For most triathletes, official triathlon season is February through September each year, with some late season races in October and early November. It is a long season! October through January is technically an "off season", but what is it off from? There are sure fire ways to make your next season better, and sure fire ways to sabotage it by what you don't do, but mostly what you continue to do in the off season.
Top three mistakes triathletes make in the off season can greatly affect their next season:
1. They continue the same routine of swim, bike and run at the same intensity, volume and balance that they were during triathlon season.
The "off season" is the time to rebuild a base of strength, aerobic fitness, get better at your form in your area of weakness for your physical, mental and emotional health. If you continue to push your muscles at the same intensity, you will actually get slower, and have a much higher injury and illness rate. During the intensity of racing and/or hard practices, small muscle fibers break down around your joints, leaving your joints weak. You need to work on your area of weakness, and overall full body resistance strength.
During the off season, work on form in the swim, bike and run, but spend more time on your area of weakness for endurance, and add a strength routine. If you need to take swim or bike lessons, the off season is a great time for that. Take the time to get the right bike fit. And most importantly, do a regular routine of resistance strength training in all planes of motion. Doing strength routines in the gym and after an endurance session is great. But if you are doing exercises incorrectly, and you don't receive any immediate corrective feedback, there is a high risk you are doing the form incorrect, which in time (sometimes immediate, other times over years) will lead to injury and illness. Learn from a professional. Start with body weight in exercises you need the most stability and coordination, then add weight and tempo for a more strength endurance workout routine.
2. They don't rest.
As athletes, nearly 85-90% of our training is about pushing through and completing a goal. We become very familiar with what it takes to advance and achieve, and we forget to rest. Rest is essential for physical, mental and emotional health. Rest is when the muscles recover and get stronger. Rest comes in many forms. There is actual sleep and naps, taking a day off of training, active recovery workouts, and stretching and massage as well. Learn and practice dynamic stretching, foam rolling and other form based exercises with a trained professional to make your time in the gym and doing outdoor strength and stretching routines more effective, and reduce your chances for injury and illness. Incorporate rest into each workout, each week, each month, each training phase, and each season.
3. They continue to eat everything and anything, as if they are still training like they were during peak training periods.
During the off season, work with a professional to find out the exact intake of calories you should be eating, and how to best hydrate for your sweat rate. Triathlon is as much about how you look as how you perform. ;) Understanding how to and practicing "eating right for you" is essential, even more so during off season when you are not working out as much or as hard. Watch your calories, and eat clean while still enjoying the holidays.
Learn how to use your off season wisely.
Be active in ways you enjoy. If you like to swim, then go swim. If you like to bike, go bike for fun! Come February, it's all swim, bike, run, and triathlon skills. So, take the off season off and hang out with your friends and family and recharge your mind. They've missed you :)
Tell us below about the mistakes you've made during the off-season.