Ten steps to the perfect amateur 'off-season'

The season of weight training and nutritional debauchery is here

Image shows a rider at a cafe.
(Image credit: Future)

The summer months will soon become a distant memory - and with them the sundowner crit races, mid-week time trials and heat-drenched weekends. However, whilst the pros will begin feverishly training on the slopes of Denia and Mallorca over winter, the average amateur has a while before it's time to hit the panic button and develop 'spring knee' in a hurry.

Here's a step-by-step guide to getting the winter off-season 'right', by all amateur cyclists ever.

1. Cut back on training (and make sure to tell everyone)

There are many good reasons to begin with an end of season break

Bing on the recovery which you've failed to give your body all throughout the spring and summer. Except those hours hunched over your desk at work - which don't count.

Use the hours you would spend riding your bike to slope around the house, dragging your legs and mumbling some sort of justification for living in compression pants despite not actually exercising. If questioned about the extreme cut in hours on the bike, be sure to extol the benefits of your new training approach: convenient reverse periodisation.

2. Engage in culinary debauchery

Image shows a cycling coffee stop.

(Image credit: Future)

Power to weight is irrelevant between now and... ohh... March, maybe. And the pre-season cycling weight loss drive wouldn't be nearly so fun if you didn't gain enough weight to actually reach crisis point - so best start now. Pint of Guinness with a side of cake, please!

3. See all neglected friends and family members

Those who don't cycle with you are starting to forget what you look like when not dressed in lycra and disappearing out the door at earliest opportunity.

Spend a few weekends catching up. This may include picking up a few DIY jobs and household chores you've managed to avoid by travelling to events far, far away. Just make sure you punctuate conversations by informing everyone that this is an annual treat.

4. Find ways to destroy body in minimal time, without the bike

Image shows a rider squating.

(Image credit: Future)

With all that reverse periodisation in the bank, your muscles are starting to return to a state where a small child could prod your quads without resulting in squeals and just-about-stifled tears. So obviously it's time to screw it all right up. Really make your hard working physio/osteo/sports masseuse wince.

Suggested exercises include time spent strength training (because a core strength routine is important) and running (because bone density). Pilates and yoga are your other options. Anything that limits your ability to walk the following day, and requires a foam rolller to aid recovery. 

5. Try cyclocross

Image shows a person riding cyclocross.

Buy a new cyclocross bike, love it for a month, then break a mech hanger and spend the remainder of the cyclocross season trying to buy the correct replacement.

6. Write a training plan

Image shows a cycling training plan.

(Image credit: Future)

Once you've allowed a respectable amount of time to pass since your last big ride, you might want to start thinking about how you're going to organise your winter for best results next year.

Settle down with a coffee and a slab of cake (the dietary debauchery can continue until January), an Excel spreadsheet or a notebook with lots of coloured pens and create your own training plan.

Skim the opening chapter and headings of a few books until you feel like you're pretty much in a position to take over coaching of the GB Olympic squad and away you go.

7. Subscribe to Zwift

Image shows an avatar cycling around Zwift.

Training and competing with other people, but in the comfort of your own home, all via an indoor training app? Ace! Until you discover it's quite hard and abandon.

8. Hire a coach

Image shows a rider working with a cycling coach.

(Image credit: Future)

Follow your own cycling training plan for a few months, to varying degrees of dedication. Note that self-coaching isn't proving entirely successful, and hunt out that mate of the guy in your cycling club who sometimes writes plans for people.

Give the coach about a month to prove themselves. Question everything they ask you to do. Discuss the plan with your cycling mates and determine you all know better. Decide to save yourself the cash and spend it on a new bike - which will make you much faster.

9. Buy a new bike

Or road wheels, or power meter. Be sure to spend all available hours researching the best bike upgrades - especially if this provides excuses to avoid actual bike riding.

10. Do it all exactly like last year

Because, last year wasn't so bad - and if you hold the same form, maybe you can win the club handicap cup again. It's simple: just ride the first 10-mile cycling time trial of the season on that cyclocross bike you didn't ride all year.

This article is part of Cycling Weekly's Winter Week, guiding you through setting up your bike and yourself for riding through the winter months. There's plenty to enjoy about riding in winter, and we'll show you how to get the most out of it. Find more Winter Week articles here.

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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.

Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor. 

Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.