The racing season in India comes to an end in January/February.
However, with the proliferation of events and races these days, there is no “off-season” as such like there used to be just a few years ago. There is a big temptation and sometime pressure to continue racing in events year round. However, if you do this, you can be sure to have a mental or physical burnout, or worse an injury. As such, it is important for athletes to be prudent about their training and racing strategies in the off-season so that they ensure a good setup for the new season.
Here are a few guidelines to tackle the off season…
Take a few cutback weeks
For a minimum of 2 weeks and a maximum of 4-6 weeks, cutback 50-70% of your training volume and 80-100% of your training intensity.
What does this mean in simple terms? If your average weekly volume was 60K towards the end of your season, then do only 20-30K in your cutback weeks. If you did around 15K worth of hard workouts, then cut them back to 2-3K or eliminate them all together for the cutback weeks.
If you are a triathlete and you track your training volume by time, the same guidance applies. Lets say you trained for 8 hours per week with 1 hour of intensity, then reduce it to 3-4 hours in the cutback weeks, with no intense workouts or just a short 10-15 minute session.
Focus on shorter distance events
Many athletes make the mistake of wanting to race the longest distances year round. Pushing your limits in this way is hard on the body. It is not sustainable, year after year after year.
Instead drop down to shorter distances.
If you are a full marathoner, focus on 10K races for the first 2-3 months of your off-season, then on half marathons the next 2-3 months, and then start training for a full marathon.
If you are a long course (Full Ironman) triathlete, drop down to sprint or olympic distance triathlons, then Half Ironman distance triathlons.
Do goal setting for the upcoming year
Set both short term (for the upcoming year) and long-term (over the next 2-4 years).
Do an honest self-assessment of your past year, your strengths and weaknesses, areas for improvements, etc.
Most importantly, write all this down, don’t just keep it as a mental exercise only.
Try your hand at difference activities.
The off season is the perfect time to try difference exercises and activities.
Dreaming of a triathlon next year but dont know how to swim? Now is the perfect time to start learning.
Mix up your running routes by running on a trail for your easy runs.
Do some weight training.
Been wanting to bike? Introduce a day or two of biking in your weekly regimen.
Take that 10 day hike in the Himalayas that you have always been wanting to do.
Dabble in triathlons by participating in a short sprint triathlon race.
Allow yourself to gain some weight
If you are a dedicated and focused athlete, then you probably kept a close watch on your diet and weight, trying to get your weight down to racing weight.
However, as you know, it is very hard both mentally and physically to keep your body at racing weight. Maintaining racing edge means to be right on the edge of the cliff, speaking from the point of view of health, injury and adequate nutrition.
You cannot remain on this edge of racing weight for more than a few months at a time.
Allow your weight to gain in the off season. How much gain is acceptable? Typically 5-10% is fine. So if your racing weight is 60kg, then a weight gain of 3-6kg is fine.
Hire a Coach
I may be biased when I advise this. But speaking from experience of having coached many athletes, and the drastic improvement they show when they starting working with me, I can honestly say that having a coach is one of the best things you can do.
This is especially true if you have specific goals that you want to achieve. Or you are beset with injury due to random, unstructured training. Or if you have problem with being consistent. Or if you tend to fall for the latest fads and tend to get over-enthusiastic, often to your own detriment.
Try working with a coach this year and see if makes any difference not just to your performance but also your outlook to training.
The ideal time to hire a coach is the off-season, instead of when its peak race season, and your “A” race is just a few weeks away. Give yourself and your coach a chance to know each other and get on the same frequency, so that you can together attack the meat of the season.
If working with a coach is not your thing, or its just not possible for you at this stage, then consider an online club like CLUB Motiv8.
Its natural to feel all sort of emotions once the racing season gets over.
A sense of void and/or post-race blues; typical if you achieved your target for the year.
Over-eagerness/over-enthusiasm to immediately start the next heavy training block; typical if you did not achieve your targets.
However, it is very important to have an off season – a period of some variety, and reduction in training volume/intensity, for mental, physical as well as physiological rejuvenation.
The above guidelines will help you plan out your upcoming training and racing season so that you continue training and racing year after year, in a healthy, prudent and sustainable manner.
Good luck and happy training!
-Coach Atul Godbole