sign for me when it is time to start training again is when I miss riding my bike and want to ride for enjoyment. Some might argue that they want to ride daily, but I needed and wanted time away from the bike. When I want to ride for joy and not solely for fitness, I know I am mentally fresh, and the time off worked. At this point, I will start slowly riding again, but not with structure. For example, this year, I went to the velodrome once and rode Madison with my brother, went for an E-MTB ride with my dad, and explored some mountain bike trails around my parent’s house that I used to train on. All three of these rides were fueled by the joy of riding a bike.
Coming out of my off-season, I feel recharged, motivated, and focused to take on my goals for the 2024 season. These three feelings are something that everyone should aim to take with them from their off-season.
I hope you enjoyed reading about what I aim to accomplish by taking time off from the bike each season. I am fully back to structured training and living in Spain for the winter this year. If you want to see what I am up to, please follow me on my Instagram account @meganjastrab.
All the best,