As the racing season winds down, the "transition period" immediately follows the "race period"- that's if you follow the traditional periodization training plan.
But, what exactly is the "transition period"? The "transition period" is a time of rest and recovery. It's a time to recharge the batteries and get ready for the following racing season. For most recreational racers/weekend warriors in the Northeast it lasts approximately 6-8 weeks- traditionally during the months of October and November. After all, no serious cyclist can expect to maintain top form all year long. But what does "rest and recovery" really entail? Does it mean sitting on the couch on the weekends watching football and drinking beer instead of riding your normal group/solo ride? Does it mean reducing training volume and intensity? Is it a time to cross-train? Do I ditch the road bike and jump on my "cyclo-cross bike" or "mountain bike"? Do I stay off a bike completely?
I think the answer to all of these questions, which seems to be the standard answer, is- IT DEPENDS. It depends on a lot of things. It depends on your current training volume and intensity. It depends on your current fitness level. Are you a serious racer, a recreational racer, a weekend warrior? It depends on your current physical shape and mental state. i.e. are you burning out? It depends on your goals/aspirations for the following season.
Regardless of your fitness level, current training volume/intensity, goals/aspirations for the following season, etc. I'll give you some advice on what I think you (and I) should be doing during the "transition period", they are:
a. Reduce your training volume. Remember, the transition period is a time of rest and recovery. So, if you've been riding 10+ hours a week during the summer..you might want to scale it back down to say 6-8 hrs. a week.
b. Maintain your current fitness level. You can do this by doing at least 1-2 Lactate Threshold and VO2max workouts per week. They don't have to be longer than 30-60 minutes.
c. Stay off your road bike as much as possible and get out on your "cyclo-cross" or "mountain bike". Staying off your road bike will give you a mental break- as well as physical break.
d. Maintain your current weight. The transition period is NOT the time of year to pack on the weight. I know it's hard NOT to do with all the football games on the tube. Besides, it's hard enough to maintain weight during the late Fall and Winter months- with all the holidays.
e. This is a good time to evaluate your current years racing/training and plan for the next. What are/were your strengths/weaknesses? What do you need to do to improve your weaknesses?
Simply put, during the transition period, you want to: reduce volume, maintain fitness level, maintain weight, evaluate the current season and plan for the next, cross-train and HAVE FUN!