The off season is a time to allow not only your body to recover but your mind also. Striving and training can take a toll on your over-all being and it’s okay to take a break. This doesn’t mean you should hit the couch and binge watch all the seasons of Lost, Stranger Things, and Grey’s Anatomy, while munching away on multiple bags of chips and cookies.
But it’s necessary to give your mind and body a break from triathlon. This is the time to participate in activities that have nothing to do with swim, bike and run. In the colder climates there are many options: skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating. In warmer climates it’s tempting to train all year because you have the temperate weather to be able. But you can still get out and do some hiking or roller blading or take to the water and try paddle boarding or kayaking. Focus on trying activities that get you out of the sagittal plane of motion and into the transverse or frontal plane. We spend so much time swimming, biking, and running in the forward motion that we need to allow our bodies to move in different ways to avoid overuse injuries.
The off season is a time to get back into the gym and do some strength training, or join a fitness group and try out a P90X, TRX, or Core de Force class. Join a local yoga studio and help your body recover from the long strenuous season. The added benefit of doing something other than the three disciplines of triathlon will give your mind a chance to recover also. Don’t focus on pacing and power outputs, let those numbers rest for the time. The numbers will be there when base season starts. But taking the time to recover will actually help you be a stronger, more focused athlete.
Many athletes worry that they’ll lose fitness if they take time off. And yes your numbers will tail off from where they were at the end of the season. But if you were following your plan during the season your starting point at the start of the next season should be higher than the last season, especially if you take the time to recover. If you continue to pound and make every workout every day the hardest workout you can do, your body will eventually break down and injury will be close to follow. Then you’ll have a major set-back that will put your starting point much lower than your starting point of the last season, or even the season before.The key to a successful off season is to enjoy yourself, stay active, and not over indulge in relaxing.
Goal was to go 17 mph. Just wasn't able to get it to happen. Felt like I was pedaling through molasses. Tough day on the bike. At 4 hours 30 minutes I was at the end of the gateway trail near my car and it took a long time to decide if I should throw my bike into the farmer’s field and call it a season, lay down right there and take a nap, or continue with the last hour and a half. At the end of the ride I felt completely shot. Everything just felt off. It took a long time to decide if I wanted to do the run. I seriously contemplated skipping it. Then I thought about just doing an hour. Decided I better do the whole thing as I'm going to have to do a marathon at the IM.
This is the entry during one of century training rides followed by a long run during my Ironman training. Every athlete is going to have training days like this. The goal is to not give up and push through these days and come out stronger in the end. On these tough days I go back to one of my favorite quotes by Greg Plitt, “Championships aren’t won in the theater of the arena. They are won in the thousands of hours of training and the five a.m. runs in the rain when everyone else is sleeping. That’s where it’s won. The heart of a champion is a light switch that’s always on – it doesn’t go on and off when someone’s watching – it’s constant.”
If you’re quick to give up during a training session what’s going to give you the drive to go through when the going gets tough on race day. Tough days in training are what you need to help you have the confidence to finish tough races. Training days aren’t just about working on your body and your muscles, but about training your brain and mindset. It’s equally important to have a strong mindset and a strong body because it’s your brain that will give up on you long before your body will.
Here are six steps to help you get through those tough training days and help you start to improve the strength of your mindset:
This is tough; I’m tougher
I’m not training to be skinny; I’m training to be bad-ass
Kicking my ass today, so I can beat yours tomorrow