Essential Sports Nutrition


Nailing the off-season

There was a time in my triathlon season when I thought that the off-season meant that I deserved an extended amount of time (4-6 weeks) of no structured training - a complete break from all things swim/bike/run. This extended break from training provided me with a great physical and mental escape from the monotony of training but I came to realize that this break was too long for me - mentally and physically.

My next approach to managing the triathlon off-season was to put all of my energy, focus and time into running. Living in Florida made this easy as there were countless half and full marathon events to choose from in October until February. Although I enjoyed a run-focus block of training, I never found this strategy to be beneficial to my triathlon development. I also discovered that during this time of reduced swim and bike training, I was very prone to injuries and chronic niggles, which ultimately affected my triathlon training come March.

The next (and most recent) strategy that I applied to the off-season was to take a short break (2 weeks) from structured training after my last race of the season and then ease myself into my first structured block of training for the following season (Foundation phase). While this strategy proved to be extremely beneficial for my triathlon development, I didn't really have an opportunity to enjoy the off-season to its fullest. Two weeks was too short of a break.

Ironman Chattanooga was 3.5 weeks ago and I feel healthy, motivated and energized to get back into structured training yet I have refrained from sticking to any structured type of training. Although I have remained very active over the last few weeks, I am still respecting the fact that I am in the off-season and I mentally and physically need a break. I am having a lot of fun during this off-season and although I am still swimming, biking and running, there is little pressure to "have to" train. I have not been on my triathlon bike since IM Choo as I am having a blast on my road bike - no structure on two wheels and just riding for fun with Karel (and friends). Plus, our amazingly pleasant fall weather has made it easy to stay active (Karel is really enjoying his mountain bike). I took seven days off running after IM Choo and since then, my longest run has been about an hour but most of my runs are around 20-40 minutes (with no structure). I am even including some hiking and walking into my exercise regime in an effort to keep the overall stress on my body as low as possible. Lastly, I have been in the pool a lot because well, I love to swim! Not only are we having fun with a new coached group swim at Furman on Sunday evenings (5-6:15pm) but it's been fun to have "short"swim sets around 2000-3200 yards. And once the residual fatigue from the IM wore away, I found myself craving weight training again so we are back in the gym, having some "fun" with weights/machines for 15-20 minutes, a few times per week. Lastly, I am enjoying more time in my kitchen and with so many delicious fall ingredients, I am excited for new food creations.

There have been few alarms set over the past 3.5 weeks as I don't want to feel the pressure to have to get up and train. There's a lot of freedom in my exercise routine which has kept me motivated and excited for 2018 but also not exhausted from the previous season. To be honest, Karel and I both finished IM Choo and a few days later, we didn't feel like we wanted our season to end - we both felt like we had more energy to give to the sport this year. Oh well, I guess we will need to bottle up that energy for 2018.

The key to nailing my off season this year was keeping myself moving after IM Choo. I wanted to feel a nice flow from the 2017 season to the 2018 without a drastic change to my lifestyle. The ongoing exercise post Ironman really helped with my recovery but also helped with my mood and mental health. Although I feel like I am maintaining my fitness from 2017, I also feel like I have escaped from the regimented type of training that got me into great shape this past season.

Every athlete is different and it's important to recognize your own path of self-discovery. I don't feel that I did anything wrong in the past but instead, I learned from my past to figure out what works and what doesn't work. The most important thing that I have learned about the off-season is that athletic development occurs season after season. Consistency is key to athletic excellence. So while every athlete deserves and needs a physical and mental break from training, you don't want your break to be too long that you lose all the fitness that you worked so hard to gain in the previous season. Additionally, I find the off-season to be a great time to improve lifestyle habits (like sleep and diet) instead of seeing it as a time to completely let loose and let all good habits wash away.

Karel and I are super pumped about the Hincapie Gran Fondo on Saturday as it will be so much fun to ride our road bikes for 80 miles without having to worry about saving any energy to run off the bike. We live in a fantastic area for cycling and I can't wait to get out into nature and enjoy the mountain views. Although this is a group event, I can't help but go into this event with a "racing" mindset.

Immediately after IM Choo, I started setting bigger goals for myself in 2018. Because I am not making any extreme changes to my training or diet next season, I look forward to taking my accumulated 2017 fitness into next season. My motivation and excitement is high for next year and I can't wait to get back into structured training in a few weeks as I start building my foundation to ensure strength, resilience and great health for next year.