In-season - when you’ve got specific goals for a specific race, and your coach has mapped out a specific plan to get you there - it’s important to adhere to the training plan. I mean, #followtheplan and #trustyourcoach didn’t come from nowhere. But off-season, when you’ve got weeks or more likely months before you return to in-season training mode, the rules change.
Here are five things your coach won’t give you a hard time about during the off-season:
1. Taking a few weeks off of structured training.
I give all my athletes two unstructured weeks after their last race of the season. I think it’s important to have a few weeks where you don’t wake up every morning thinking about when you’re going to get your training in. This doesn’t necessarily mean you sit on the couch for two weeks (although some do, and that’s ok too!). It does mean that you wake up each day, and decide what you want to do that day - swim, bike, run, something else, or nothing - and do exactly that.
2. Missing workouts.
To clarify, I’m talking about missing occasional workouts, not skipping an entire weeks’ worth of training. But I do think it’s important to have a little more forgiveness in the off-season for how you balance life and training. In-season, with goals on the horizon, it can be appropriate to prioritize training over, for example, social plans. During the off-season, though, it’s appropriate for training to have a lower position on your list of priorities.
3. Going for a ride or a run without a specific target or goal for the workout.
In-season, every workout has a purpose and has specific goals or targets that support that purpose. Distances or durations are building toward what’s needed for race day, and pace or effort-level targets are designed to build endurance or speed or sometimes both. During the off-season, I like to send my athletes out on rides and runs without any of that - go where you want, for as long or short as you’d like, at whatever pace or effort-level feels good in the moment. In short: go out and have some fun!
4. Putting a sport in “maintenance mode.”
With reduced training volume in the off-season, sometimes it makes sense to “park” your fitness in a sport and do just enough work to (mostly) maintain it for a bit while you focus on other things. Those other things could be family or non-athletic hobbies, sports that don’t relate to triathlon (see #5), or you could do a big block of work on your weakest triathlon discipline to make big gains.
5. Doing some things that are not swim-bike-run.
With all the swim-bike-running on the calendar during triathlon season, there’s not typically room for much else. Off-season is the perfect time to make room for other activities: add in a weekly yoga class, hit the trails on your mountain bike, spend some time downhill or cross-country skiing, or head out on an epic hike. Your fitness will allow you to pick up those activities without too much issue, and those activities will provide benefits like flexibility or bike handling skills or functional muscle strength.