Taking a Break – The Offseason. How to take a break, mentally and physically, but still be successfu
Taking a break is really hard. You’ve just finished an epic season of racing, you’ve watched or competed at Kona and you’re feeling pumped, inspired and motivated to smash winter training and be the best athlete you can possibly be for next season.
What is important to know, is that you can never achieve a sustained, long-term linear improvement. If you try to get a linear increase in your performance, then you are guaranteed to hit a plateau. You need a period of rest, of decompression from the heavy weight of training and racing. Training is cyclical, it’s so very important to have the trough to allow recovery and to allow you to reach those big, high peaks later on in the race season.
There WILL be a period of losing fitness. That’s a good thing. Your body is healing. Recovering. Getting STRONGER. Preparing itself for the next period of training. Think of it as your body going in for a service.
Offseason is the most CRITICAL part of the year. Doing Offseason well is the most important cycle of training, if you don’t do offseason well then you’re setting yourself up to fail next season. It’s hard to get your head around – how can stopping training be important to getting faster?! Trust us.
What is offseason good for?
Tissue repair and muscular-skeletal healing
Generally, the sport of triathlon is really quite healthy. Why? Because you are giving your body a range of movements and you aren’t solely repeating the same biomechanical patterns day in, day out. You are doing impact-free training by swimming and cycling, impact training with running and strength and conditioning. Our training loads are high and we work our bodies really hard, we need to give them time to rest, repair, recover.
Consistent training causes stress, stress releases cortisol which is a hormone that makes the body work hard. It’s important to let your body recover, take a break and have a period of time without the ‘stress.’
Whatever life throws at you, you need to take a break occasionally. Taking time out will help you to return to feeling like you’re able to take on the world again.
Rest helps you to determine your goals, put any training difficulties in to perspective and re-energise your passion. If your passion and enthusiasm waned over the season, then you need a break to re-discover that passion. You can be really motivated, but if you aren’t passionate about achieving your goals then you’re setting yourself up to fail.
Following a rigorous program can be really hard, it affects everything in your life and isn’t always a sustainable way of achieving your goals. Both yourself and your family have made sacrifices to enable you to train and race, you’ve take time out for triathlon over the season. It’s not a sustainable way of life for the vast majority of us.
Take time out, invest your time in your family, pets, house projects, discovering new foods or travelling. Experience life and the ‘good stuff’!!
What should I do during an offseason break?!
Exercise! Huh? But you said to take a break?! I did, there is a fundamental difference between exercise and training. When you train you are completing a pre-determined session to achieve a specific outcome. You are monitoring your statistics and adhering to a schedule. Exercise is different. Exercise is moving to stay fit and healthy, there is no pressure to perform or to reach a set target. Don’t wear your heart rate monitor, don’t look at your power or speed. Enjoy it, naked!
Taking a break doesn’t mean that you should be lazy! Just be NORMAL! Exercise, eat well, sleep well, indulge in moderation, have fun and be healthy.
If you want to go to running club then go, do a spinning class, but don’t train to get faster in triathlon. If you really must go for the long weekend runs they should be off road. Hit the trails, it’s a great way to explore your local area. Unleash your inner child and go get muddy, jump in some puddles and come back grinning.
Don’t ever feel guilty about having a day of doing nothing, it’s ok!
Stop looking at your Training Peaks scores, it’s the perfect time to downgrade from Premium, save some pennies and remove the temptation to watch your stats. You can upgrade again in the Spring.
Offseason should be the lowest physical load and amount of training hours for the whole year. Take advantage of this, explore new things, go skiing! Allow the body to move in different ways to what it’s used to. Take some time to read, learn, investigate options for position, technique etc.
Look back on your season, what did you do well? What would you like to do differently? Where do you need more help? Write these down, read about them, ask questions to your coaches, decide how you will overcome these for next year. What new habits will you adopt?
What if I skip Offseason?
You’ll get injured and/or ill! If you skip Offseason, you’ll be at a much higher risk of illness and injury, the body isn’t able to continue training at such a high level for a prolonged period of time. Your immune system gets tired too.
A successful offseason doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get injured, but it’s like wearing a seat belt, it protects you.