Here we are in late November, our racing season complete, the off-season has begun. Finally. A time to sit back, put the feet up, watch every second of every Oilers game, completely relax. Or is it?
The off-season means different things to different people, as it should. But what is the goal of it anyway? Why not keep pushing forward in hopes of making further cardiovascular & strength gains? In no particular order of importance, here are the 4 main objectives of your post-season "down" time:
1) Heal your body: During the peak of the season we are asking a lot of our bodies, day in & day out. At times we even become robotic: alarm rings (you're so used to the sound it doesn't even make you angry anymore), sit on the edge of the bed & stare at your running/biking attire that you laid out perfectly on the floor last night, slip it on with eyes half closed, 3 minutes later you're doing your bike/run warm-up. No questions asked, just do it. Total disregard for how you actually feel. The body may be so fatigued you don't even know what normal is. As for any nagging injuries that you just don't have the time to address (physios love this excuse!), NOW is the time to take care of it. Most persistent musculoskeletal injuries take time and effort to heal. You've got the time... now make the effort and get the machine that is your body, serviced.
2) Heal your mind: Often the most neglected part of an endurance athlete's wellness, your mental space has been working overtime for a looooong time. The amount of brain energy required to meet the demands of work, family balance, engaging in a somewhat normal social life, staying connected with the community AND fitting in the hours of grueling training, is ALOT (FYI, I know someone who may be able to help you with this!). Take a mental break, and check out of the racing/training/planning/balancing act for just a bit. Instead, try taking a look BACK. The off-season is a great time to review your victories and successes of the last year. Do this a few weeks into your off-season, after you get through your post-race low and have regained your footing. Let's try right now. STOP. REFLECT. Grab a scrap piece of paper and write down three things you did WELL this season. Now pat yourself on the back and say "WELL DONE". It's okay to take a few days and revel in your victories.
3) Have fun: That means doing something you haven't done in the last 10 months because you're too focused on training in zone 3 for 45 minutes on a hilly route while staying in aero position to mimic your upcoming race course in the hottest part of the day to acclimatize to race day conditions while practicing taking in 300 calories while drinking a liter of water to perfect your nutrition strategy. You get the picture. Go on a hike, try something new... heck, fix that hole in the wall you've been staring at for the last year. Seriously, anything beyond structured training may seem fun during this time.
4) Prepare for next season: Wait a second, I know, I just told you not to think about next year. And, I don't want you to, yet. NOTE- Thinking about preparing for next season should happen AFTER you have met the above 3 objectives. I know that most of you reading this are endurance sport junkies like me, and you LOVE looking at the latest & greatest swim, bike & run gear. I'm not talking about training, I'm talking about getting your actual equipment sorted for next year. That pain cave you've been planning on building? Make it a reality. By planning ahead now, you won't be trying new shoes the week before your first race, or getting a bike fit done a month before your Ironman race (surprising how many people make that mistake!). So make a list of the items that you need for the upcoming season & take some time to browse around. Plus it goes with #3...it's fun!
So there's just a little summary as to what your off-season goals are. Simple, yet absolutely necessary.
Come back next week to find out why THERE REALLY ISN'T AN OFF-SEASON, it's really just a myth! ummmmm.... anyone sensing a contradiction.... stay tuned.