Over the years, I have often had to put my foot down in order to slow my athletes during the off season. Surprisingly, that period of rest and regeneration caused me more worries in terms of managing my athletes than the specific preparation for major events such as World Championships.
This led me to develop a few key pointers for my athletes. Here are my best do’s for every triathlete’s off season:
1 - DO take enough time off training: athletes are guilt-ridden. They are usually willing to take three to four weeks off training as long as they can swim 3 x week, bike 2 x a week and run 4 x week… because fall is sooooo nice. Well, this is not an off season. Your body needs to regenerate as does you mind. Taking real time off will allow your body and soul to reach a new level in the upcoming year.
2 - DO stay active: Yes… I said that you need to allow your body to regenerate but you should still go out and have fun playing outside. Your body secreted endorphins at an industrial rate for most of the year. It still needs a small dose of it, even in the off season. 3- 4 sessions of unstructured training will do the trick.
3 - DO stay away from any log or training device. It seems redundant, but the sessions mentioned in my #2, shouldn’t be downloaded and analysed on TrainingPeaks… they are meant to keep a sane balance between rest and training.
4 - DO spend quality time with your friends and family. They are your supporters for most of the year, enduring you early bed times on Fridays and Saturdays. Take advantage of those extra social hours while it lasts.
5 - DO allow yourself to take a few pounds. You can’t be race fit all year round. You physically and mentally need to put some weight on at some point.
6 - DO take some time to reflect on your successes and failures of the past season. However, let the dust settle. Athletes tend to analyse their season way to soon. After two or three weeks, you can start to write down the things that worked well, the aspects you improved, the skills that you acquired as well as your failures. It will serve as a baseline for your goal setting meeting with your coach.
7 - DO sit down with your coach to assess your past season. Athletes are often too hard on themselves and tend to see their glass half empty instead of half full. Your coach is there to bring an objective look at your results and your processes. Once it’s done, you should jump right into #8.
8 - DO set new goals with your coach. They can be process goals, tactical skills, technical competencies, psychological race preparation, etc. Determining and prioritizing them will help you reach you full athletic potential.
9 - DO monitor your motivation. Your motivation should increase as the season approaches… not the opposite. If you train (focus) too much in November, December and January, you might lack motivation during race season. Be smart, pace your motivation in order to peak mentally at the right moment.
10 - DO enjoy your off season knowing that it is a key component of your future successes!