Staying Fit While Shutting Off
This one is going to be a quick one, but as a coach, it is a topic that I find myself constantly thinking about this time of year. If an athlete’s race season starts in March and ends in September, we are about halfway through the season right now. We’ve probably built up for some big spring goals, and hopefully they went well, from a physical perspective a lot of things are still good. When I look at the files the numbers are good, maybe even best, but there’s just something going on lurking in the background and you can start feeling - both as an athlete and the coach - that you’re on a precarious edge. Inconsistencies start to lurk in, maybe mental mistakes add up in races to translate to results that aren’t what the athletes are capable of.
To me, this is a big mental fatigue issue - both from racing and training. Physically the athlete might be handling the load well, but they’ve done a ton of specific intervals, they’ve done a ton of races that are really mentally taxing for a multitude of reasons - travel logistics, juggling time off work and family, then in the race battling for position and going to their max repeatedly. It’s something we all love, but it also wears us down. But the crux of the issue is we have big goals in August and September, and if we’re feeling a little run down in June how are we going to hold on until August?
The answer is we don’t hold on. We have to shut off. I find that one of the key points though is to shut off, while also not losing significant fitness. A month off the bike may feel great, and yield a ton of excitement come July, but it won’t yield a ton of fitness to go with that excitement. So we need to stay fit or even build fitness - but perhaps a different kind than what we’ve been building over the past 3 months, which is very specific race work - while also getting a bit of a mental breather. The answer - SUMMER BASE. In my mind late June and early July is all about the summer base. Taking a break from a ton of intervals, doing some long rides, ignoring your power meter, exploring new roads, riding with friends. Athletes inevitably end up doing a lot of quality work in this period - but they don’t always realize they’re doing it. And after 3 months of racing, and a lot of high intensity focused training - the base they built up all winter is shriveled up. So taking 4-6 weeks and going back to basics, but now it’s warm out, is the best thing an athlete can do to prepare for big goals in August and September.
Of course what the “summer base” should consist of is a whole other article in and of itself, and of course depends on the athlete, their races, what the first part of their season looked like, and the list goes on. The idea in general, I feel is applicable across a spectrum of athletes and scenarios. Thanks for reading!