Use the Offseason for Rest and Cross-Training

By Patti Waller | Oct. 22, 2019, 5 p.m. (ET)

yoga in the park

For many athletes, it’s tough to shift the gears down to enjoy the holidays, as the endurance sport phenomenon has a year-round cult following.

You’ve endured endless hours of suffering and sweating to get ready for your A-race, but the offseason is a time to give your body a break. 

If you are in your 20s and 30s, without injury, you STILL need to repair the damage that was done during your training/racing cycle. If you are in the age groups of 40-plus, you need to take this time  seriously in order to return next season without complication. Getting older has its privileges, but our muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia don’t always agree.

As a master athlete, I’ve been stubborn about this age thing. I certainly don’t look my age, and I don’t always act my age, but my body has been competing in sport since high school — back when big hair bands were quite popular. I learned the hard way to value the “off season” in trying to burn the candle at all ends with obstacle course racing, trail running, marathons and HITT classes, none of which are nurturing to the body. 

Many triathletes, myself included, shift into running mode to stay fit when we really should instead shift into yoga, strength training and cross training. That’s not to say you can’t swim, bike, run, but that should not be your power focus.

Stretching is still the last component of most peoples’ triathlon lifestyle. I know, you do your five minutes before and five minutes after — what I call “the cereal box” stretch routine: hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, trunk rotations and arm circles. However, your body needs at least a good 15 min session in the morning and afternoon. This should be non-negotiable every day.

Strength training is the other step-child. Have you been assessed for your biomechanical imbalances? Do you realize that your hip flexors take a beating during season? What hurts? Do you work your posterior chain (the back side)? Do your glutes fire? 

These are all questions for a qualified personal trainer or exercise specialist — they need to understand YOUR body in conjunction to YOUR sport. Just a few personal training sessions will teach you a lot about yourself and your body.

Some athletes use the offseason to work on skill drills toward swim, bike, run. That’s fine, but the long endurance sessions should be kept to a minimum. You will have plenty of time to build up your base again. You may even become a faster, stronger athlete if you shift your focus to strength, stretching, and resting.

Lastly, the offseason is the time to thank those who have been there on the sidelines — your friends, family, kids, co-workers and coaches. The people that listened to you talk constantly about splits, race venues, flat tires, cramps, swim conditions, weather conditions, losing your cookies, forgetting to unclip, being chased by dogs, hot days, cold days, dark days, and transition troubles deserve to be recognized and appreciated.

Without this tribe, you would not be the athlete you are today. They endure just as much as you every time the season starts.

Let loose — it’s ok to have that dessert, a beer, and stay up past 8 p.m. It’s the off season…enjoy.

Cheers.

Coach Patti Waller is a certified USAT Triathlon Coach, Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, and Health Coach. She has worked in the fitness industry for 20 years, and has been coaching endurance athletes since 2006. Patti still actively competes in triathlon and marathon events. Her athletes follow the creed Training With A Purpose, so that every effort is a benchmark towards improvement. She can be reached at patti.lynn.yourcoach@gmail.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.