It’s that time of year. When I’ve completed my big race for the season and am ready to take a break. As a coach, when I say take a break to my beginner athletes, I find they often think I mean doing nothing, but a break isn’t necessarily lazing about on the couch. For athletes I work with and myself, this just means doing something different and mixing it up to allow your body and mind to recover from a race season.
After the last big race of the year, I like to take 6-8 weeks “off” from traditional swim-bike-run type training and do “easy” training. I find this relaxed training is key to an athlete’s success in the next season.
But this training isn’t the hardcore push-yourself-until-you-almost-puke sort of workout, but more of a loose structure, like “What do I feel like doing today?”
The important thing to remember for the off-season is that you don’t want to completely get out of shape, lose muscle, or gain fat tissue. But you do want to allow time for your muscles to fully recover as well as your mind.
An intense training grind can cause burnout over time, so a yearly off-season break is important for athletes to keep them fresh and ready to compete the next season.
During this time, I encourage my athletes to do other sports they enjoy and can’t normally fit in during race season to stay fit like climbing, hiking, karate, pickleball, aerobics class, or just go for a nice walk or an easy jog. Mix-it-up and have fun!
Maintain Your Muscles
As mentioned, it’s important to maintain lean muscle tissue. This can be done through continued movement, basic core strength training, and watching what you eat. Proper nutrition is actually a big focus for me in the offseason, since I’m not exercising as much or as long (no 3-plus hour Ironman workouts).
And tracking food is how I stay healthy and accountable during the offseason. Many athletes neglect nutrition because they’re already thin or look fit, but without consumption and absorption of proper nutrients, your body will not function at its peak—hindering performance.
A common mistake many athletes make in the offseason is simply eating too much, especially empty carbohydrates. Spend time while you’re on a training break reading labels, and even breaking out measuring tools to track serving sizes. This can ensure you have the information to eat properly and can help you identify hidden sugars and uwnhealthy foods.
It’s also important to start your day with a fruit or vegetable, and make sure you incorporate 6-8 serving in each day. These provide the nutrients you need to repair muscle tissue and help you get ready for the upcoming season.
We lose most of our moisture from breathing, and winter air can be dry, sapping moisture from our bodies. A good rule of thumb for water consumption is half your body weight in ounces (about 8 cups for most people is a good rule of thumb). Depending on your exercise level and body composition you may need more.
Sadly, on average, many people are far below that number and experience signs of dehydration like; nausea, dizziness, cramps, achiness, soreness, general sluggishness, sleepiness. It’s important to get enough water and electrolytes, so you might consider tracking that as well.
When done in tandem, light training, proper nutrition, and adequate hydration can help your body recover, and get you ready for your best season yet.