Does The Off Season Really Mean Off?
It has been a little over two weeks since the conclusion of the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and even crazier that it has only been a little over a week since we have been home. Seems like so long ago already that we were waking up to the ocean crashing outside of our balcony and walking down Ali’I Drive into town for some coffee or an Acai bowl.
During these past two weeks I have done very little in the sense of “training”. I have stayed decently active with some light running, walking, and lifting; I even hopped in the pool under my own will power for a short little 1400 yd swim. Basically kept myself active enough to move the body and not get stiff but didn’t exert to a large extent. It was a perfect post season break, and exactly what I needed after going hard for the past ten months leading up to Kona. Now that these two weeks are over we are entering the “off season” or Post Season building phase and for the first time in two weeks I have training in my Training Peaks. You may be thinking, “but Kayla it’s the off season doesn’t that mean you don’t do anything?” or “why are you training it’s the off season?” I find this to be a common thought process especially for people who may not be in the industry, and what I wanted to chat with you about today.
Earlier in the week I was prepping for a Facebook Live chat for the Where Your Feet Take You team, this is something I do twice a month in an effort to help each of my athletes feel empowered through education in triathlon, on the off season and I came across a podcast by Matt Dixon of Purple Patch Fitness on the off season and it turned on a light bulb for me in describing my thoughts on the off season. Matt Dixon’s podcast “Take a Break But Don’t Be a Sloth” broke an athletes seasonal mindset into three parts, and I really liked his thought process on the three phases.
1. Athlete Phase – this is the phase where you are practicing an athlete mindset.
2. Post Season Break – this is a 2-3-week long phase in which you are a “normal” human being.
3. Post Season (or off season) building – 4-8-week long phase depending on what your race planning looks like where you begin to build towards being an athlete again.
The athlete phase is a whole different conversation, that is something bigger and more complicated, but since it is considered the off season for many people or nearing the off season that is what we will be talking about today those two little pieces the Post Season break and the Post Season building phase.
Post Season Break
First off I liked that Matt Dixon called this a Post Season Break verses an off season, and same with the Post Season Building phase. I often feel like that people take the word “off” to literally and that can often bite them in the butt moving forward.
Despite that each of us can’t be “on” all the time, we can’t be in the athlete mindset all the time we will either burn out or go a little bit crazy if that is the case; so we have to take a break. The Post Season Break should come after your A race when your season is over. It is a time in which you shift from being an athlete and performance driven to a normal person. Do the things that you maybe missed while you were in your athlete mindset, stay out a little bit later have a couple more drinks, and have more of those bad foods that you always wished. The key is to remember that everything in moderation, even taking a break.
Mix it up a little bit with your training, or rather exercising, go mountain biking, take a cycling class, hiking, yoga, or whatever it is that you missed while being an athlete. The key here is remove the performance structure from your life, don’t wear a watch, and don’t stare your watts. Just enjoy the time to do what you want, live your life!
It can be hard during the post season break to allow yourself to be ok with the changes that happen to your body during this time frame. You will probably gain some weight and you will most likely loose some fitness, this is ok. In fact it is good for you, especially the weight gain. Hormones, for both men and women, bodily functions, and energy levels are enter-twined with body fat and when you spend a large amount time at a body fat that is under whatever percentage your body functions at a “normal” level you put those systems under stress. Gaining a little bit of weight and putting on some body fat can help reset and restart the cycles that are a healthy and important part of your functionality. Secondly, with an increase in body fat your energy levels tend to increase as body fat is one of the biggest sources of energy in our bodies resulting in a time frame that you can really build some muscle, strength, and power to use later on in the bulk of the season. Now, again this does not mean go pack on twenty pounds if that is not what your body needs moderation is going to be the key factor. Lastly, make sure to have a conversation with your doctor, gynecologist, or medical professional on their thoughts on what your body needs in order to regain a cycle as well as communicate with your coach.
Post Season Build
In Matt Dixon’s podcast regarding the off season I liked that he really specified that the break should only be about two to three weeks long. Not because you need to hop back into full training necessarily but because after about two to three weeks you start to rapidly loose all of your fitness and have been out of your routine for long enough that it becomes really tough when starting back up again. The reason I keep referencing this podcast is because I agree strongly with it.
After your two to three-week long break, a complete performance and structure break, it is time to head into the Post Season Build. A lot of you call this the off season, but I like the thought of calling it a build season. This session can last anywhere from four to eight weeks depending on what your next season’s race schedule looks like. Where most people start to worry is that during this time frame they will be too structured and run the risk of burn out, but that is the beauty of this specific timeframe. While it is structured and more performance based than your Post Season break it allows for some flexibility and lower volume. You want to have somewhere around 3-4 key sessions during this time frame where you are focusing on strength, technique and even throwing some speed in there; because you are at a lower volume you can work at the top end of your speed in all disciplines with less risk of injury. This builds a lot of power, strength, and in turn speed.
After those 3-4 key sessions you can still enjoy flexibility to go to that yoga class with your friends, take the fat tire bike out in the snow (if you are crazy 😉), go to a spin class, a hike, or whatever suits your fancy. It is a time to still enjoy that flexibility and prevent burn out but also working on key pieces of your sport in order to allow yourself to jump into the “athlete mindset” with much less risk of injury and hopefully a whole of lot performance gains.
I hope that this helps you wrap your head around your post season break and/or off season. As always make sure to keep in contact with your coach, sports professional, or medical professional (in regards to anything health related) in regards to any pieces of the above as it is very important that they are a part of your plan.