What is the “Off-Season”?
The off-season is generally considered to be the time between your last race of the current season and the start of your training plan for your next season. It’s a time to rest and refresh, both physically and mentally before preparing to return to training. For many people the thought of an off season can put them into a spin for fear of not doing enough, or losing hard earned fitness. But just as recovery between training sessions is important, so too is an ‘off season’ giving you, the chance to recover, reflect, refresh, reset and get ready to go again next year.
How Long Should Your Off-Season Be?
This can depend on the individual. Whilst many triathletes will be part of a club or have a coach to guide them, the length of an individual’s off season should depend on a number of factors.
- The length of your season, both past and upcoming
- Physical niggles or injuries
- Mental freshness to get back to a full training schedule
Many believe that two weeks active rest followed by two weeks of almost no activity is the optimal ‘off season’. This generally works for a large number of people however, you should consider those aspects in relation to your own life, goals and needs and should tailor the off season to your particular situation and set up.
The Length of Your Season
If you’ve had a longer season than normal, or have felt particularly drained by your final race or have “under-performed” at your final race, you may need a slightly longer break. Under performance can be caused by overtraining, under fuelling, or returning too soon from illness; all of which should be considered when planning how long you will take off from structured training.
It’s also important during your goal setting for the following season to consider how long your season will be next year. If you’re planning an ‘A’ race in the middle of the Summer, it may make sense to take a shorter off-season. If you’re planning on racing into this time next year, make sure to take plenty of time in your return to substantial training.
Take the time now to go and enjoy some of the fun things you may have missed during your season, especially if your ‘A’ race was a recent full distance event or IRONMAN which can take not only additional toll on your body but can also interfere with your life generally.
We are not suggesting you go hell for leather partying or drop your training completely during the off season and for many, simply ticking over with a couple of reduced training weeks in terms of volume and intensity can be the reset they need to get ready to tackle the pre season blocks of trainings. Go enjoy the social bike spins, arrange a post breakfast catch up with your swim crew once a week, do some of the things you may not have done in the midst of your race season. Mix it up in whatever way works for you.
Niggles or Injuries
Many of us are guilty of ignoring little niggles in our body if we think we can get away with it, particularly towards the end of the season. “I’m just a bit tight here”, “I can hang on for two more weeks until after the race”. If you’re guilty of this, please let your body mend and heal fully before you get back to swim-bike-run 24/7. The off season is the perfect time to sort out those niggles, or hopefully not – injuries, that may have held you back towards the end of your season. Get to the root of the problem rather than trying to simply patch it up to get you to the end of the season. Those niggles will still be there if you don’t address them during your off season!
The race season can be long. So long! Even if you love it, it can be hard to keep motivated right until the end. Training and racing take their toll mentally as much as physically. Let your mind have the break it needs. It will help you stay motivated during the next long season. Have we mentioned the coffee spins and the post swim breakfasts? The social aspect of triathlon is such a huge part of our sport it’s important to get some fun back into swim, bike and run. Why not take the off season to try something new, instead of going for a run, why not go for a hike or hit the trails for something a little different, it is all movement and activity, hop on a gravel bike and go enjoy some adventures of a different kind.
Of course you can leave your Garmin at home.. go run outside and embrace the freshness of the ever increasing cold weather.. go run for fun rather than focusing on the numbers, you’ll be surprised just how much you’ll enjoy running off feel rather than being stuck to the numbers. – If you really want to see the numbers then use Strava on your phone.. or pop your watch in your pocket so you can’t see the numbers but still have a record of the activity for afterwards.
What Should the Off-Season Entail?
As we’ve highlighted above, many people take two weeks of active rest before taking two weeks “off” completely. While some people will choose to literally do nothing for two weeks, this isn’t necessary. What’s important is to avoid any structured training during this time. Feel free to move and try new activities as suggested above, it will help keep your mind fresh. Tailor the time of your off season around whats works for you, two weeks may not be enough for you and you just want a break from swim, bike run, that’s ok too, your off season is as individual as you! Embrace the opportunity to relax more, and take the time to reflect on your training and racing in 2022 so you can honestly think about what you want to achieve in 2023.