I used to take the approach that once my last big event was over in the summer, official training was done until January. Taking 4-5 months off would result in a lot of lost fitness and some weight gain that I had to then conquer come January. I would only use a coach during my “in season” and the rest of the year, I exercised sporadically or not at all. After getting frustrated about not making progress year over year, I decided to make a change.
That said, taking a short off season is extremely important after you’ve raced all year, but it doesn’t need to be several months. Take the time to let your body and mind re-energize, allow yourself the recovery in order to make sure you don’t end up sick or injured. For most people, this is 2-6 weeks. Use that time to catch up on life, enjoy the nights out, days off, and casual social training. Then find your focus again.
There are a couple of different ways to approach this time of year. First, sign up for some short & fun winter races Knowing that I have an event on the other side of the holidays helps keep me checking my workout boxes and motivated to keep working. It doesn’t need to be a long or important race – some short 5Ks or 10Ks should be enough to keep focus.
My favorite strategy is to set some goals not around racing – like working on a weakness, for example. Historically, I have not always been great about getting my strength workouts in. After a couple different injuries, I realized that strength needs to be a very important part of my workout routine – especially as I get older! Building stronger muscles helps support joints which can help keep them healthier and happier. Plus, it’s a huge factor for me and my endurance. The stronger I am, the longer my muscles can fight for me through long runs and bikes. So, for me, focusing on strength is a great off-season goal. I have more time to commit to the gym with shorter swim/bike/run sessions. Progress is easily measured which helps keep me going as I see the results.
Another option is focusing on technique, mechanics or form in one particular sport. We can always improve our efficiencies – and this will result in time gains during the season. I’ve done swim blocks where I commit to masters swims each week, so I’m getting form corrections along with keeping up with fitness, bike blocks where I work on technique, handling skills and strength, or run blocks where I dedicate time on drills each workout.
There are so many different ways to help you through this time of year and keep you from just binge watching Hallmark movies on the couch – although I still watch them, just on the bike!