mid-season slump

Here’s How to Revive Your Cycling Season After a Slump

By Maddison Russell,
CTS Pro Coach

At some point, all athletes lose focus and motivation. By the middle of summer, many athletes have been training consistently for months, and been competing in several goal events. Whether it’s oppressive heat, vacations, or a lack of direction for the second half of the season, athletes can lose focus and fall victim to a “mid-season slump.” This is where your motivation wanes, it gets harder to execute key workouts, and you find yourself spending less time on the bike. 

One of my athletes, Grant, was in a particularly difficult spot this summer. First, an illness forced him off of the bike, and then he had to miss his big event of the summer due to a scheduling conflict. He had put in some great work and had a good foundation of fitness to work with. On paper, he was in prime position to keep things rolling and to continue to build. Because of the circumstances, though, his motivation to continue with structured training took a hit. He was left without a clear direction.

During our coaching sessions, we explored his options and used a variety of strategies to establish new training goals and refocus our approach. He took time to mourn the loss of his original goal (yes, that’s a mourning process), but was able to schedule time to ride the event’s course on his own. Completing the course without the additional event support turned into a meaningful accomplishment. Afterward, he returned to structured work with a renewed level of motivation, no fitness loss, and some big new goals to chase. 

You don’t have to let a mid-season slump work against you. Instead, you can let it work for you if you implement the following steps for maintaining motivation and keeping yourself on track.

Take Pride in Previous Achievements

As coaches and as athletes, we tend to focus a lot on “what’s next.” This can be a powerful motivator and help you find new challenges. However, unless you recognize your accomplishments and what they mean for your development, moving forward too quickly can lead to a feeling of never being satisfied. This can lead you to swing back the other way and lose sight of the long-term process. It’s important to reflect on your training and the events you’ve done and to relish your personal victories.

If you have set short term and long term goals for the year, now is a good time to look back at those goals and see how well you have met them. If you haven’t met the goals you initially set for yourself, that is okay. It’s likely that you’ve grown and accomplished other things you may not have set out to do. If you’re feeling a mid-season slump in motivation and you still have goals left that you haven’t met yet, reflect on how you’ve grown and leverage those accomplishments to establish a pathway to established goals and new ones.

Re-Evaluate Lifestyle Stress

Your lack of motivation may not be entirely related to training. The mid-season is a good time to examine lifestyle factors that may be diminishing motivation or affecting the direction and execution of your training plan. Your life informs what you can put into training, so it’s a great time to check-in with yourself if you’ve been feeling “blah” on the bike. 

There are often heavy mental and emotional components to a mid-season slump, so we need to look at an athlete’s lifestyle. Whether on your own or with a coach or partner’s help, honestly examine your stress levels and potential sources of elevated stress. A consistently high stress level limits performance in a similar manner as too much volume or intensity on the bike. 

Reducing Stress

If you were doing too much on the bike, we’d cut back to achieve the right work:rest ratio. If lifestyle stress is high and cannot be lowered right now, it is important to reduce training workload to compensate. There is no exact science to this, but first focus on reducing the structure and pressure of workouts, before reducing frequency and volume of rides. Identify where you feel the most pressure from training or competing, and remove that element first. 

For example, if you feel overwhelmed by trying to maintain a power range, disconnect your power meter and gauge intensity by rate of perceived exertion (RPE) for a while (read more about RPE). If the logistics and performance expectations of events are too stressful right now, it’s okay to cut back on competitions and maybe shift towards a lower pressure environment. Ride the group ride instead of the regional criterium. Go for the gran fondo instead of the road race. Above all, be kind to yourself in these moments, as even the most “mentally tough” athletes need a break when life gets stressful.

Listen to Your Body

Mid-season slumps often result from being out of touch with what your body has been telling you. You had big goals and the determination to accomplish them. Sometimes an athlete’s mentality overrides the signals sent from the body. If your workouts aren’t going well, you can’t complete sessions, and you’re getting discouraged by that, it may be time to take a step back and get some prolonged recovery. 

A common scenario athletes encounter is a feeling that any intensity above endurance miles or Zone 2 feels like a mental chore and is harder (higher RPE) than normal. This is a clear red flag that an athlete needs a break. A two-week period of reduced training time and minimal structure in the middle of the season can be a great starting point. And don’t return to training until you’re eager to, even if that takes a few more weeks. 

Recover after A Races

Goal-oriented athletes sometimes want to return to training immediately after goal events. Because of the taper before the event, and hopefully a great performance on race day, they feel strong and happy and ready for more. But the taper was just a short deloading period to freshen up for a competition. They need real rest before they can build again. 

Free Cycling Training Assessment Quiz

Take our free 2-minute quiz to discover how effective your training is and get recommendations for how you can improve.

I typically have athletes take at least a week off the bike (or with only light recovery activities) after completing their initial A races of the season. This provides important physical and mental recovery from the specific overload we did before the goal event. It’s also time to reflect on and enjoy their accomplishment. 

As much as you want to leverage the fitness you gained for your last event and move on to the next one, your body has endured a long training process. A mid-season break might be what you need to reset and readjust. You don’t have to be “overtrained” or “burned out” to warrant a mid-season break. A preemptive strike – through a recovery period or unstructured riding – may be what you need to avoid overtraining later in the year. Don’t worry, a week or two isn’t enough to lose all your hard-earned work, and you’ll likely come back fresher than you were before. Read more about detraining – or how easy it is to keep your fitness.


From a periodization standpoint, a mid-season slump can be a sign it’s time to refocus training on a different aspect of fitness and performance. We’re seeing this a lot with the current hype around Zone 2. Yes, Zone 2 is important, but too much of it leaves athletes feeling bored and stale. There’s more to training than physiology and adding some intensity and variety can be good for fitness and fun. 

The other half to this equation is mixing up the types of events and rides you’re doing. If you’ve had a long season on the road and your mountain bike is collecting dust, now might be the perfect time to break that out and hit the trails or enter a mountain bike race. Your primary focus doesn’t have to change, but absence makes the heart grow fonder. You might find you return to the road rejuvenated and ready to tackle new challenges after some time away.

Late Season Goal Setting

The goals you set in January don’t need to be set in stone. You can add and change goals as you go. This can mean adding events later in the year. A mid-season slump can be a great opportunity to find something new and exciting. When looking at goals, particularly now, focus first on the “fun and excitement” factor. What sounds exciting? What gets your heart rate up and what lights you up? These are the types of events you want to focus on because they can pull you out of your current hole and get you fired up.

Look at things that are new or different than the goals you’ve already accomplished. Design a bike packing trip with friends, go to a riding destination you’ve always wanted to, or try a new cycling discipline and treat yourself to a new bike. Your goal doesn’t have to be a higher FTP, it can simply be being able to enjoy the ride more.

Remember that underneath your waning motivation is a bank of fitness you already built. Some unstructured time or time off won’t destroy all of that. All that work you’ve done can be leveraged for late-season fun, but only if you give yourself a break first. Let some of that fitness go as you rest. When you restart you’ll be at an easier jumping off point and all you’ll need to do is add in specific work. It’s also not too late in the year to start training for something, so even if you haven’t gotten in much riding so far, the year isn’t over and you have plenty of time to get ready for something in the late summer/fall.


The overarching advice I give to athletes is, “Don’t force it.” You can’t force motivation; you need to feel it naturally and sometimes that process takes time. Find the victories you’ve had throughout the year so far. Relish those. You’ve probably accomplished more than you think, so don’t beat yourself up if you need a little time to adjust and can’t approach training with the same intensity you did in the Spring. 

Look at the demands of your life, your stress levels, sleep, hydration, and nutrition to make sure you’re addressing the major pillars of your performance. If you need to back off on intensity or volume during a particular stressful period of life, focus on having fun on the bike and get back to structured training when you are ready. Finally, don’t be afraid to take a new approach to training and come up with some new goals. Even the best laid plans need to pivot from time to time, and the midway point in the year is a perfect time to grow and improve in new ways.

FREE Mini-Course: Learn How to Maximize Your Limited Training Time

Learn step-by-step how to overcome limited training time and get faster. Walk away with a personalized plan to increase your performance.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Comments 3

  1. Needed this article; I’m going through this right now and have been beating myself up mentally over it. Thank you for sharing these strategies! Perfect timing, as always, lol.

  2. Very helpful. I’ve been thinking this past week that I need to back off ride intensity due to increased workload. Good to see it in print and a strategy for it.

  3. I’m currently going through this right now. Perfect timing for this article. I’ll definitely take the advice. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *