The season is as good as finished. What now?
Well, as ever its been a long season and youre probably glad to see an end to it, but it shouldnt be over yet. Three things should now be at the forefront of your mind. Reflection, rest and recovery. Well deal with the easiest one first; reflection.
Take time today, or this week at the latest, to sit back and reflect on the season youve just had. Get a pen and pad, I know you wont but just try it anyway, and write down the answers to the following questions:
- did I race to my preseason expectations
- did I meet the objectives I highlighted for the season
- did I enjoy my season from beginning to end
- did I race with my peers on an equal footing
- did I balance training & racing with the needs of real life
- do I feel as strong now as I did in May
Only you can answer these questions and only you can address the issues that arise from them. If you dont write the answers down now, and reflect on them, you may well not remember how your season went and what you learnt from it.
The saying goes, that you learn more from your failures than your successes. But that isnt necessarily true. Its just that most people dwell more on their failures than they enjoy their successes. Celebrate your success and analyse why things went so well. If you dont know when, how and why you succeeded how can you hope to replicate success in the future? Record it now before you forget or it gets blurred with time.
Also, if you dont make a note in your training diary (you do have one?) about what didnt work, you may well blank out your negative experience, repeat the same drills, only making them harder, to try and chase the success that previously never came, Without a true reflection you could actually make the results worse! Dont expect different outputs from more of the same inputs.
Without reflection, you may well forget what a great season youve just had and fail to enjoy your successes before you start training for next season. If you did well reward yourself, or whats the point of thrashing around the Island for ten months of the year?
Rest & Recovery
Whatever your answer to the above questions, our recommendation for you now is exactly the same. You must rest and recover and recover fully before entering into a training programme for next season. Your mind and body needs full recovery. And as you get older you need a quality recovery period, not just a short rest. Full recovery from this season is the key to a successful race programme for next season and you can only achieve that by scheduling in resting time.
Your body has to rest sometime. The clever bit about organising a training programme is to make sure you choose the time of the rest period and not let your body choose. Because when your body chooses it does so in an instantaneous and often not very nice way. Very quickly you can become run-down, lethargic and ill, severely compromising your ability to perform training of any kind.
The idea now is to slowly back out of the last season and slowly move in to the next. Cut all interval, top-end and high speed riding. You can retain about 75% of your peak season aerobic fitness by maintaining week-end club runs and some mid-week activity. The other 25% can be brought back in January and February which will then allow you to develop your anaerobic capacities back to and above your previous seasons levels. But for now, rest, quality intensive rest, is the key.
Proper rest, will help your body recover, repair and prepare itself for the forthcoming season. If you dont think and act now to incorporate some proper rest in to your end of season preparations your body will call its own halt to proceedings. Paradoxically the problem is that most of us are screaming fit, we may be mentally jaded but we think that well hang on to the fitness we now have and build on it for next year. If it were only that simple.
If it was people who have just started cycling would never be able to compete against those that have been racing for ten years. But we often find people turn up out of the blue, do a winter, and mix it with the best come April and May. How does that work? And expanding the principle further; if we trained every single day without a break, surely wed be good enough to go to the Olympics after four years? The answers no! The only place youll be going with that principle is the hospital.
Nutrition management is also important. That phrase is a fancy way of saying youve cut your activity make sure you cut your food intake. Dont go on a diet or anything daft, just make sure you eat the right things in the right quantities and make sure you treat yourself to something nice at the weekends.
Staying at peak fitness and your leanest race weight is for the summer and very stressful on your body. Dont do an Ullrich, just gain a kilo to give yourself a fighting chance when infection comes your way. So for the winter give your body a rest from maintaining racing weight. Youre not racing so why add stresses you dont need? For now we should be actively resting, intelligently eating and slowly riding. Preparing ourselves for a faster new year.
So thats it, short and sweet. Look back, think about what youve achieved and start to plan and think about next year. However next season is five months away. So relax, ride slower, ride shorter and try not to have too many treats.
Cruise through the next few weeks and start to feel fresh again. Get out the winter bike and start thinking about fitting mudguards. Go for a swim or a run but whatever you do do it non-competitively, do it slowly and get plenty of rest. The time will soon come for some heavy work and you and your body need to be ready. Get your body, your life and your health back in balance.
In the next factsheet Ill give you a tool to help you analyse and identify your own requirements for next season. We need to do it now while its fresh in your mind. So answer the questions above, have a good hard think about what youve achieved and note down any "under developed strengths" you may have that you would like addressing for next season.
Tony the Cyclosport Resident Coach