What should I focus on in the off-season? What even is an off-season?
For some, the off-season means off. For others, off-season means race season prep.
The most important variable, in my experience, is fatigue. If you finished your 2018 triathlon season mentally burned out and/or have injuries you’ve been managing for a while, you may need more rest. That’s ok, give yourself permission to recover your body, your mind, and your passion for the sport!
For me, the off-season means SAY YES! The triathlon race season demands structure and discipline so, in the winter, I need to practice listening to my body and to my heart. Do I feel like going hiking? Yes! Should I kick around the park and downtown on Saturday? Yes! Should I do a group ride that’s not in my training plan? Yes!
Follow your intuition. And if your intuition needs a little nudge, you may find the following helpful as a jumping off point:
Rest -> Transition -> Hit the bike trainer HARD
After my last race of 2018, I took two weeks of active recovery and am now taking two weeks of no swimming, biking, or running at all. Your body needs time to repair, especially if you’ve been nursing some low-level injuries a good part of the season. By the end of the two weeks, I miss the training so much that I don’t have to fantasize about letting off the gas pedal for the next eight months.
In January, I’ll transition into a training block that incorporates weight-lifting and some of the hardest bike workouts I do all year: short, nausea-inducing intervals that are too hard to recover from when a race is coming up. (With running, I’ll do the opposite: lots of steady aerobic that creates the foundation for the track workouts to come.)
Eat vegetables and lean protein
During the off-season, I listen more carefully to what my body wants. I don’t need as many calories, so I try to attend to when I’m hungry and when I’m full rather than sticking with the normal pattern I’ve had all summer. I’ll continue my normal F2C Nutrition supplements (except I’ll cut the Glyco-Durance). I use Pharma-Greens in the mornings and continue making Vegan-Pure shakes with Ultra-Durance.
By maintaining high-protein, lots of vegetables, and whole grains, even if I add on a treat I know I’m still getting all the good nutrients I’m used to. I do think it’s good to indulge in foods you’ve been restricting. Saying YES! now means it will be easier to say no later, giving your body the best fuel when you’re also demanding the most of it. Let me be clear: for me, “indulging” means that in the last two weeks I had two glasses of wine and ate—brace yourself—four desserts. And that’s pretty much the end of it. Triathletes or not, we all deserve bodies that are running their best.
Get technique and strength right
That shoulder twinge you’ve had since high school, the knee that bothers you halfway through the run—the off-season is a great time to experiment with physical therapy; agility; yoga; and improving your swim, bike, and running form so you can build resilience and become more efficient well before your first race.
Love the pool! Love the gym!
To have a great bike, you need to be coming out of T1 with people who are as good or better riders. Pool logistics can be a killer, so use these dark-sky mornings to get faster in the water and to get in some solid 5,000 workouts. If you’re not on a masters team, now’s the time!
This is also a great time to add in a heavy lifting workout or two at the gym, or try CrossFit. Building strength can prevent injury and is also a great way to set up the body for muscular endurance.
Turn up for family, friends—and for yourself!
Seriously, really turn up. My husband and I both race, so our summer meals equate to maximum calories in minimum time. So I look forward to treating my family (and inviting over friends) with more creative winter meals: lasagne, hearty soups, pot pies, fresh bread, etc. If you have a partner at home who steps up while you’re off training, now’s the time to show them some love by asking, “What do you need? I have more time now, what can I take off your to-dos for a few months?”
I will also visit relatives during the off-season and be as flexible and available as I can for opportunities that come up, whether it’s spontaneously treating my daughter to an evening out or making a ski trip. Face it, there are a lot of things you have to say no to during race season, so make it a priority to say YES! during the season that you can.
Just as important, turn up for yourself. If you have a hobby or something you love but haven’t done in a while, get back in touch now. I practice a lot more yoga in the off-season and read a ton. Find those things that have nothing to do with achievement and give yourself some fun and some nurturing.
Plan for 2019Mapping out goals and a general plan helps keep motivation high through the long weeks of indoor trainer rides and treadmill runs when it can start to feel like, “What is this all for?” Allow the planning to also be a dialogue with your family. If you get out a calendar and show them where your races are, you can also show them the major builds going into those races where you’ll be less available. So when you’re a zombie all of June, your family won’t be surprised and will understand it’s temporary.
Just as important, listen to your family. Are all your trips for races, or will you have some family vacations, too? What events at school do your kids not want you to miss? Did you forget your anniversary—again? (That’s definitely me, eek!)
That’s all I got! Follow your intuition, say YES! and Happy 2019!!
Written by Kyra Wiens, Professional Triathlete
Follow Kyra on Instagram! @kyrawiens