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 a more structured routine.
Here is what it boils down to: if you want to achieve something or become a better athlete, you need to be working towards your goals. When athletes take long periods of time off from training and working towards their goals, not only are they not making progress towards those goals, but they are literally setting themselves back for the season to come.
The non-competitive season is a great time for athletes to shift their focus and work on skills in training that may not be a primary focus during the competitive season, but still support overall growth as an athlete. This time of year almost always includes a reduction in “sport-specific” training and it gives you as an athlete the chance to focus on things outside of training or other areas of training that you normally overlook. This is a time to work on injury prevention, flexibility, strength, and skills so that when the competitive season rolls around you are a stronger, more versatile, and all-around better athlete.
This is also a good time for multi-sport athletes to focus more attention on a discipline that holds them back (your limiter). It is always challenging for triathletes to improve dramatically at all three sports simultaneously during the competitive season. When training volume is high in all three sports, each discipline can only improve so much. Spending your non-competitive season doing a targeted focused training block on your weakest sport while maintaining some consistency in the other two can help you make dramatic improvements in that discipline that carry over into the next race season.
The last, best thing about the non-competitive season is that it gives you time to diligently plan your next race season and create a training plan to go out and attack your goals. This is your time to plan, to figure out what goal excites you and makes you want to get out of bed before dawn to go train.
If you need any help planning what to do in your non-competitive season this winter or need some guidance in creating a race schedule or training plan for your 2021, I am here to help. A coach is there to help you not only get your training on track so you perform your best during race season but also to guide you through the non-competitive and planning stages of your training so that you can perform your best year after year and continually improve.
So this winter let's keep the dust off our gear, let's keep ourselves moving forward in the direction of progress.
Remember "progress has no off-season"