The New Off Season

By Lizz Bennett

You have just finished your racing season, regardless of how well you did and how successful you feel your racing was you are tired and looking forward to your Off Season.  This is a time to rest and rejuvenate your body and mind, time to enjoy your favorite foods, and time to take a break from your sport.  This is the time that most athletes agree should be a few months of taking it easy.  Hey, you earned it right? Well…no, that’s not what you earned and your Off Season is not what everyone tells you it should be. 

In fact, after your last race, at the end of your season you are at the top of your game!  You haven’t earned 2-3 months of hibernation, you have earned great fitness!  Why would you want to throw that away and have to start over when pre-season arrives in January? Yes, you have earned a break, no need to do a hard 3 hour brick interval early Saturday morning, no need to get up at 3 am to fit in your long run before you hit the pool, and no need to worry about a taper.  You have earned a break from a rigorous training plan. But putting the bike away and working out whenever you feel like it is not the way to reward yourself for the hard work you have put in and it is no way to let your fitness decrease. 

During a typical Off Season athletes rarely stick to any kind of training schedule and we eat like we are still training. The average weight gain for athletes, over these few months, is 10-15lbs! Our training decreases while we eat like we are still logging long, intense training miles.  What good is an Off Season where we lose fitness and gain weight?  It’s like starting over when we start our pre-season training.

How would it be to start our pre-season mentally fresh, physically recovered, physically fit, and at an ideal race weight?  It would mean that we are ready to reach greater increases in our training because we don’t have to back track and fix what Off Season has done to us.  It’s like a head start!

But after our season we are tired and burned out, we need a break. Yeah, we should feel that way! And if not chances are we didn’t work hard enough during season.  I’m not saying we have to hit each triathlon discipline 3-4 times a week along with the 5 times a week we should be hitting the gym. I’m saying don’t throw away the fitness you have worked so hard for!  You are in top form.  If you wanted to, at any given time you could go mountain biking with some friends and be able to go long and hard…for fun!  If a group of people call up and want to go on trail run you would be able to go and it wouldn’t knock you down for days afterward.  Not only that but you can hit the gym 5 days a week without having to worry about tapering for your upcoming race.  Now is your time to enjoy the fitness you have worked so hard for!  Try a new sport, set some new goals, and yes even lose a little bit of weight!  This isn’t Off Season from physical fitness; it’s Off Season from always being tired, mentally strung out the pressure from race season.

Don’t neglect your race disciplines, hit at least each sport twice a week. But don’t worry about miles, don’t worry about time just make every workout worth YOUR time.  Is there a discipline that is your limiter?  Mine is cycling. I plan on setting some new goals on my indoor trainer and hitting some spin classes.  They are so much fun!  Off Season is the perfect time to focus on what holds you back during your racing season.  Then you can start your training season at a new level with what used to be your limiter now your strength!

The strongest athletes are the athletes that stay in shape and start their pre-season training ready to train, not having to lose weight or build basic endurance again.  Find joy in your sport again by using your strengths to learn new things and meeting new people.  Prepare for your upcoming season by leaning out and losing some of that added weight from the end of your race season.  Focus on your limiters and turn them into your strengths. Then you will have the edge over other athletes, you will set new PR’s, you will feel rejuvenated and renewed because of the self-discipline in your diet and the enjoyment in your physical pursuits!  Yes take a break from the rigors of a strict training schedule, but don’t get lazy in your diet or lax in your workouts.

Don’t let your Off Season set you back.  Use it as a time to enjoy your health and fitness, a time to build yourself back up in every healthy aspect; physically, emotionally, financially, socially, mentally, and spiritually.  And in this way your Off Season becomes one of the most important parts of your training.