5 rules for ruling Off-Season
Similar to the Pirates code- These are more like guidelines
I have heard that the term off-season is a dirty word, and should be used sparingly, if ever. The thought process being, that there is no true "off-season" for a competitive athlete. Well... I love dirty words, almost as much as I love the Off-season. So if you want to take a page out of my book (or blog) on how to (in)appropriately approach this tender time table of training tom-foolery, then read on.
The window of time starting from when the athletes mind and body throw their hands in the air and say "F' this; I'm out!" and ending when it's either time to start a new building period, or motivation returns.
This interlude of periodized training is easy to over-think. With the complexity of a structured multi-sport (or even single sport) training plan it's easy to fall into the trap that EVERYTHING needs to be complicated. In light of simplicity, I am going to break down my key points for a successful off season into 5 golden rules, in no particular order.
These are my top 5 tips to get you through your race day dry spell.
1. Take time off of structured training:
This is the most critical rule. If you have a coach, tell them to stuff it. For at least a week, possibly more depending on the length of your season and your race type. If you are self coached, tell yourself to stuff it for a week. It's not as rewarding, but still an important part of the process. Following a structured plan for a full season is not only physically demanding, but also mentally taxing. Some off time to do whatever the hell your aerobically fit heart desires, is liberating and will help clear the system mentally and physically to be ready for more structure when the time comes.
2. Enjoy yourself
This is also the most critical rule. After getting wrapped up in a season of racing and striving to improve, no matter what your goals are, never lose sight of why you started. The off-season is the perfect time to rekindle the joy if it got lost along the way. It is also a good time to dive into other active... activities, that interest you. Rock Climbing pique your interest? Nows your chance. Miss all the times you would go back country skiing with your friends? Hit it up. Find ways to stay active that take you to your cardiovascular happy place. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, if you are fully dedicated to a dream in endurance sport that could be jeopardized by off season shenanigans, you will need to calculate to costs of those risks yourself. I'm not going to do it for you. I left my t-9 in trigonometry and my smartphone won't calculate life altering antics.
3. Hit the gym
No. I am not talking about getting: yoked, swole, tanked, or jacked. Leave Tyrannosaurus Flex and Swoleberham Lincoln at home and keep your tickets for the gun show. Unless that is what fits in your rule number 2 category then by all means have at it, but again you will need to calculate your own risks. Off-Season as well as pre-season (and all other seasons) are prime for functional strength training regimes to develop your body into a better tuned machine to cary out the tasks of endurance sport. A more detailed post on great strength training movements for athletes will come shortly, but focus on full body movements rather than muscle isolating exercises. Full body movements include exercises like box jumps, mountain climbers, pull ups, planks and.. well you get the idea... Remember we are endurance athletes, so keep the weight light and the reps high (generally speaking) Check back for a kick ass list of exercises to add into your grab bag of workout goodies.
4. Stay consistent
You guessed it. This one is also the most critical rule to having a successful off season. No matter where rule #2 takes you, make sure you keep consistently active. It is hard to bounce back from an utterly lethargic 8 week period of binge watching Game of Thrones. If you need a break from any particular aspect of your multi-sport repertoire, make sure you have a set time period of when you will 'dive' back in (pun intended, if what you are taking a break from is swimming, not that I am speaking from experience, this is a purely hypothetical pun aimed at no specific person). Staying steady will not only help keep you in shape, but will also keep you in a proper mindset for consistency when the real work begins. Falling out of a routine can be a hard climb back up on the habitual gravy train. We've all been there when you stop waking up early for a few weeks and all of a sudden you're 3 years older, jobless, with a flair for Jeopardy (maybe not literally but figuratively, and I'm not here to judge). Do find time in your schedule to incorporate a few runs, rides, or swims. Even if they are short in duration. Keep up with your basics when possible.
After a spell of.. doing whatever it is that you do, and it is time to get back into training, do so with a purpose. The reason a mental break, just like a physical break from training is so critical, is because it will allow you to come back stronger. Lay out your coming season with new goals and new ambitions. Make your schedule, and plan on jumping back in with full force and an unyielding vigor to get stuff done. If you can barge back into a full training regime feeling ready to kick ass, without much detriment to your peak race fitness, you can call your off season a success!
As previously stated, these are more like guidelines than actual rules. Take what you will and leave what you want. In any case, remember that this is all for the love of the sport. Don't get so serious that you forget why you do it.