For a lot of triathletes coming into the off season produces more panic and anxiety than stepping up to the start line of an iron distance race. Fearful phrases like no structure or losing fitness are hard pills to swallow. But the off-season doesn’t have to be this scary black hole of lost fitness.
There are a few ways I think you can rock the off season like a pro, some do’s and don’t’s to get you to the proverbial start line of next season.
- Don’t Do Nothing – I know a lot of triathlete’s probably have the exact opposite approach, but this rule still applies. It’s easy to come off of the last race of the season completely satisfied with your results and now you are ready to kick back and check out the couch you’ve missed for the past 9 months. Doing nothing can actually hurt you for next season. A lot of what we do is muscle memory. If you skip the pool for three months it takes a lot longer to re-familiarize yourself and feel comfortable.
- DO: Take some time off to rest and rejuvenate your body and then slowly reintroduce yourself to the pool, the bike, your running shoes. Focus on drills and aerobic efforts. It is okay to lose some fitness and allow your body and mind to relax and prep for the next season.
- Don’t Jump on the Bandwagon – It’s easy to listen to what your friends are doing and make a quick decision to jump into this workout or that workout….or that race. Just because your friends are doing it doesn’t mean you should! Sound familiar?! You may not be physically, or mentally, ready to take on a winter marathon or adventure race yet. Ask yourself: Do I really want to do this or am I signing up because of peer pressure or lack of a goal?
- DO: Chances are you will need a goal for the winter, so pick something that gets you excited and is something that you are both physically and mentally ready to tackle. It could be you are just trying something new…for fun!
- Don’t Rock the Off Season…Literally – You take a few weeks off and suddenly you are itching to get back to training. Instead of taking it easy you up your weekly training volume and throw in some intensity. The end of February rolls around and your fitness levels are just off the charts. You enter a local race and crush the competition…Remember that you have a long season ahead. By peaking in the late phase of winter you run the risk of crushing the first half of your triathlon season and fizzling out rather quickly come July, August, and September. Don’t sacrifice late season performances to be a stud early!
- DO: Slowly increase your training volume and keep the intensity low. Winter is good for base-building and technique work so use your off season time wisely. Then, when you get to the season your body will be properly prepped for the harder sessions to come.
- Don’t Be a Glutton – I have been around a few triathletes that take the “it’s okay to gain weight” in the off season rule a little too far. Unfortunately the triathletes off season falls in the months we have Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just because you raced in August does not mean you should eat your weight in Christmas cookies (and cranberry sauce and stuffing) in December!
- DO: Indulge a little. Yes, it is okay eat a Christmas cookie and gain a little weight in the off season. Especially if you are following the advice of Don’t Rock the Off Season…Literally bullet point. As your body adjusts to less exercise and stores a bit more carbohydrate you may notice a little weight gain. Remember that the fuel you are putting into your body now (Christmas cookies or healthy carbs/proteins) can hurt, or help, the upcoming season.
Remember, the key to any good training block, or off season block, is finding the right balance that works for you. Define what it is you want to gain (a solid base so you can kick it next season?!) during the off season and plan accordingly. You’ll feel better going into that phase and be able to come out of it stronger and healthier.