I've been waiting for the off-season for a while. I had a slight dose of my off-season lifestyle when I was injured prior to kona but now I am fully enjoying my time off from training. Although I haven't made my decision if I will participate in the 70.3 World Championships in a couple weeks, I am taking it easy to completely heal my right leg. Still have a limp but I after only 2 weeks since the Ironman I am healing quicker than I expected. My post-kona "can't walk, stand, sit or crawl without pain" has turned into a slight sorenss in my quad. I'm sure I pulled a muscle since I ran the marathon of an Ironman after no running for 35 days, but taking some time off from training has really hurried the healing process. I guess I should have taken some time off before Kona to completely rest my leg, but as a competitive (and stubborn) athlete I had a hard time thinking I would go to a world championship race after not training for weeks. Well, even though I finished the race I have learned that 1-2 weeks of no training is far better than 5-6 weeks of trying to heal an injury while the swim and bike training hasn't stopped.
As a sports nutritionist and USAT coach I come across a lot of the same questions during the racing season. But in the off-season, two questions come to mind. The first question is off-season nutrition and what to eat to not gain weight. Since I am about to write an article on that topic for Beginner Triathlete I will wait to talk about that question in a future post.The second question concerns getting the motivation to train in the off-season with the fear of gaining weight. Once you have your last race the off-season has officially started. Most triathletes treat themselves to treats which were restricted during the last few weeks of the peak training season. For me, I enjoy pancakes for at least two meals a day at least once during the week after an Ironman. YUMM!!!! Whether it is pizza, alcoholic drinks (within reason), a burger (vegetarian for my non-carnivore friends), something fried and salty or something sweet, everyone should indulge in something during the first week in the off-season. But to fully enjoy your off-season, you have to learn to eat like a sedentary/low-frequency exerciser. You can't eat like an athlete anymore! You must cut back your daily calories and eat plenty of snacks and small meals. You shouldn't have to cut back on too many calories because you will cut out the pre, during and post training calories which allowed you to get through weekly workouts with high energy and a quick recovery time. Sadly, you can't use the excuse "I burned it off in training" when grabbing a handful of Halloween candy, indulging in a thanksgiving feast (sorry- a turkey trot 5K doesn't work in your favor!) or eating your families holiday cookies. Even if you plan on increasing the frequency of your workouts in a couple weeks, the duration of your workouts will stay low (there's nothing wrong with 1-2 long workouts to work on fat-burning and to enjoy the outdoors). Furthermore, the intensity in the off-season is low and there is no need to worry about bonking or working beyond a threshold. Therefore, not having enough fuel for your workouts shouldn't be a concern when planning your meals and snacks. If you are thinking of training for a marathon (or half) or winter event, your training should help to maintain your weight. As for those who enjoy the off-season for a time to catch up with friends and family (who seem to get neglected during the racing season but love us because they are so supportive!), catch up on work or just a time to clear the mind (which I am doing for the next couple of weeks!). I'd like to talk about exercise. I love to exercise! Now don't get me wrong, I love to train during the season but I love having no structure, plan or time commitments to my workouts. I start when I want and I stop when I feel like it. I have no method to my training and I just exercise. An easy way to maintain your weight (or lose weight) during the off-season is to exercise in order to increase your caloric expenditure while cutting back on daily calories. Believe me-it is a lot easier to lose weight in the off-season because you don't experience the cravings and extreme daily hunger for exercise. I have swam 5 times since Kona and I rode my bike for the first time this morning. Of course I have been smart by resting and letting my body heal but I feel no guilt with doing almost nothing in the past two weeks because I am eating within reason. I can lay on the couch in the evening, I can sleep in until 7am and I can feel great about my choice (or no choice) of exercise for the day. Remember that the off-season is a time to exercise and to enjoy swimming, biking, running or whatever it is you choose to do to stay healthy. Working out in the mornings is an easy way to get your workout in so that your day doesn't get too busy that you feel too tired to train. Be sure you watch what you eat so that your blood sugar doesn't fluctuate during the day. Whole grains, fruits and veggies and lots of complete proteins...you've read the articles so it's up to you to be accountable of what you put in your mouth. Remember, the off-season is a time to be off of what you normally do and enjoy something that you wouldn't normally do. Even if you choose to "exercise" for triathlons, take off the heart rate monitor, ride a road bike, swim for time and not yards and start increasing your strength training. If you could see how happy I am right now (not talking about my Kona finish) I am totally enjoying just doing whatever I want. I'm so over the Ironman training..Can you imagine that I, Marni the Ironman lover, would say that! My pace on my road bike this morning didn't even reach 15 mph but I felt so young and free just riding my bike around Clearwater. Of course I was loving my cute pink Hammer cycling jersey and shorts...gotta look good out when I see all my cycling/triathlon buddies..who are still training! Forget the planned workouts, workout with a friend who has never done a triathlon (I'm still working on Karel!) and have some fun as a pseudo-triathlete! Enjoy your day....as I contemplate if I should make some pancakes????