Every year when I watch the Hawaii Ironman netcast, I get that end of the season feeling. The leaves are falling off the trees on the Minneola Trail & the heat has left Central Florida. Many of us reflect on our performances this year and start preparing for next season. I find that most triathletes tend to respond to the off-season in one of two ways. Some take too much time off at Donut King and get totally out of shape and others keep training hard and are seen running intervals at the track. I do recommend a bit of a break this time of the year. I also recommend enough training concentrating on aspects often forgotten during the racing season.
Take a physical and mental break
Once you finished your last race of the season it is time to take a break. It is important to let your body recover but perhaps more importantly, let your mind rest from all the training and racing stress. Play some Frisbee golf, go hiking with the family, or go on an adventurous vacation. You can still do some running, swimming, or biking. Just keep it fun and unstructured. New activities will invigorate you. Not to mention that your non-triathlete friends and loved ones would be glad to finally see you.
Don't be a January Champion
I am not sure where I heard this quote but I like it. Every time someone post on Facebook about a great set of repeats or some crazy ride done at an incredible pace during the off-season I use the quote. The likelihood that this athlete can maintain this sort of effort throughout the entire year is not very good. Training takes effort, it causes pain and it wears on you. Save that energy for when it counts later in the season. Being fit in January does not mean that you will be that much fitter by summer. The more likely scenario is low performance during the summer due to over training and getting mentally drained from all the high intensity.
As triathletes we like to think of ourselves as very fit individuals. We run, we bike, we swim…yea we do it all. Yet we find ourselves getting sore if we trim the bushes or mow the yard. This is even more so as we get older. Strength training will help us strengthen those muscles that we generally do not use in triathlon. I recommend strength training year round. However, I know that many athletes cannot seem to find the time to do all three disciplines and also hit the weight room. The off-season is a great time to get back on some strengthening program. It will improve your power, and help with injury prevention. Ask your coach to design an off-season strengthening program for you.
Plan your racing season
Start planning your racing season now. You may have to sign up soon as many top races are filling up way in advance. Just be sure to give yourself enough time between races of different distances to do some proper training. This will improve your chances of performing your best at various races and distances. I recommend you work backwards from your big goal races and schedule some shorter races that you can use as stepping-stones on the way. You can start specific training for the intermediate races earlier in the season. These races will also keep you focused and provide a base from which to build on.
But most important, enjoy the off-season.