For most cyclists and triathletes, race season is coming to a close. Many of you will focus on another sport such as running, mountain biking, or cyclocross. The other side may throw their bike in the garage, cancel their pool membership, and go from a Saturday long ride to a long day of tailgating and football. Neither of which are the greatest ideas when looking to reach peak performance next spring and summer. Here are a few pointers to help you get through the off season and have you ready to rock come next race season.
1. Take a 2-3 week mental and physical break – Jumping from one sport to another and continuing to train like you are in the middle of a peak is a recipe for burnout. Once your final race of the season is complete, take 2-3 weeks to enjoy your life and your family again. Cut your training volume to what a normal rest week would be for you. If you don’t feel like training one day, don’t. Don’t feel like swimming one week? Don’t. Let your mind and body refresh and you will find a whole new level of motivation to train through the cold winter months.
2. Don’t jump right into another race season – Racing without a base usually means poor performance. During a season of racing, Saturday and Sunday long rides usually turn into a very intense road race one day and a crit the next. Or in the case of a triathlon, a race one day and a possible rest day the next. Regardless, base is more than aerobic conditioning. Base training creates a resistance to fatigue that can’t be achieved through high intensity exercise. Let’s face it, racing is the most intense workout we can do. If we race every weekend, then jump into more racing, we will not only sacrifice valuable base, but we also run the risk of becoming over trained.
3. Work on your limiters – The off season is the best time to work on your limiters. For some it might be strength, for others technique. During the off season, we can afford to make a few mistakes along the way. Not saying get yourself injured, but you can afford to spend some time getting to know and improving upon your top end fitness without worrying about degrading the quality of the next days workouts. If you don’t know your limiters, and you have no clue where your fitness ceiling is, it makes it very difficult to do any workouts with purpose and specificity.
4. Hire a coach – This one is more than just a shameless plug. Coaches understand how important the off season is to in-season performance. Even with a decrease in total training volume per week, a coach can create and execute a program that will have you where you need to be come next race season. A coach will get the most out of any volume allotment you give them, and also balance in work, family, and the unexpected that life throws at you. We take the thought process out of performance training.
5. Keep up the frequency – If you train 6 days a week now, try to maintain that over the off season. Frequency is the hardest aspect to reintroduce into a training program. A the same time, the same or increased frequency is better for weight management during the off season.
6. Eat based on energy expenditure – Nothing like trying to lose the 15 pounds you gained in the off season before the first race of the year. If you are decreasing your volume per week from 15 hours to 10 hours, you don’t need as many calories per day as when you were doing 15 hour weeks. This is also a good time to work on bettering you eating habits so you can try to take them into the next race season. Cut out processed sports supplements and focus on fresh whole foods. This will help your body become more efficient in using fat as fuel during exercise.
7. Cross Train – No I don’t mean cross the train tracks on your way to the doughnut shop. I mean add in some other forms of training besides just swimming, cycling, or running. Although you should do some cross training in season, the off season is the best time to gain strength, fix muscular imbalances, and build functional power. Other endurance sports are great cross training, but be careful about continuing to lay on a giant workload. Your body has to recover at some point. Make sure it is on your terms and not when your body forces you to.
8. Speed is a skill, it can be taught – One of my favorite mantras. For many of us, whether we know it or not, biomechanics is a limiter. The good thing is, with the right instruction, and a sharp eye (or video camera), small changes in biomechanics can boast huge gains in performance. Take the off season to better you swim stroke, pedal stroke, bike fit, and running mechanics. These changes will pay dividends come next race season.
9. Don’t forget recovery! – Many people think that they don’t have to set recovery weeks during the off season. WRONG. If you are trying to inhibit adaptions in the body (via the proper workload), they will not take place until the body rests and full heals itself. Without recovery, there is no adaption!
10. Have fun! – If you don’t enjoy the process of being an endurance athlete, then you may want to question your participation in endurance sports. However, the off season is a time to have a lot more freedom to do what you want, spend more time with family, and not worry if you miss a workout here and there. Train smart, then train hard.
If you have any questions about how we can help you have a productive off season, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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