The warm weather is behind us as the season continues to transition to the cold and darkness of winter, you may be contemplating how to keep in shape since your opportunities to ride outside are diminishing. But you should also consider when you will be taking a break. You may have work and a family that keep you busy year round but throughout the warmer seasons, many of your free hours are spent riding. While you may not ride and race as much as a professional, you too can benefit from some time off the bike.

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You may be motivated to keep as much of your fitness as possible over the winter but the best way in doing that may be taking a break now or after your cyclocross season comes to a close. Taking time to recover from the season you’ve had, relax on your own terms before refocusing before next spring can yield benefits for your motivation and fitness. Here are the reasons you should take a break before hopping on the trainer

1) Reset

Mentally turning the switch off for a couple of weeks can help give you a refreshed approach to your training. Switch your focus from maintaining and gaining fitness to approaching your goals with renewed enthusiasm. There is no rush and pressure to stay in peak form all winter. Assess what worked this past year and what didn’t. With a fresh start to your training, you can better tailor your plan to what you found worked this year.

2) Relax

Everyone’s motivation to ride fluctuates. To make sure your motivation is high when it matters, it’s a good idea to relax a bit before refocusing your training in time for spring. Don’t worry about your numbers in the coming weeks. If you do ride, do it for fun with an eye on exploration and enjoyment. If the weather is bad or you are tired, don’t feel compelled to get that training session in. Once you have spent a couple of weeks relaxing, chances are you will be itching to get back to it with renewed enthusiasm. With a bit more time on your hands, try meditating to really unwind and maybe you’ll find you keep on doing it once you start riding more.

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3) Cross training

Cyclists are notorious for not doing much else than riding. Skipping gym days, core training and even stretching. While taking time off the bike, find other ways to be active to keep from losing too much fitness. Go for a light jog, buy some passes to the local yoga studio, take time stretching and doing core work, or hit the gym to change things up. You may be able to implement some of the activities you find you enjoy the most into your routine ahead of next season.

4) Spoil yourself

The right amount of self-restraint is important to keeping in shape but while you are taking a break, indulge a bit in the things you love guilt-free. That can be in the form of sweets and treats, or if you’ve been eyeing some gear you’ve been holding off purchasing maybe getting it now will give you renewed motivation once you get back riding. While you aren’t riding as much, it’s a great chance to allow yourself a bit more flexibility.

5) Find renewed motivation

Maybe your goals in 2018 didn’t quite keep you focused or you didn’t quite hit the fitness you hoped to find. Look back on the season and what you could have done differently. Maybe you found you lost motivation mid-season and let yourself slip or were too ambitious when you set yourself goals. Reframe what you want to achieve in a way that makes it possible to succeed.

6) Self-care

Don’t feel guilty about not riding. Instead, see it as a chance to take care of your physical and mental health. While nobody wants to spend too much time away from something you love, being anxious or stressed about reaching a certain fitness doesn’t benefit any amateur rider. A break can be your chance to treat yourself to the rest, recovery and relaxation that you require. Go for a message if you have tension in your body or consult with a physio now if there were any recurring injuries that need to be addressed before you start riding the trainer or winter bike.

7) Free time

When you aren’t riding four, eight or more hours a week you will find you have more time for other activities. Fill this time by putting more energy into your friendships that you haven’t had as much time for or doing activities with your family. Pick up a book or explore your other interests since you’ll have a bit more time on your hands. If you must, you can even tune-up and clean your bike so it’s ready for when you are riding again.

8) Experiment

By implementing a new diet or cross training mid-season, you run the risk of needing to deal with unintended consequences of these changes. The offseason is the perfect time to experiment to find out what works and doesn’t work for you. Once you start training again, your body may suffer if you are trying something that it isn’t accustomed to. While taking a break, commit to making these changes and apply what you discover works and doesn’t work once you get back into the full swing of riding, be it on the trainer or the winter bike.

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9) Plan

Take time to contemplate what you want to achieve in the coming year. Are you eyeing an upgrade in your local circuit? Are you planning a big trip you want to be fit for? Or do you just want to doll out the pain on your riding friends? Once you know where you are headed, consult with a coach or draw out a path to those events and plan your training accordingly. If you peak goal is still months away, don’t aim to be in peak fitness in April but set realistic milestones for yourself throughout the winter. Be realistic with where you think you can be by the end of the winter.

10) Ease back into cycling with no pressure

After a break, you’ll want to transition back into your riding routine. Instead of hitting the trainer hard or immediately putting in big weeks, give yourself a week or two to get back into the habit. You may be eager to get right back to it but being patient can yield big results and help you stay on track with your plan.

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