You finished your final race of the season and suddenly have more free time available. Here is a list of the top 10 things athletes should do with that extra time.
1. Keep moving
The term offseason should not be taken literally. Keep moving to prevent excessive weight gain and loss of all your fitness. Just be sure to decrease the volume and intensity, and mix things up! Try something new like trail running, mountain biking or Pilates. Consider exercise with motion in the frontal plane (side to side) since swimming, biking and running are all on the sagittal plane (forward and backward motion). Examples include ice skating, cross-country skiing, tennis, kickboxing and elliptical machines that push out to the side.
2. Don't burn out
Some athletes decide that the offseason is a great time to begin training for a marathon early in the new year. Others can’t resist a club competition to see who can log the most miles on the bike. Add in the online component of sharing data with programs like Strava, which allows you to compare your workouts and power output to other athletes, and you can easily run the risk of burning out. Don’t ruin the most important part of your annual training plan (ATP). Give your mind and body the recovery it deserves by following an appropriate offseason plan so you can enter the new training season feeling fresh, strong and rejuvenated.
3. Strength train
During the base, build and racing phases of your ATP, muscular strength tends to either go into a maintenance phase or is just forgotten by many athletes. Now is the time to follow a progressive plan that builds your strengthback up and reverses muscular imbalances. Strength training properly helps to prevent overuse injuries, which are generally caused by muscle imbalance.
4. Work on your weakness
How do you work on your weakest discipline while decreasing volume and without burning out during the offseason? Drills ... drills ... drills. Improve efficiency in your disciplines by spending time on technique. Include kick, catch up and one-arm only drills for swimming. On the bike focus on single-leg or high-cadence drills. For the run, consider getting an analysis done by a coach who can provide drills to correct specific issues with your current run gait.
5. Change your nutrition
Your nutritional needs should periodize throughout the year just as your fitness does. Maintaining your race weight for any extended period is not healthy. It is natural to put on a few added pounds in the offseason. However, weight can add up quickly for those athletes who aren't careful. An endurance athlete’s daily caloric needs can diminish by as much as 500-1,000 calories in the offseason to account for the drop in volume. Most of these calories should come from carbohydrates. While overall calories and carbs decrease during the offseason, the percentage of protein on the plate should increase – which happens to help with the increased focus on strength training. Also, healthy fats are always in season.
6. Make your doctor appointments today
It’s a great time for an annual exam! Have your blood work done. Get your cholesterol checked. Let your doctor know about any unusual fatigue or symptoms. Get referrals — especially to the dermatologist since we spend a lot of time in the sun. Need a colonoscopy? Time for a mammogram? The sugary drinks and gels you trained with wreak havoc on your teeth — go see the dentist. Take care of your body inside and out while you have extra time. Just do it!
7. Maintain your equipment
Clean your bike and get it professionally maintained if you can’t do it yourself. Change the batteries in your heart rate monitors, cadence meters and power meters. Wetsuits should be washed with wetsuit or baby shampoo and stored properly — best hung folded over a hanger and not like a shirt. Check for any nicks in the rubber and patch them up. Purchase any gear you want for next year while it is on sale. Throw away unused or expired nutrition and clean out your entire gear bag.
8. Recognize those who support your passion
The hours we sacrifice in training is also felt in our relationships with family and friends. Having more time in the offseason provides an opportunity to rekindle these relationships. Put your loved ones first for a while and let them know how much you appreciated their support. Make lunch meetings with your friends and catch up with what is going on in their lives. Give time back to the people who love you and support your passion.
9. Plan your 2018 race season
Planning your race season in advance allows you to save money on races and allows your coach to make the best training plan for you with an accurate ATP.
10. Talk to your coach about your next season
Consult with a coach to confirm your thoughts on your next race season. A coach will help prioritize your key racing events verses those that make good training events. A coach will also make sure they are spaced appropriately and allow for adequate base, build and recovery phases. Designing an ATP that optimizes your performance and keeps you from feeling burned out is one of the most important steps to making your next season a success.
Christina Dorrer is a USA Triathlon Level II, Youth & Junior, IRONMAN and USA Cycling Level 3 Certified Coach. In addition to organizing triathlon-specific classes and clinics, she privately coaches beginner and world champion athletes. She is also the head coach for the Coach Dorrer Performance TRI Team and Fit 2 B Kids Multisport Team out of Rockville, Maryland. She can be reached at coachdorrer.com.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.