Triathletes, marathoners, and cyclists work incredibly hard for months and months, training and racing to achieve their goals. But, generally, there comes a time when all the races are over and there are several months until the next race. This is what athletes refer to as the “off-season”, and it typically occurs sometime between October and February for most western hemisphere athletes. Now, some of you might want to catch a final race or two before spring, but the vast majority of our readers will take a few months off over the winter. Instead of beating your mind and body up just as hard as you did during race season, follow this approach to enjoy your off season and dominate your race season.
TAKE A BREAK
When your last race is over and the off-season has officially begun, first and foremost, rest! You’ve worked so hard for so many months you’ve earned some time to relax and catch-up on sleep. Take at least 2 weeks completely off. That’s right, no strength work, no going to the pool, no joining your hammer-head friends on the bike, no running, no 6 mile ruck hikes, just REST. Not only will this repair and recover your body physically, but more importantly mentally. After 2 or more weeks of kicking back, you will be screaming with excitement to get back to some type of training.
REFLECT ON YOUR SEASON
As you’re nearing the end of your 2 or more week break and just itching to get back to training, take sometime to reflect on your previous season. How did your season go? Did you meet your goals? What do you want to do different next season? What was your biggest set-back or weakness of the season? I recommend answering these questions in addition to other reflection questions in a personal journal, with your coach, or in a computer document. By reflecting on your season you will get all your previous season’s thoughts out of your mind, giving you a “blank slate” for next season and providing important information to use in planning your next race season.
After you have rested for at least 2 weeks and reflected on your season you should now begin to do what I call “fun training”. As the name implies have fun for a 2-6 weeks! Eat new things, join a yoga class, try a new sport, etc. I found this “fun training” re-teaches the enjoyment of exercise to athletes. Additionally doing other activists can identify muscle imbalances in athletes such as weaknesses in lateral motion.
SLOWLY RETURN TO TRAINING
Finally after 4-8 weeks of resting and having fun you should return to a more structured training routine. That being said the race is still months away and in order to have a great season you need to start preparing your body for competition. The focus of “Prep” phase training should be on building your sport specific skills, aerobic endurance, and force. Building these aspects of fitness depends on your sport of choice. Using triathlon as the example below is a preparation phase sample week for a triathlete.
Monday– Bike hill climbs on the trainer, followed by single leg drills
Tuesday-Weight training & swim drills
Wednesday– Run hill climbs focusing on force, followed by running drills
Thursday– Swim focusing on force by using paddles
Friday– Rest Day (optional weight training)
Saturday– Long Run, Long Swim
Sunday– Long Bike