How to Regain Your Fitness (And Come Back Strong After a Layoff)

Sidelined by injury or burnout, but you want to get back at it?

Whether you are coming back from an injury that forced you off the bike, or you were just really lazy over the holidays, here’s how to get back in shape.

1. Stay positive.
2. Be realistic.
3. Be patient.
4. Celebrate.

Stay Positive

It can be tough, especially at first, to believe that you can do it. So you need to utilize the power of positive thinking.

Know that you’re not alone in your struggle. Many other athletes are faced with injuries, illnesses, unexpected travel, and plain old busy schedules – everyone is out of shape or unprepared at some point. (Ask around your local cycling club and you’re certain to find at least one rider with a comeback story.)

Yet, a lot of people have come back from situations where all seems lost.

The mind is powerful. But you have to believe you can do it. Tell yourself you will come back. Know that you will make a comeback.

Keep thinking positive thoughts. Because there are probably more setbacks to come. So expect them, and expect to overcome them.

You may also be able to use this as motivation. You’re not behind, you’re just more motivated to get the work done!

(Here’s how to keep going forward.)

Be Realistic

When you hop back on the bike, or hit the gym, start slow. Slow and steady is the name of the game.

Know that you won’t pick up right where you left off. Instead, take a few steps back, and set reachable goals.

[If you were only out briefly and still feel strong, try an FTP test to see where you’re at physically.]

You might have to find a new goal race this year and postpone something big until next year.

In the meantime, take this as an opportunity to ride with some slower riders you wouldn’t normally ride with.

And you might want to avoid Strava altogether!

Be Patient

Don’t panic. Don’t rush anything.

Be patient.

If you’ve been out of commission for a while, you will have to reestablish your base, then gradually increase workout intensity. High-end fitness doesn’t come back instantly.

You’re probably wondering, how long to regain cycling fitness?

That depends if you have a solid base. In general, the longer you have been training, the more quickly you’ll be able to get back into it after a layoff.

If you’ve been riding for many years, even if you haven’t been riding recently, you might still be able to hop on your bike and comfortably ride 40-50 miles, maybe even climb some hills without trouble.

That’s going to be very helpful. The more base you have, the more quickly you can return to intense workouts, to regain that high-end power.

If you’re only in your first year or two of riding, you may need to start this season’s base training over again from the beginning.

(You also may not have built up that much muscle strength, and your ligaments and tendons might not be ready for hard training. It takes your legs longer to return than your lungs, as the saying goes. If you sense a problem, slow down.)

It’s all a matter of timing and keeping in mind when you need to be strong, and for which specific events.

Celebrate Your Progress

During this phase of coming back, celebrate your accomplishments. Those realistic goals? When you complete them, celebrate! (It doesn’t’ matter if they seem like little baby steps.)

This helps you to stay positive.

Bonus tip: eat something healthy. Healthy food will make you feel like an athlete again!

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