It’s the Off-Season… now what?

The holidays are here, the days are shorter and the weather is getting colder (well, at least that is the case in Pittsburgh).  It’s what most athletes consider to be the off-season.  Now what?

Here are my three tips for how to make the most of your off-season from a non-training perspective.  In a future post, I’ll talk more about off-season-specific training.

1. Take a break from training. Seriously, I mean a real BREAK. Not just a break from structured training, but ANY kind of training.

Many athletes are excited and revved up coming off the summer/fall race season.  They want to try to stay in peak competition shape year-round and continue to train at high volume to continue to build fitness.  Even high-level athletes need a total break, though.  Your body will get some extra rest and time to repair itself, and your mind will enjoy the breakfrom focusing on workouts, too.

Plan 2-4 weeks away from swim, bike and run training.  It may seem like a foreign idea… it may seem scary or uncomfortable… but I promise that you’ll enjoy it and will return to training refreshed and motivated to train!

What are some things you can do with all that would-be training time?  Here are my suggestions:

  • Schedule time with friends or family members to catch up.
  • Go do that indoor rock climbing class or Zumba class you’ve been wanting to try but couldn’t work into your schedule during the race season.
  • Take a cooking class or art class (aren’t those wine & painting studios popping up everywhere now?!), visit a museum, check out a new restaurant… you get the idea.
  • Start a new project around the house (even if it’s just organizing/cleaning out closets and drawers).
  • Research races you want to do next year. Look up course information, entry fees, travel costs, etc.  Read blogs from athletes who’ve done races you’re curious about to learn more about the race.  Let’s say you want to race Ironman Syracuse 70.3.  Google “Ironman Syracuse race report” and I guarantee you’ll have more than enough first-hand perspectives to decide if the race is a good option for you!

2. Reflect on the 2016 season.

Now that some time has passed since your 2016 race season, look back it at as objectively as you can.  Ask yourself:

  • What did I enjoy about the 2016 season?
  • What did I not enjoy so much?
  • What did I learn this season?
  • What did I do right?
  • If I could repeat this season, what would I do differently?
  • How was my work / life / training balance?

3.  Plan for 2017 and think about what want the 2017 season to look like.

Ask yourself:

  • What kinds of races do I want to do in 2017?
  • What are my goals? Do I want to get a Personal Record, complete a new distance, qualify for Age Group Nationals or the Boston Marathon?
  • Do I want to follow the same training plan that I used this year, or should I try something new?
  • What are my weaknesses that I want to improve?
  • What tools/resources do I need to reach my goals?

How can you connect the gaps between 2016 and 2017?  Everyone’s answers will be a little different, but here are a few ideas that come to mind.

  • Invest some extra time to work on strengthening weakness(es)
  • Find a training buddy or group to provide motivation and accountability for long runs
  • Spend time working on form / efficiency vs speed. For swimming especially, slowing down to focus more on form than pace goes a long way.
  • Start a strength training / mobility / flexibility routine.  All of these have been shown to improve performance, but few endurance athletes make time to do these regularly.
  • Consider working with a coach to help you reach your goals. A coach can help you to train strategically and efficiently to improve athletic performance.

My favorite things to do in the off-season are catching up with friends over food and drinks, going to a musical or concert, cross-country skiing, getting some extra sleep in the mornings, and trying new recipes.

What are YOUR favorite off-season activities?

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