How to Build Momentum in the Off-Season
With the well-deserved off-season is upon us, the lack of structure can cause uncertainty about the amount of training that should be completed. Whether your last season was one you can’t stop bragging about or a total disappointment, the next one will provide a chance for redemption or building on your accomplishments. Wherever you stand, it’s crucial to establish a solid foundation now and plan for success in the months to come. Besides taking some much-needed rest, below are four other tips to help set up a great race season:
Get Your Lift On
Many triathletes get immersed in the three disciplines, fine-tuning their swim-bike-run skills and building endurance. Their race-day laser focus is admirable, but not when it comes at a cost of eliminating other important aspects of training. In the midst of the in-season chaos, strength training is often pushed aside, causing athletes’ bodies to weaken or become more prone to injury. Some eliminate strength training out of the fear of becoming too bulky, stressing the extra weight could slow them down. But the advantage you gain from just a few additional pounds of properly-trained muscle is far greater than the possibility of it slowing you down.
A season filled with pure endurance training can result in a slight loss of lean muscle tissue due to the body breaking it down in an attempt to help meet energy needs. Set aside at least two sessions per week where you solely focus on strengthening your muscles, tendons and ligaments. Whether you’re into pumping iron, resistance bands or suspension training, this is the best time to introduce a routine that will help rebuild your body and prepare you for a season filled with awesome results.
Fuel for Performance
The colder months can also lead to indulging in comfort foods. You certainly deserve some down time and delicious moments with friends and family, but don’t forget that mindless eating could set you back. Depending on your activity level, the rule of thumb is to reduce your daily intake by 500-1000 calories. But not all calories are created equal, so seek out nutrient-dense foods, rich in vitamins and minerals, that will truly nourish you rather than just fill your stomach. Utilize whole and unprocessed foods like leafy greens, fresh vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, plus hormone-free sources of lean meat. Good nutrition creates an additional opportunity to improve fitness even when you’re not training. Start treating your body like a high-performance machine, give it high quality fuel and you will be rewarded when the PRs start rolling in.
Know Your ABCs
There’s no better time than the off-season to plan your race schedule. Keep in mind that your fitness can truly peak once or twice in a single season, so be deliberate with goal setting. When prioritizing your events, be sure to identify your ‘A’ race early. This will be the single most important event of the year. It’s the one race where your taper is a key part of the equation and is scheduled in advance. Your ‘B’ race is usually a dress rehearsal for the main event and it’s considered a training day where you should not expect a PR performance. The ‘C’ race is typically a fun-run or a triathlon where you may not have results-focused goals. Identifying your races early will put your mind at ease and help prevent disappointment caused by unrealistic expectations.
Step Outside the Box
We do call it the off-season for a reason, so don’t forget to have some fun. Take this time to venture away from your normal, reflect on how far you’ve come, and get your family involved as you dabble in activities outside of your comfort zone. If you’re in a cold environment, consider taking on indoor activities like rock climbing, yoga, spin, or that bizarre group class that you’ve secretly always wanted to join. If the snow doesn’t intimidate you, snap on a pair of cross country skis or simply layer up and hit the trails for a slow yet rewarding run. The key is to keep active, but take a mental break from the usual grind. Enjoy some fun cross training and give yourself a chance to miss triathlon before the official training ramps up again.
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Photo courtesy Oklahoma Sports & Fitness.