We are all guilty of it. We finish our race season and feel the desire to be better, faster and stronger for next year. In case you were thinking of getting straight back into training, there are some solid reasons why you shouldn’t. A few weeks of active recovery with this planned post-season break will leave you ready and raring to go at the start of next season.
Why You Should Take a Break in the Post Season
The end of season break allows for the body to fully repair any tissue damage. During this period, body fat levels may increase slightly, but that’s okay. This time will also allow stores of essential vitamins and minerals to be renewed.
The immune system has had to work overtime all season, as it is trashed by hard training and competition. A prolonged break gives it a chance to fully recover and reduce the risk of illness throughout the winter. It will also reduce the risk of overtraining or underperforming syndrome.
The post season break is also the time to rest or follow a rehab program for a recurring injury. Use the time away from training to get a proper diagnosis and the correct treatment. An extra couple of weeks off of running, for example, will have no effect on next year’s performances. Bur running all winter with an injury certainly will.
Taking a planned break also allows you to spend quality time with family and friends, recover from the pressures of training and racing, recharge your batteries, and fall in love with the sport again. This is where you get back to enjoying your life.
To get the most from your post-season break, come up with a plan to:
- Review the previous season and identify strengths and weaknesses
- Set goals for the forthcoming season
- Do baseline tests after the first 4 weeks
- Sort out any recurring injuries
- Plan your winter training to match your new goals
Sample Post Season Protocol
The first 1-2 weeks should be very easy and require little programming. Research has shown little drop off in performance by reducing training volume for this period of time. I always recommend that you leave the watch on the dresser. Swim, bike, and run for the enjoyment, and don’t worry about the time or distance. This is also where you are allowed to leave a workout if it is not enjoyable or becomes a mental strain.
After that, do 1-2 weeks of different activities than normal. For example, try mountain biking, racket sports, yoga, a weight program, hill walking, or just shorter runs/bikes/swims. You should come back refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to start the winter training program. And hopefully by this point, you are no longer fighting any injuries.
Here is a template I’ve found useful:
- Train only when you feel like it or with a social group, and only for fun
- Try some other sports or activities
- Zero high-intensity work or races
- At least two rest days per week
- No running (you heard me!)
- Maximum 30 minutes per session
- Train only once per day
- Swim 2x per week, maximum 45 minutes. Perform drills and technique work
- Weights 2x per week
- Yoga 2x per week
- Optional bike/run sessions, maximum 45 minutes per session
- Train only once per day
- No high-intensity work or races
- At least one rest day per week
Week 5: Test your baselines to see where to start your full training program next week
- Time to ramp up workload. Break time is over!
- Continue one rest day per week
- Add in intensity work
- Set your race goals
Set Goals for the Post Season
This holiday season, try to give your friends and family the gift of a break from the endless training talks. Take the time to recover from any injuries, recharge the batteries and mental strength, and do some fun activities to maintain a base of general fitness. Sit down and analyze what went well and what went badly this season, and use that evaluation to set goals for next season. Most of all, don’t forget to enjoy life!
Weights aren’t just for the offseason: