When to stop a season
How many times have you asked your coach to do just one more race before you finish your season and suddenly picked up an injury for 3 or 4 months? Perhaps your off season recovery and development was focussed more on a timeline to get you back into the sport before the next season began? Athletes are very similar in many aspects of their behaviour, they always think they can do just one more, just one more repetition, just one more workout, just one more race…However, your body might “think” differently! Time to work out if it is time to call an end to a season before you end up being told to end the season.
Triathlon is a summer sport and let’s be honest, triathletes hate winter and hate having four months without racing, that’s why they always look for one more race before they finish their season. The problem is that you are not a robot and your body will suffer with that decision and many times it is decided on a whim or part of an emotional decision which isn’t discussed with your coach i.e. it was never part of “the plan”.
Training for a specific race brings a huge stress into your body and your mind especially if that race is at the end of your season. When working with a coach, we build a season around your main race of the season and look to peak specifically for an event. Rome wasn’t built in a day and as such big improvements take time. You may have been tantalisingly close to a target time, a qualification or had the frustrations of a DNF – whatever it was. Do not underestimate how much a race will take out of you and how much time we take to recover. If it didn’t appear in this year’s plan, what about planning for next season?
Our body has ways and means of offering us subtle or not-so-subtle hints that we are getting tired. Niggles are part of sport and the way you deal with them is what makes the difference of performing well year after year without any major injury. Seeing a Physio on a regular basis is a great way to avoid all the hassle of getting injured and prevention is the key for success in injury maintenance and sports performance. Niggles are just niggles and at the start of the season, when we are more cautious. However, towards the end of the season, we are tired, we have fatigued, our bodies are likely to have less resilience which makes the ability to push and recover harder. That is when a niggle is a real red flag. Often, that niggle is a warning light that you should heed, especially towards the end of the season. If you have a few reoccurring niggles, or issues, it is a good indicator that maybe you should stop racing and start working on why these niggles are appearing.
If you do stop, you will enjoy the benefits of putting in place the foundations that will bring you joy for the following season rather than pounding out “one more race”.
As coaches, sometimes we have to have the hard conversation to tell our athletes that enough is enough. Though it is a hard conversation, it is usually an easy decision: we know your body is under a huge stress and needs time to recover: to recover from the long season, to recover from the long workouts and to recover from your training routine.
One of my favourite sayings is “Train hard, rest harder”, why? Because it is exactly what training is about! We all know that in order to become a better athlete you need to train hard but if you don’t give enough quality time to your body to recover you will definitely get injured sooner or later.
Remember to listen to your body, sometimes that niggle is just a niggle but if you don’t listen to it, especially at the end of the season, you know what will come! This is a high risk to be taking on just to extend the racing season. One thing we can promise you though is, that no matter how much you want to do one more race to put some demons at rest remember that if you cut your losses, recover and then start rebuilding for the following year, you will be substantially stronger, faster and better prepared and your standard would be incomparable to your performance at the end of the season.