This time of year can be tough for many endurance athletes. Last season is over, and now you’re in that in-between time of heavy training for the upcoming season and complete off-season rest. You no doubt want to maintain some level of activity, but you or your coach knows it’s best to step back from the hyper-structured environment for the time being. So the question is, what do you do to still stay fit and active during this period? Let’s take a look at a few go-to exercises that are perfect for this time of year.
Strength and Interval Workouts
It’s common knowledge that the off-season is when endurance athletes get back to the weight room to focus on strength and conditioning. Building a strong and injury- resistant athlete should always be a top priority. While strength training is important, there are ways to mix it up to see increased fitness gains and make it more exciting. High intensity workouts that incorporate running, body weight exercises, weights and core work are not only fun but also effective. This type of dynamic approach to strength training helps build a true athlete’s body that’s both functional and mobile. Based on what type of athlete you are, and what you’re training for, this may not completely replace more traditional strength work. However, try implementing a workout like the following into your routine once a week during your off-season.
Warm Up: 10-Minute Run
Main Effort: Complete 3 full sets of the circuit below with 2 minutes rest in between
20 Step Ups (10 Each Side)
45 Second Mountain Climbers
10 Pull Ups
15 Squats with Weight
20 Lunges (10 Each Side) with Weight
20 Bicycle Crunches (10 Each Side)
Cool Down: 10-Minute Run
Take Advantage of the Snow
The first inclination for many is to hit the treadmill or stationary trainer when the weather turns cold and the snow starts to fall. While those are both great tools for getting in key workouts, or logging some base mileage, don’t let the weather keep you indoors all winter. Embrace the change in the seasons by taking advantage of winter-only sports. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing and fat bikes are the perfect way to get outside and still stay fit. Cross-country skis, snowshoes, and fat bikes turn your favorite summer trails into a completely new and different experience. While most of us are now used to having power, heart rate, cadence, speed, and other data at our disposal for most workouts, these cross training activities are the perfect opportunity to work on enjoying your time outside and “unplug.” If you’re missing structure while you’re out in the snow you can easily turn any of these activities into a more dedicated workout by using time and perceived effort as your metric. After an easy warm up go at a RPE of 7-8 for 3 minutes and then recover at an RPE of 4-5 for 5 minutes. Complete 4-6 sets for a great, low-key workout that will leave you feeling healthy and refreshed.
While race season is behind you for now, you’re no doubt still a goal-oriented person and enjoy pushing yourself. A good way to continue to stay focused while still allowing yourself the break you deserve is to establish small weekly or monthly challenges. They could be anything, but mileage or time-based goals tend to work best. For instance, set a goal to ride 150 miles in one week, or to run 40. You might also set longer-term goals such as riding 500 miles in a month or doing three strength workouts per week for a month. Whatever the goal is, the intent is for it to be a small, stress-free way to keep you motivated and to feel like you’re keeping your fitness intact. Typically these types of goals also correspond with a traditional approach to base training where the goal is not so much focused workouts, but rather solid aerobic efforts that build the necessary foundation to add intensity when the race season build-up begins. While these challenges are not as motivating as an “A” priority race during the season, they are a great way to add purpose to your base training.
Many athletes dread this time of year thinking that they’ll lose all of their hard earned fitness. While it’s important to step back for a short period of time to allow for rest and reset, you can still have fun and stay fit by mixing things up. Whether it’s taking advantage of snow sports, working in some high intensity strength sessions, or setting small goals for yourself, there are plenty of ways to get the most out of your off-season. Set your sights on making gains elsewhere and taking this time to embrace everything the season has to offer. By doing this you’ll be able to transition back into structured training feeling healthy and motivated to attack your first spring race.