For many athletes, the off-season, or as I call it, the “transition season,” may create a sense of a loss. It is difficult to see all of those hard-earned chronic and acute training load numbers decrease, but perspective and continued discipline during this time of year are very important.
I suggest that my athletes consider this time just another critical piece of their annual training plan, or as the link to their next season. Remember, what you do in this transition period will have an impact on the year to come, so you don’t want to go full couch potato. There is a fine line between getting the mental and physical rest you need, and taking a big hit to your overall fitness. Here are few “lessons learned” from working with athletes in their transition period:
Continue to be Active and Have Fun
Transition season is a great time to do all the activities you missed during the training and racing season. Whether it be backpacking, a century ride, or even just a day hike with the family and dogs, now is the time to have no agenda. Just try to remain active at least five days a week with two days’ rest. If you feel like resting a little more, then do so—but remember it is important to continue building that physiological foundation to be prepared for the rigors of base training. It will be here before you know it!
Review Your Season
Whether on your own or with your coach, now is a great time to review your performance management chart (PMC). From the PMC, you can understand volume, training loads, power outputs and whether you peaked correctly for your priority events. Look at how any unexpected events, like family vacation and/or illness affected your training. Ask yourself whether you did enough base or whether you put in enough hours. Did you address your limiters and meet your training goals? Now is a great time to determine if you did the right races at the right time and whether they were suited to your strengths. Your success on future races depends analysis of your previous year’s race data, which will help you prepare and modify your training to meet next year’s selected races or events.
If you have been thinking about putting a new power meter on the mountain bike, trying a new diet, or practicing some new skills, now is the time. With my athletes, I often focus on pedaling efficiencies, peloton etiquette, or handling skills like downhill and cornering. They always say you shouldn’t try something new on race day, so this break from regular racing is a great time to test alternative training methods, nutrition and gear.
It’s also a great time to hone your mental game, like positive self-talk and meditation. These skills can take as much or more training as riding your bike, but will serve you well when the season ramps up. I also make it a point to share research, articles, and books with the athletes I work with during their transition season. This often leads to discussion which helps us modify and develop goals for the coming year.
Take care of the things you neglected during the season.
Many athletes tend to put off house chores, medical procedures, and even some workouts like strength training due to traveling and racing during the weekends. The off-season is a great time to catch up, especially with the stabilization exercises that get you ready to do higher-level loads of weight training like maximum strength and power.
The “off-season” is your transition into the next season. As such you want to maintain your discipline, but shift your focus from training to recovery and setting your next season up for success. With the right balance of rest, activity and effective planning, you’ll start your next season refreshed, focused, and perhaps even riding faster!