Off season; it‚Äôs a weighted word. Some are ready for it, some dread it, others anticipate it more than the actual season, a few ignore it. For most of us in the northern hemisphere, we‚Äôre checking off the last couple of boxes from our race schedule and putting in the final touches of quality for our last, focused performance. Like a well designed season plan, a structured off season and pre-season can yada, yada yada, and yakity scmachity, blah-blah-blah-blah. YOU KNOW ALL OF THIS!Every year, someone writes an article about how to optimize your off-season, and with over 40 years of triathlon seasons in the books, it‚Äôs been done and done and done! Let‚Äôs talk instead about the 1-4 week period between the end of racing and the re-start of your structured workouts. This guilty pleasure that even the most driven athletes need to experience, and I call it unstructured fun! If a blank training log sends you into panic mode, makes you feel lazy or causes you to fret about losing your fitness, here are my top tips for using this time to transition into a great pre-season without driving yourself, your coach or the ones around you completely nuts.
Above all, know that you‚Äôve earned this time, and a coach is telling you it‚Äôs necessary to take it. It‚Äôs required for my athletes, its non-negotiable. Everyone has to have at least one week of unstructured fun. Personally, I think 2-3 weeks is optimal, but everyone needs at least a one. Just like a primo produce plot needs to go fallow and have rotated crops, your body and brain need an extended breather.
1) Get your bike overhauled, or do it yourself. During a heavy racing and training season, having your mighty steed out of commission for a full overhaul is not an option, so this is your time.
2) Unstructured fun does not necessarily mean you‚Äôre required to live on your couch (although extra rest and sleep is highly recommended). Pick a few non-triathlon things to explore. A new restaurant, local museum sight seeing or a sporting event that interests you (I am looking forward to some local minor league hockey) should do the trick. I find discount sites like Groupon or Living Social can have some ideas if you‚Äôre feeling a little stuck, but need to get out of the house.
3) Pick one living space improvement project per week. Clean the patio, organize a couple of closets, whittle down the mending pile and organize your surroundings. You know, the things that you look at after you stumble out of the shower post a major threshold workout. For those panickers of the blank log, this will give you a goal to work toward.
4) Anything active you do, log it! I love seeing what my athletes choose to do when they‚Äôre in complete control. For instance, I recently discovered an athlete‚Äôs interest in yoga when he started attending four times a week in his unstructured fun. It‚Äôs going to be a piece of his strength training this winter and next race season.
5) Take some time to look at family obligations and extra work commitments (really anything that will require an adjustment in training as usual) in comparison to your proposed race schedule. To use myself as an example, beyond my normal year to year flow, I know in 2017 I have one parental retirement and a family wedding ‚Äì both in June I need to attend and help organize them all the while knowing that I‚Äôll have at least 2 weeks of back burner training. So I‚Äôll want to have a focus on later season races. Which, in my case, is Age Group Nationals in mid August. I also know my course work for next fall semester is going to be severely ramped up, so after Age Group Nationals, I will need to cut back to a sprint only focused training schedule or go into a base/maintenance phase.
6) Talk to your coach! Using the aforementioned brain storming, get next season‚Äôs conversation started. Whether your coach is a simmerer like me (I do my best planning when I‚Äôve had time to let ideas mull in my mind for a ride or two), or prefers to discuss and plan in one shot, early communication is never a bad thing.
7) Above all, enjoy it! This is the ONLY transition where you can break the first law of transitions, so be willing to be in this moment and be in the season-to-season transition.
May the wind be at your back and the sun not in your eyes, may the road stay under your feet and not against your face and your goals be achieved for your season ending race.
Coach Leigh Dodd knows that passion and drive will take you a long way in triathlon! Put those qualities to work within the context of a structured plan and you‚Äôre off to a great start. Add in relaxation on a regular basis and they‚Äôll be no stopping you! It may seem counter intuitive at first, but planning time for both quality training and quality downtime is the key to great results!