Offseason hangout

This may seem like an odd time to start an “off-season” in the Northern hemisphere, but i’m getting married and going on a honeymoon so i’ll be off the bike for about four weeks total. Plus, i kind of overdid it in the build up to my 100 miler MTB race back in July, and just felt super tired afterwards. so, putting 2+2 together, i plan to use this as the pivot point to take a little time off, do a little yoga, running and bodyweight exercises, then start up a long, slooooooowwww build up of structured endurance (base) training starting in October. My first race of next year will likely again be in May.

I’m in process of doing about a week of stretching and yoga, then i’ll start throwing in easy jogs and body weight exercises like pushups and core. They don’t seem to tax me that much and i feel better doing them consistently vs. intermittently. I probably won’t be able to do much more than just easy jogging from an endurance perspective, but it is what it is.

October might be early to start base but i plan to compensate by building up slowly. Focus for the first month will be lifting heavier weights in the gym, pushing out longer easy endurance rides and working on MTB skillz.

No specific questions here just starting this thread to discuss and compare approaches to off-season. This is going to be my longest time off the bike in about three years so i’m interested to see how this goes.


Interesting question!

I’m looking forward to seeing the responses to this one.

I know @ryan seems to have begun his off-season after building some serious fatigue at Breck Epic.

Here is a Coach Connor’s take on The Benefits of Taking an Offseason.

And here is more info on planning your season.

Heyo so I pretty much took the month of September off of endurance training. A few short runs, and body weight strength routines, but nothing major. My wife and I were traveling and it just wasn’t feasible.

I started a strength routine in October and also hopped back on the bike, and two questions came up so far:

  1. I seem to have lost a lot of endurance, a lot more than I expected. I thought, endurance adaptations come slowly and leave slowly, but these seem to have gone quickly. My heart rate starts to drift and I feel fatigued only an hour or two into longer rides, and my heart rate for the same power is 15 bpm higher than before the break. What’s going on here? Did I really lose that much physiologically or is it something different? Eg, is the decrease based on chemical things like mitochondrial density and function that’ll bounce back quick? Or maybe, was I never actually all that fit, but just so tired that HR was blunted? Or is it something like, VLAMax is way up because of the time off plus the weights, so performance’s come back if I drive it down? Particularly curious about @steveneal ’s take here.

  2. What’s the best way to reintroduce harder rides? I don’t think I’d be up to a performance test yet. I was thinking I could do very short efforts on RPE (so power / testing is less relevant), or maybe build up tempo using HR targets (so again, less reliant on power). Whatcha guys think? @ryan , what do you do with your athletes in this situation?


Great topic @BikerBocker! Thanks for tagging me, @Dave. Yes, as Dave said, after building up that fatigue at Breck Epic, I all but put the bike aside and was pretty much only riding on the days that I coached my high school team.

I’m glad you took that time off in September. You should see some declines in fitness during that time. That’s the indicator for me that it’s time to start that process for the next season. You now have a place from which to rebuild and track improvement.
So a question for you to follow-up: On point #2, it looks like you’re wanting to reintroduce harder rides? Can you be more specific on that - e.g., what kinds of sessions or just tempo at this point, how frequently, how intense, and what the goal of this reintroduction would be? How does it fit into your overall plan for 2022?

To your question though, when it comes to reintroducing harder rides in general, I would definitely recommend a HR-based and RPE-based approach rather than power. There is plenty you can do to track your progress, so formal testing right away would not be high on my list. I like to track the power/HR relationship so I can see how that efficiency is increasing through the base phase. Here’s the chart I use. This can be made into a “test” by doing some consistent regular sessions with a steady HR and then check improvements in power over time.

You can see the left circle showing that gradual improvement from base training. And then the right circle shows the next season where the starting point was a little higher, but the trend is the same. It’s not perfect, as you can see some outliers here and there and segments of no data, but it helps with the decision making. Here’s a zoomed in version - I’ll check on the progress of the Power/HR and Resting HR. Once that gets into a usual range and paired with improved sensations/RPE, then I would consider that time for adding harder rides.

Biggest thing though that I focus on is trying not to rush it. I’d like to see an athlete hit a good range in terms of these numbers, along with improved sensations and perceptions of the effort on longer rides, and then maintain that for some time.

Hope that helps.

I am not sure I can comment too much as I don’t really know how long you have been training? How long you have been really working on a proper endurance base?

Do you track resting metrics such as resting heart rate? If so what has the trend of your waking heart rate been over this same period?

A month is a solid break and I am not sure I would get too worried until 2-3 weeks back on the bike and see how you are feeling and how the numbers are looking again.

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Hi guys, thanks so much for weighing in with your thoughts.

First, the goal of re-adding some harder rides is as follows:
i. build some fitness for next season in a sustainable fashion. I have time to ride but not quite enough time that i’ll improve by doing just zone 1, or at least not continue to improve for very long
ii. and to assist overall goal i. listed above by more quickly rebuilding the strenght, endurance and efficiency to go longer on my zone 1 rides.
iii. but also to keep it sustainable. I’ve tried to do a full reverse periodization before with intensity in the winter and then building volume in the spring, but i just felt flat, peaked early and then struggled to maintain. Wasn’t great.

Hence why i am thinking that the move here might be to slowly build tempo. Then a sample week would look like:
Monday off
Tuesday strength in the AM, full body, big compound lifts, 4-6 rep range, easy zone 1 and/or pedaling drills in the evening
Wednesday zone 1 ride but adding some tempo, starting with something easy like 1x30 but building up from there
Thursday Easy zone 1 ride, plus some core work and stretching
Friday strength again in the AM, full body but with lighter weights and single leg movements like single-leg hip hinges and squats, easy spin in the PM
Saturday longer and easy
Sunday either longer and easy or a shorter MTB ride

@steveneal, i’ve been doing endurance athletics for a long time but probably in the past ran/rowed/cycled too hard and not long enough to really build the endurance well. I took a ten year break and then came back to mountain biking in 2017. But last year was my first year where i really tried to slow it down, lengthen it out, and take the time to build a good foundation rather than rushing.

My waking HR is high 50s right now. When i’m well trained and training well, it’s low 50s or high 40s. When i’m well trained but overdoing it, it’s high 50s to low 60s.

so i’m high 50s right now upon waking but i also feel good and have energy, so i think i’m in a decent spot, just detrained a bit. I’m not worried, just trying to think about what’s the best way to get back stronger.

Thanks again for your thoughts!

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Update, the endurance is already starting to come back, so i’m less impatient about riding hard again.

I did a longer easy ride on Saturday and got to hour 2 before my heart rate started drifting up and i felt tired. Extended it to 3.5 hrs. Heart rate drifted up but i didn’t need to drop the power. I felt hungry after wards but good, surprisingly good, the next day.

Saturday it was rainy so decided to go out and ride some tempo. Rode tempo were terrain permitted, rested where terrain dictated, over a mtb ride. Got a full hour in at tempo in the course of a 2.5 hour ride and still felt strong at the end.

So this is like, double the TiZ vs. last week without much effort.

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