10/13/14

Athlete (not-in-training) - Off Season tips



Athletes are tough people. 
They can push when the body says push no more. 
They can accomplish a lot before 9am and know how to squeeze a lot into an already busy day.
They have this amazing ability to seek out information to make improvements, always reflecting and analyzing as if there are no personal limits but instead, consistent constant improvements.
Athletes are smart, hard working, passionate, dedicated individuals but sadly, many athletes do not know how to do the off-season properly. 

For the first time in 8 years, I have intentionally taken 5 weeks off from any type of structured activity with minimal running (2 runs on the track, gadget free), a handful of short bike rides (gadget free) and a few times a week swimming (after waking up without an alarm, no more than 30-45 minutes of swimming). I say intentionally because I was not injured, sick or burnt out after IMWI so the rest was planned by me and not forced by a doctor.
And I still have one more week to go of my off season!
(Karel is also joining me in this off-season as we are both getting unfit (not unhealthy) and rested for 6 weeks.

And guess what..... I feel amazing and yes, I am surviving for those who feel it is just too hard to take time off. 

I am actually so busy right now that I could not have asked for a better time for this break in training to occur. We are working on our Trimarni 2015 Roster with our new coaching services (and application) as well as putting together our 2015 Trimarni camps. 
Honestly, I could not even imagine exercising every day right now so thankfully there is absolutely no guilt if I do absolutely nothing active for the day except for walk Campy (which this has happened at least twice a week for the past 5 weeks). 

Although many athletes are cool with a 1-2 week break from activity there are other athletes who think they are taking a break but the lifestyle pretty much resembles the season but without gadgets or sets. And for some athletes, there just no stopping them all year long.  

It is important to recognize that the off season is not base training. For our athletes (us included), the off season is simply the break in the year to turn into a healthy, balanced non-athlete who is active without much stress on the body and without a structured routine. The problem for many athletes is that the training never stops because there is always a race on the schedule. After the off season, we believe that athlete must focus on building a new/improved foundation to turn on neuromuscular pathways, to improve skills and form and to identify weaknesses in the body. This is our transition phase which will know call our foundation phase.

Participating in an endurance event requires an efficiently trained aerobic system as well as exceptional muscular, mental, respiratory and cardiovascular strength. To perform optimally on race day and reduce risk for injury throughout the season (ex. muscular injuries, chronic inflammation and stress fractures, etc), athletes must not overlook skills/technique, flexibility, foundation strength training, diet and muscular imbalances/weakness that should be addressed after the off season (certainly some things like diet, personal weaknesses can be addressed in the off season). 
The off season is not the time to get in the gym and start lifting weights, train for a "fun" race or take part in an athletic challenge at the gym. Rest up in the off season so that come the necessary foundation phase, you have the motivation and excitement to use your healthy body all (upcoming) season long. You may think you feel fine just a week or two after your big key race and want to jump right back into something sport related (as I did 2 weeks after IMWI) but you will feel much better after a needed 4-8 week break after your last big race, particularly if your season included more than 3 races and stretched over 9 months.
Recognize that great performances come from consistency. And to be consistent you have to create a foundation that is durable and as resistant as possible to training stress. Be sure that throughout the first 3 months of your season (which follows your off season) you allow your body to adapt gradually. Do not expect to be at the fitness you were last season but instead, be patient so that you can take your fitness to the next level, this upcoming season. 


The big mistake that athletes make in the off-season is feeling an itch to race too soon or hear the buzz for a new or popular race and sign-up for race(s) without giving major consideration as to the season goals or even if they are the right races for you and your body.

It is extremely important to think about your season goals and how they fit into the races you are choosing to register for, the priority of those races, when those races occur and why you are picking them.

We believe that in order to peak appropriately, athletes must training appropriately throughout the year to build a strong foundation and ultimately, get stronger in order get faster and then go longer. Most importantly, you, the athlete, should want to do everything possible/right to help you arrive to your race healthy, injury free and confident to execute.

PLAN FOR NEXT SEASON
-Consider the time it takes to prepare for a race. For many athletes, the body can appropriately progress and tolerate around 14-16 weeks (3.5-4 months) of specific race training. 10 weeks may be too short to adapt properly and more than 16 weeks can increase risk for burnout and injury. Believe it or not but if you train smart (and consistently), 3 months is a long time to train for a key race when you are training smart.  You can race more than once throughout the season and perform well at both of those key A races but "peaking" is hard to do twice in one season. You can have two outstanding performances but you should keep in mind the training that is needed (overtime) to build a great performance and that if the season is too long (without a short season break in between training for key races) the body may get too tired and motivation will dwindle.
 Be patient with your fitness and understand that it takes time to build a successful race day performance.

-What did you learn from this past season in terms of training/racing? How did the weather impacted your training (ex. did you pick a key race too soon in the season, without adequate time to acclimate?). Do you need to choose longer distance races for late season and shorter distance races early season to accommodate your lifestyle/work schedule or vice versa? Did you find yourself burnt out at specific times of the year? Did you experience an injury or set back that could have been avoided? Did you peak at your races? Did nutrition affect your performance?  What are the best courses for you to race on? 

-What did you learn from this past season in terms of how you balanced life and training? Did you make the most of your available training time or did you try to squeeze in too much every day? What needs to be modified next year or changed to focus on quality workouts?  Did you feel as if you tried to balance too much on your plate? Did you find your diet, sleep and stretching neglected because you were trying to balance work, family and putting in the miles/hours? Was your racing schedule too ambitious that you could not peak appropriately? Was your family supportive of your racing/training schedule all season long? Be aware that there is no such thing as the perfect number of hours to train for a race. If you want to succeed, it all comes down to personal success. How many hours can you train and what can you do with those hours?


-What did you learn from this past season in terms of your body/healthy? Did you get injured, sick, have fluctuations with your weight/eating habits, get burnt out, etc. Although coaches should help athletes train smart with adequate rest and recovery, it should be understand that it is tough at times to balance it all. We all have “triggers” in life so rather than getting upset when things happen, learn from them so reduce the risk to make the same mistake twice.

-Are you figuring out what courses fit you the best? How about racing venues, logistics and anything else that can negatively and positively affect your race day performance and previous training. Races should make you excited to train for them but also to race appropriately. Sure, we all have anxieties and it’s exciting to try something new/challenging but consider what fits your strengths the best, what races work within your triathlon budget and work schedule and when/where those races occur. Again, don’t just sign up for races because they are new, open or all your friends are doing it, without giving those races some serious thought as to your goals for the race but also how you will prepare for them.

You have a lot to think about so this is why now is a good time to start brainstorming about next year. The most important thing when considering your season is to think about your short AND long term goals. Your racing/training schedule should make you happy and healthier, it should be financially reasonable and it should help you better yourself as an athlete, parent, spouse, employee, boss, friend and/or human being.