The off season can set you up for your best season ever...if you learn how to master it.
It’s finally here, the off season. Time to relax, cut loose and prioritize the swim, bike, run lifestyle for a bit. Off season lets us reconnect with what non triathlete friends we have left, let them know we’re still alive, drink a couple extra beers and maybe indulge in the company cupcakes that seem to be in never ending supply in the break room without feeling too guilty about it. But, here’s the thing, the off season, can actually be the best time to set yourself up for success next season.
I know, I know, it might not be what you want to hear. You were looking forward to those beers and those cupcakes, but let me use myself as an example. Each year the off season would hit and I would leave the race as fast as I could and head to Taco Bell. I’d drink beers and eat donuts and before I knew it i’d be an easy 20 pounds over my race weight. I’d be fat, out of shape and unhealthy all over again. Then when the season would start, I’d have to spend months just to get back into ‘training shape’ before I could even start actually training to get faster.
On the other hand, if we manage our off season correctly, we can come back to our training after some time off and be in a great place to make early season improvements. If, for example, I had only been 5 or 10 pounds over race weight, I could have been back into full training much faster than when I was 20 pounds over and had developed a bunch of bad habits. The capability to be back in full training sooner, compounds itself over the season and we start getting bigger gains earlier and can build on those for longer.
You might be asking, how can I manage the off season so I can crush next season? Here’s a few tips I came up with.
- Get Healthy: The number one point of the off season is to get healthy. Don’t skip the recovery sessions like massage or foam rolling. Give any injury you have plenty of time to heal. Make sure you get yourself 100% ready to go for the next season of training.
- Season Post Mortem: I like to do a season recap fresh off the season where I ask: what went right? What went wrong? And what can I do better? Answering these things and writing them down while the season is still fresh can give you a great idea where to start the next season. Write them down, share them with your coach and review them a couple times through the off season and the next season.
- Control The Diet: Diet can be the biggest factor in a bad off season. It can take the body a few weeks to realize it doesn’t need the same amount of calories it did when you were in full training mode and since most people loosen the reins a bit those calories can become unhealthy calories like sugar. Keep the diet focused on healthy foods and only allow yourself a couple of cheat items per week, ie limit the donuts. Personal Tip: I introduced intermittent fasting to my diet this off season to help me manage what was going in. I’m not a doctor and you should definitely talk to a doctor or dietitian before you do this personally, but a 16:8 fast worked really well for me and I am starting this season only 5 pounds over my race weight from last season.
- Stay Active: I like to have my athletes get into activities they might not have had time to do during the season. If your company has a softball or volleyball team, join it. If there is a spin or fitness class you want to go to but could never fit it in, GO. The point is to stay active with things other than swim, bike and run. Not only are these great ways to keep the body active but it also incorporates muscles you may not normally use in swim bike run and it’s a great mental break too.
- Let Life Take Priority: Finally, the off season is just as much mental regrouping as it is physical so let life take the wheel a bit. Plan your activity around the things going on in life vs the other way around. Reconnect with long lost family and friends who you have not seen since you started training. Crash the company happy hour so you coworkers know you’re not totally crazy. Let the activity take a back seat, but keep the diet from of mind. ENJOY YOURSELF
If you can knock out a successful off season I can almost guarantee you will have a great season next year. Get healthy, manage the weight gain and reset mentally and before you know it you will be itching to get back into full blow training!
Eric Turner is a coach for SuperFly Coaching, Element Multisport Ambassador and a regular contributor to the Element blog. You can learn more about him at SuperFlyCoaching.com/Eric