After the Grant Park Criterium several weeks weeks ago the offseason began for me. For me, there are really two offseasons: between road racing and cyclocross training, and between cyclocross racing and road training.
My approach to CX is pretty relaxed (race hard, take a more "for fun" approach to training), so I'm most fatigued after the road racing season. This means the break after road racing is a bit longer and a bit more restful than starting up base work in Dec/Jan. It is two or three weeks long for me.
Here's where I do during the offseason:
NO BIKE TRAINING
No more intervals, hill efforts, hard group rides or long rides. Only very chill, short rides. I'll do cross training if I feel like it, like running.
REDUCTION OF BIKE MEDIA
This is harder to do, but I try not to read racing blogs as much, research bikes less, watch less bike racing - basically try my best to reduce consumption of cycling media, whatever it is at the moment (that has also meant not writing blogs ...).
EAT AND DRINK AS MUCH AS I FEEL LIKE
Relatively of course, but I drink as much as I feel like, and eat as much of the type of food I generally try to avoid or constrict consumption as I feel like (cheese, pizza, sugary granola, "bad" Mexican food, french fries, etc).
Why have an offseason? I mean, the weather is nice, group rides are still going, what's the benefit? I think there are two main benefits:
Bike racers generally spend a large part of their waking hours training, recovering from training, and talking/thinking about bike racing. It is easy for that to become burdensome instead of pleasurable, so taking a prescribed break from everything is a good way to come back enthusiastic and ready to take on new challenges.
Generally bike racers only give their bodies a day or two a week to recover, and often only 20 hours or so between training sessions. This allows for the muscles to clear themselves out, refuel, and do basic rebuilding of damaged tissues. Doing another training sessions stops any deeper rebuilding. Taking a longer break allows the body to rebuild more deeply than it usually has the chance to.
Being successful at bike racing for most of us is hard to do without having a bit of tunnel vision. Lifting one's head up, fully focusing on everything outside of bike racing, helps to put everything in perspective, and also to get a clearer view on where your fitness is, what happened with your race season, and what's realistic for the upcoming season.
For some racers it can be difficult to not train, or do longer rides. Not having the daily hit of training induced endorphins can be a downer. Not training can make a racer feel sluggish or bloated - which is a terrible feeling for a racer to have. At those moments it can be tempting to just go out and do that extra little ride, and then do that hill just a little bit harder ... but it's important not to. Just go on a walk, do some situps and pushups, yardwork, a run - something that gets you moving. And don't worry about it - you'll get back to training soon enough.
So I hope you're all taking a bit of a break as well, and are getting ready for the CX season - it's right around the corner!