Those in the northern hemisphere are approaching a time in the cycling season where we’ve been doing structured training or even racing since late winter. The total volume of your riding has probably been at a fairly high level for between four to six months. Now it’s time for a rest!
Throughout the year you’ve been accumulating fatigue and now you should be preparing for a mid-season break, says Ainslie MacEachran, professional cycling coach and personal trainer. The first part of July is a good place to insert that rest period.
The problem is that for most cyclists rest is a four-letter word. Many cyclists get caught up in that idea that ‘if you’re not training, you’re not getting better’. This perspective can lead to overtraining. When you’re overtrained, it can be difficult to climb out of the hole you’ve dug for yourself.
The truth is, training and racing breaks you down. The rest is where you come back stronger.
In July I have my athletes take a week-long break from either structured training with rides being exclusively active recovery (read: very, very easy) or completely off the bike.
This period allows your body to recover, rebuild muscle, rejuvenate your central nervous system and lay some fat back on. Fat drives hormone production. When fat stores get low, you compromise your ability to efficiently produce the necessary hormones for bodily functions.
In addition to taking a rest, I suggest that my athletes let up on the diet a little and allow themselves to indulge a bit more than usual.
Not too crazy, just allow yourself to relax somewhat and in this period don’t let nutrition/eating be an anxiety producing element. I also suggest that they consider a glutamine supplement. Elevated levels of glutamine are demonstrated to signal the body to produce more human growth hormone. HGH is an essential element for muscle recovery and growth. There has been speculation that a shortage of glutamine could be closely related to overtraining.
In any event, taking a rest in the first part of July will help you to enter the second half of the cycling season recharged and refreshed. To actually experience a de-training effect you’d have to sit on the couch and eat bon bons for two weeks, so you shouldn’t worry about losing a significant amount of fitness within a five- to seven-day period. With active recovery or cross-training and a relaxed approach to nutrition, you can come back strong and mentally refreshed.
Ainslie MacEachran is a professional USA Cycling Level 2 coach and AAAI/ISMA certified personal trainer with Zoom Performance.