Last week I went over some of the objectives you should accomplish while enjoying your off-season break from racing. I followed that up by telling you that there really isn't an off-season. Confusing? Let me explain.
First of all, ask yourself the question: why am I doing this sport? It could be anything from personal satisfaction to fitness to lifestyle to taking on a bet from a buddy. Inevitably it can be traced back to one recurring theme: I want to improve, whatever that may look like. And since we're performing a sport when the time on the clock never lies to you, that means we want to be faster.
That leads to the next question: how do I get faster? My first principle of training that I stress to all of my athletes is that you MUST find some form of consistency in your training. By finding that consistency you can develop your fitness & strength in such a way to limit the incidence of injury while improving your training quality (and thus racing capabilities). By taking several months off of training, what exactly are you trying to accomplish? Certainly not building on last year's gains.
And that last point is exactly the reason why you shouldn't have that "off-season" athletes typically refer too. While it's okay to let your peak fitness go, it's not okay to drop your fitness levels too low. Remember, physiological gains are made week-to-week, month-to-month and year-to-year. How do you make gains if you spend months simply trying to get back close to the level you were at months ago? Simply put, you don't. And this could very well be the reason some athletes don't improve. If you find yourself finishing the same race year after year in the same time or slower, now is the time to sit down & evaluate why. Seriously, sit down by yourself or with your coach, pen and paper in hand, and figure out why. There is a reason, you just have to find it. And it could very well be that you did a poor job of building on last year's fitness gains!!
So what to do? Well, here are a few suggestions:
1) Take at least 2 weeks off, but not more than 4: As stated earlier, taking a short mental break from the rigors of training and planning is a MUST. But don't take too much time off; fitness levels will drop some, but cannot drop so much that you spend all your time building back up to those levels.
2) Sit down & evaluate your season: Be honest with yourself. Did you achieve your goals? If so, write down what worked. If not, figure out why. There has to be a solution... and it does not involve attempting the same training regime again!
3) Stay active: Not in the way of training, but get outside & do other things you like to do. Just be sure to keep it very light, no intensity, nothing too long. Just have fun!!
4) Start planning for next year: Not necessarily developing your next 10 month training plan, but figuring out HOW you will get faster. Be specific. More strength training sessions? Dialing in your nutrition? Consistency? Come back next week & I will let you in on a little secret that most endurance athletes don't properly address, but will improve their performance if they made it a priority!!