Congratulations. You've just finished a fun-filled, yet challenging triathlon season. Maybe you set a PR this year on your favorite course. Maybe your goal was to finish an Ironman distance race. Either way, it's that time of the year when all things triathlon begin to wind down. We like to call this the 'off-season'. However, if you are anything like many of my clients, you're doing everything but turning off, and this could be a mistake. In this article, I'll share with you six ideas for getting the most out of your off-season.
Get some rest. Taking time off from training at the end of a season is, simply put, just as important as any other phase of a well constructed, periodized training plan. In a way, it's what will allow your next season to be even more successful. For example, if an athlete begins the season at a certain level of fitness, and successfully works all season to improve that fitness, he or she is at new, higher level of fitness at season's end. Then, the athlete takes a short amount of time off to “recharge”. His or her fitness decreases a bit naturally during this time; however, not so much that the athlete is less fit than when the previous season began. Thus, with each passing year, the athlete is actually getting stronger and faster each year. So, in effect, time off is actually allowing this athlete to grow and progress.
See your doctor. The off-season is a great time to get in to see your physician. Request blood work analysis and have a general physical performed. If you've had any chronic or recurring injuries or even just slight muscle ailments over the past season, this would be a great time to find and visit a physical therapist. Additionally, consult with a sports nutritionist to analyze your diet, a critical component to triathlon success.
Do your homework. You've just finished a great season, right? Well, maybe you did, maybe you didn't, but one thing is certain: you can learn from each experience. Spend some time reading through your training log. Take notes on workouts and races that stand out. Don't just look at a particular day either, look at what lead up to the stand-out performances, good and bad, in your training log. Endurance sport, as we all know, is the culmination of blood, sweat, and tears shed over many a day. Take this information and learn from it. Learn what went wrong and what went right, and use this knowledge to help plan and execute your next season's events based on weaknesses and strengths, using what worked and discarding what did not.
Address your weakness. Spending time working on the aspects of your triathlon game that pose the greatest limitation to your success is yet another off-season best practice. Because there is no pressure of a pending 'A' race for months, taking the time to slow things down and work on swim technique, cycling skills, or running drills will pay off by the time you reach your mid-season stride. Set up a series of one-on-one sessions with a local swim coach or work with a running coach on improving your form. Do what it takes to make your weaknesses your new strengths for next season!
Take a hike. As mentioned previously, taking time off is essential. I'm not suggesting that you become a couch potato for the next two or three months. While there is benefit in taking some time completely off, any athlete serious about sport will want to jump back on the wagon after a short break at season's end. This is a perfect time to be active but in a whole new way. Try something different from the swim/bike/run routine. Hike up a mountain or trail run through the woods. When there's too much snow on the ground, try snowshoeing. Take long, easy, endless rides on your road bike (you know, that bike you bought way back when with the curly handle bars?!). Or even better yet, hop on a mountain bike and hit the trails. These are endurance activities that may not be specific to triathlon, but will certainly help your endurance and bike handling skills, especially if you take your time with them.
Time for a tune-up. Equipment has become an essential part of our sport. Some of us have dropped a pretty penny on fancy bikes, sleek wetsuits, and top of line running shoes all with the hopes of shaving off a few minutes here and there. And now that you've used this state of the art equipment, it's time to make sure that it stays in great condition and is ready for next season when you need it. This means service and repair. Take your ultra aerodynamic TT bike into your local bike shop and let the 'wrenches' there give it a full cleaning and servicing. Have all the moving parts re-lubricated and greased up. Wetsuit wear is common, so look over the neoprene for cracks and tears. At the very least, clean it well according to the manufacturer's instructions before storing it for the off-season. Finally, make sure that your running shoes are still in top condition. Starting your base-type training for next year in shoes with too many miles may just be asking for trouble.
Whether you're a seasoned veteran or first-year novice, preparing your off-season for more than just the enjoyment of beer and nachos is an important part of your annual training plan. Take the time this year to do it right. Let your body fully heal, plan for next season and stay active without overly stressing your body. You'll be on the right track for next season in no time!
Lee Gardner is a Triathlon Coaching Associate with Trismarter.com. Lee lives and trains in New York City and occasionally takes some time off from his training to recharge for next season! Visit Trismarter.com to learn more about their personalized coaching options such as Tri4Life and Tri2Lose as well as innovative Eat2Win sports nutrition services. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 917.825.1451 for more information.