Plan Your Off Season

Here we discuss the part of any athletes year of training and how to plan your off season to enable you to have the best possible results for when race season comes around again. It is the part of the training plan so often forgotten simply because it isn't the sexy, racing side! Statistics show that 47% of experienced UK triathletes train for up to 10-12 months of the year. When the off season rolls around most people end up not really knowing what to do and how best to structure their time or worse spend the whole time "off" worrying about how they will perform in the summer! Train too much too early and the danger is you end up wishing in May you had taken that time off.  See what you can takeaway from this blog to plan for your  next off season.

How do you spend your Off Season?

Many people can get to the weekend and switch off. They can reach their holiday destination and sit by the pool for hours and be content with just being. Typically, triathletes and endurance athletes cannot. However, they know that an "off season" is something they

need

to to take...but how?

An Off Season is like... a Holiday!

Most people understand and look forward to their holidays, in fact, they seem to be living only for the weekend, or their next week long holiday in the sun and they see how much of the inch they can turn into a mile when looking at holidays, public holidays and work from home days to get the most out of their holiday quota. Why should your triathlete self be any different? You take a holiday to prevent burnout, recharge your batteries and be ready to take on the world when you come back. When planning your holidays, people plan well in advance, they book fights, hotels, time off work and set out of office notifications in order to allow them to have the best holiday they can have. Your off season should be approached in the same vein, but how do you plan your off season?

Define when your Off Season is

If we continue with the metaphor of a holiday and an off season - when booking a holiday you clearly define when you are on holiday. You may tell friends, post on Facebook or Instagram as you leave the airport and even have an out of office on. The same should be true with your approach to your off season.  The first thing you need to do is define clearly to yourself when the off season will begin and then when you will restart. Like a holiday though, an off season doesn't have to mean sitting around and doing literally nothing. Go exploring, climb some hills, visit a new city, spend time with your family, visit friends. Take advantage of the time you have and be active, keep moving (but without an eye on your data and 'numbers') and relax.

Take the time to do something different with your fitness or work on your S&C!

But it is hard!

The most common conversation triathletes have is that taking time out is hard. Let's continue with the holiday analogy. When you arrive at your holiday location, you end up going through a process of stress:

  • Still On: You can't switch off, you feel like you should be "working(-out)"
  • One Eye Open: You keep on sneaking a look back at work, emails...Facebook, Instagram,  reading about what the Pros are doing...doing the odd training run...because you need to. 
  • Total Immersion: You are completely relaxed and switched off. These usually happens after a few days of consciously being out of work
  • – Itchy Feet: Worry about the work you are getting back into when you get into the office. I'll never be able to run that fast etc etc.

The key point to remember with the final state is that the longer you spend in holiday mode, the bigger the mountain you feel you have to climb back up to get back to reality. That is a good thing. Don't worry about how hard it seems. If you have been there once, you can get back up there again and a few days will not make a difference to that. When planning your off season, allow yourself to experience all these states and don't worry about them! When you come through the other side and you start having itchy feet

after

being totally immersed in time out, then you are ready to re-start training!

The Dangers of being a Triathlete

Being a triathlete makes it very easy to be a year round athlete. As discussed above, this can be a risk as we know we need time out. As soon as the triathlon season is over, suddenly duathlons, 10km races, half marathons, XC-Leagues and Sportives take over. Not to mention our social media is taken over by those athletes lucky enough to be spending time in warmer climates. We feel bad and believe we should be racing (both metaphorically and actually) through this recovery period.

The XC season can have either a positive or a negative impact on you depending how you approach it

These races are a great way to get out and have fun in more social environments and races. However, plan this into your off season and come-back with realistic targets. Don't expect to be winning races at this point in the year, manage your expectations and plan what you want to get out of this block. If you only look at the short term for these races, then you lose opportunities to put in a strong S&C phase and ensure you come back to the triathlon season stronger than the previous year or you won't be able to put a consistent weight-loss campaign in place to help improve your performances in the summer. Again, if you plan for this detraining, retraining and growth then you can forgive yourself for performing poorly in the local park run if it is part of a greater plan.

Don't Forget to have Fun!

Planning can come across as boring – in fact if you organise all the "fun" part of training, how can it possibly be an off season? However, in reality, planning this point in the season is more about being kind to yourself and giving yourself the permission to relax and enjoy yourself without the over shadowing stress of an upcoming goal. Now is the time to join your local club ride, and go out with some of the less experienced athletes, and give something back and eat an extra big piece of cake because ...why not! Now is the time, to use your fitness to do things you wouldn't have had time for. Climb some mountains, do some trekking or change sports completely? Now is the time to reconnect with your non-triathlete friends and be forced into a conversation which doesn't include SI units! Everyone says they have fun when doing swim, bike and run – and we don't doubt that that is the case – but we all know there are also other things to do too! That said, please don't be the person who tears their Achilles at the Christmas Party because you are having

all

the fun!

You can have work

and

play!

It is about planning for other people before your own goals.

Finally, and most seriously, this phase is actually not about your goals. If you are at the off season phase in your year, then you have just finished a competition phase, where everything you do is race and goal focused. Certainly, there has been some sacrifice on behalf of those around you to help make that happen. What are you going to do this off season which puts your family, your partner, your friends or even yourself before your season goal?