How to Create the Most Useful Triathlon Off-Season
The off-season should be a time of less intensity, but for many triathletes it becomes another layer of stress. It can be hard after a year of intense training to adjust to the off-season mindset.
To all you athletes, you are done. You should be congratulating yourself on all the accomplishments you achieved this year. Maybe you didn’t actually cross all your goals off your list, but now that you don’t have any events on your immediate radar, it’s still time to sit back and relax.
But don’t think that being in the off-season means you entirely stop what you are doing. That is far from the truth.
Defining the Off-Season
The off-season means different things to different people, but the most widely used approach for endurance athletes is making it a time to work on their weakest sport. That approach isn’t necessarily wrong, but it doesn’t mean that if you are a weak swimmer you need to spend the next three months only swimming.
Working on your weakest sport means you need to get more specific training to improve on what has been bogging you down on race day. Maybe in running you have the endurance, but your form goes to crap halfway through your race. That would mean in the off-season you need to work on drills and strength, building your body to better meet the demands of the sport.
"Cross-training means finding sports that give you a mental break from swim/bike/run, but still benefit those sports and keep you in shape."
Conversely, when I tell my athletes that it’s the off-season and they need to chill out with the intensity, it does not mean to be lazy and do nothing. It means to enjoy the time you’ve earned, but to move your intensity into something positive.
What athletes fail to recognize at times is that cross training in the off-season can have many more benefits than constantly working sport-specific skills. Cross training could include sports like rock climbing (which actually helps with swimming), cross-country skiing, or even water polo. Cross-training means finding sports that give you a mental break from swim/bike/run, but still benefit those sports and keep you in shape.
My athletes don’t experience this because when off-season approaches for them, because I plant a seed about what to look for in the future. You see athletes get down more if they don’t have a support system. But if they have a family and friends they can surround themselves with, then you don’t see the off-season blues. So make sure your off-season includes the company and support of others.
"The family takes a big hit when training begins, so actively thanking them can do wonders for a relationship.... this could mean helping plan a meal, cooking dinner, or finding a nice place for a vacation."
At minimum, your off-season should last two to three weeks, but how long it lasts depends on the date of your first A-race of the upcoming season. If athletes don’t have an A-race coming up, then the off-season may be slightly longer. But we still have some structured training thrown in, which is why I prefer to call the off-season a transition period.
Other Activities to Consider
Running races, cyclocross, hiking, yoga, and swim training (especially if the children are part of a swim team) are all possibilities. But my favorite activity for my athletes is to sit down and think about their season, their goals, and why they love the sport.
The other big activity I make a point to include is to connect back with their spouses, partners, or loved ones. The family takes a big hit when training begins, so actively thanking them can do wonders for a relationship. I sometimes send thank you cards to these loved ones because of how supportive they are. This could mean helping plan a meal, cooking dinner, or finding a nice place for a vacation. This list goes on and it’s an important activity to include in your off-season transition period.
An athlete needs to remember that the off-season is not just about letting the body recover. The off-season is about letting your mind take a break from the beat-down of the racing season.
Work on your weak sports, but focus also on cross training and having fun. Thank those in your life who make this activity possible for you. And remember again why you fell in love with the sport so you start your next season on the best path.
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