It has been a long season. You did winter miles in your base period, you did the hard yards during your build, and you knocked it out of the park come race time, maybe even achieving that elusive PB. So why won’t you rest now?
I suspect this is a conversation that a lot of coaches have with their athletes at this time of year. As a coach and athlete, I too experience paranoia when I feel fitness leaving my body, like a jilted lover slamming the door and threatening never to come back (or return my Smashing Pumpkins CDs…)
But rest is important, so here I’ll offer some advice on how athletes can benefit from (or at least occupy themselves during) the off season.
Look back on the season and write down what worked, what did not work and which races went well and why. That way, when you have the season kick-off conversation with your coach, you’ll know exactly what you want to work on.
Dream up a stretch goal and a race schedule, then figure out how you can shake up your training. Again, your coach will love you having this clarity when you have the talk!
Try Other Things
Do some mountain biking if road is your primary sport; or vice versa. Fall is also a great time for cyclocross, mountain running or spin classes. At the very least you’ll get the endorphin buzz you are secretly craving, and you may even find something you can use in your cross training when the season starts.
Get Analysis Done
When you’re still fit from your season but unconstrained by racing and training, it’s a perfect time to do your swim analysis, bike fit or gait review. You’ll be moving as you do when you have good fitness, and you can start working on any necessary adjustments before the main season starts.
Read and Learn
If after your reflection you identify a particular flaw (like mental toughness, nutrition, or pacing) then the off-season is a great time to immerse yourself in the pool of knowledge. Do some reading to find out how other athletes and coaches have dealt with similar challenges, and figure out what strategies might resonate with you.
Connect with non-Tri Friends
Remember them? The college buddies, the work colleagues, or maybe even the family members you’ve bailed on to train over the season? These people are important parts of your support system, and it’s great to be able to maintain those relationships. The offseason is a great time to reconnect.
Dial in Your Winter Training Setup
If you plan on upgrading to a smart trainer, for example, do not wait until there is a session in your training plan. Trust me, it will take ages to get it right if you are under pressure to install/sync everything. It can be easily done in an afternoon if you can take your time.
Prepare Your Body (Gently!) for Another Season
Hit the gym or do some yoga/pilates. These will help when your coach allows you to get back to battering your body properly.
Put the Small Changes in Place.
If diet or lack of sleep was one of the reasons you feel you did not hit the heights you hoped for, start getting into good habits now, when you do not have the added pressure of full-on training.
At least for a while. You may not feel it, but you need this mentally as well as physically. I always want my athletes to come back hungry for the next season, especially when we try to push on to the next level. So sleep in; it will not kill you—in fact, in the long run, it will only make you stronger!
See you for the base period … it will be here sooner than you think!