The "Off-Season" Fallacy

There is no “off-season” in training; it is just that simple.

Your time being a couch potato all winter and getting ready for “next season” by relaxing and “recovering” for 3 months is not beneficial to your improvement, and it is certainly not helping you meet any goals.

You are either working towards your goals or you aren’t. Period.

This year more so than any year prior, the “off-season” should be thrown out of our lingo as endurance athletes. The term “off-season” often refers to the time of year when an athlete has no races on their calendar when there is nothing imminent to train for and often when the weather is not as hospitable to training for their sport. But, calling this period the “off-season” is fraught with problems and often leads athletes to take excessively long periods of time away from their training. More often than not, that hinders their long-term progress as an athlete. A better name for this season and one often used by coaches and elite athletes is to re-frame this time of year as the “non-competitive season”.

The “non-competitive season” refers to the exact same time of year previously mentioned but emphasizes a shift in the athlete’s focus from training for specific events to training for general improvement and wellness. This period of your training can include lots of things: skill improvement, injury prevention, strength development, focus on new types of training, mountain bike vs. road bike, or even time spent working on a specific weakness. But it should absolutely not be time spent on the couch binge-watching Netflix and recovering by eating peanut butter pretzels and all the holiday cookies (I do speak from experience, these things don’t make you faster I promise).

This is also a good time to reduce the amount that you train, BUT DO NOT STOP ENTIRELY. The main issue with the “off-season” is that athletes think this is a time to stop training entirely, and that is just terribly wrong.

Yes, some time away from focused training can be beneficial and for each athlete, that time away may look different.

For athletes coming off of excessively long competitive seasons that culminated in ultra-distance events or championship level competition, this period of time away from focused training can and should be longer than athletes with a relatively short competitive season. In any case, keeping some regular activity in your life not only helps you stay healthy but keeps you ready to resume training when your body and mind are ready to get back into