Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: 10 Things You MUST Do During The Off-Season

>> Thursday, November 30, 2017

On the Team USA page of USA Triathlon, I recently came across a timely article. It was written by Christina Dorrer, who is a level II USA Triathlon coach and a level 3 cycling coach. Here's her TOP 10 THINGS TRIATHLETES MUST DO TO GET BETTER IN THE OFF SEASON, along with my 2 cents:

1. Keep moving

The term offseason should not be taken literally. Keep moving to prevent excessive weight gain and loss of all your fitness. Just be sure to decrease the volume and intensity, and mix things up! Try something new like trail running, mountain biking or Pilates. Consider exercise with motion in the frontal plane (side to side) since swimming, biking and running are all on the sagittal plane (forward and backward motion). Examples include ice skating, cross-country skiing, tennis, kickboxing and elliptical machines that push out to the side.

2. Don't burn out

Some athletes decide that the offseason is a great time to begin training for a marathon early in the new year. Others can’t resist a club competition to see who can log the most miles on the bike. Add in the online component of sharing data with programs like Strava, which allows you to compare your workouts and power output to other athletes, and you can easily run the risk of burning out. Don’t ruin the most important part of your annual training plan (ATP). Give your mind and body the recovery it deserves by following an appropriate offseason plan so you can enter the new training season feeling fresh, strong and rejuvenated.

I think I need to start an annual training plan (ATP). I need to, but I won't.

These are 2 good points to start. I took 1 week totally off (and another week with easy workouts) after the Minneapolis Halloween Half Marathon which sort of marked the end of my 2017 racing year. And now I'm doing more easy miles as to keep #2 from happening.

3. Strength train

During the base, build and racing phases of your ATP, muscular strength tends to either go into a maintenance phase or is just forgotten by many athletes. Now is the time to follow a progressive plan that builds your strength back up and reverses muscular imbalances. Strength training properly helps to prevent overuse injuries, which are generally caused by muscle imbalance.

4. Work on your weakness

How do you work on your weakest discipline while decreasing volume and without burning out during the offseason? Drills ... drills ... drills. Improve efficiency in your disciplines by spending time on technique. Include kick, catch up and one-arm only drills for swimming. On the bike focus on single-leg or high-cadence drills. For the run, consider getting an analysis done by a coach who can provide drills to correct specific issues with your current run gait.

I’m a big fan of strength training and doing “preventative maintenance” all year round. Gotta keep up those old physical therapy leg exercises. I did them yesterday, but I've left out the side-to-side motion (mentioned in #1 above). I stopped doing those 10 months ago when I had a knee issue, but I need to get those back in the routine now. EVERY P.T. I've ever talked with has said a different version of the same thing: "Runners seldom work on their legs because they think running is their leg work. But they need to work on their legs MORE than the average person to keep injuries from sneaking up!" And it's that side-to-side stuff that helps because we're only used to moving straight forward. So DO THOSE LEG EXERCISES!

And a few years ago is when I really decided to let my running (my strength) slide a little while working on my swimming and biking more (my weaknesses). Two things happened: I got faster overall, and I held off more of my nagging running injuries. But this is a good reminder to do more drills!

5. Change your nutrition

Your nutritional needs should periodize throughout the year just as your fitness does. Maintaining your race weight for any extended period is not healthy. It is natural to put on a few added pounds in the offseason. However, weight can add up quickly for those athletes who aren't careful. An endurance athlete’s daily caloric needs can diminish by as much as 500-1,000 calories in the offseason to account for the drop in volume. Most of these calories should come from carbohydrates. While overall calories and carbs decrease during the offseason, the percentage of protein on the plate should increase – which happens to help with the increased focus on strength training. Also, healthy fats are always in season.

6. Make your doctor appointments today

It’s a great time for an annual exam! Have your blood work done. Get your cholesterol checked. Let your doctor know about any unusual fatigue or symptoms. Get referrals — especially to the dermatologist since we spend a lot of time in the sun. Need a colonoscopy? Time for a mammogram? The sugary drinks and gels you trained with wreak havoc on your teeth — go see the dentist. Take care of your body inside and out while you have extra time. Just do it!

7. Maintain your equipment

Clean your bike and get it professionally maintained if you can’t do it yourself. Change the batteries in your heart rate monitors, cadence meters and power meters. Wetsuits should be washed with wetsuit or baby shampoo and stored properly — best hung folded over a hanger and not like a shirt. Check for any nicks in the rubber and patch them up. Purchase any gear you want for next year while it is on sale. Throw away unused or expired nutrition and clean out your entire gear bag.

But “expired nutrition” is the cheapest form of nutrition! (Seriously, we got a lot of expired gels at a running store a few years ago at like 80% of retail. I didn’t die.)

Oh, and regarding #5 and weight gain, I need to watch that. I’ve been slowly putting on the pounds year after year. This needs to stop one of these years (but I like food and really don’t know HOW I’ll make it stop).

8. Recognize those who support your passion

The hours we sacrifice in training is also felt in our relationships with family and friends. Having more time in the offseason provides an opportunity to rekindle these relationships. Put your loved ones first for a while and let them know how much you appreciated their support. Make lunch meetings with your friends and catch up with what is going on in their lives. Give time back to the people who love you and support your passion.

9. Plan your 2018 race season

Planning your race season in advance allows you to save money on races and allows your coach to make the best training plan for you with an accurate ATP.

10. Talk to your coach about your next season

Consult with a coach to confirm your thoughts on your next race season. A coach will help prioritize your key racing events verses those that make good training events. A coach will also make sure they are spaced appropriately and allow for adequate base, build and recovery phases. Designing an ATP that optimizes your performance and keeps you from feeling burned out is one of the most important steps to making your next season a success.

My wife and I both sort of fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to planning our seasons. We may pick out an “A” race or 2, but the rest of the races just get peppered in as the year progresses. (I told my wife to start thinking about a 70.3 for 2018 because she hasn’t raced one of those in a long time.) I need to pick an “A” race or 2, and then start building my year around that.

Happy base-building season!

For more "Thirsty Thursday" posts that highlight workouts, body science, and all kinds of interesting information, CLICK HERE. Back with some "Friday Funnies" tomorrow.


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