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Enjoying the Off Season

For most endurance athletes, the racing season is wrapping up about this time of year. The major races are finished, the race reports written and reviewed. So now what? If you are like most endurance athletes, the off season is a hard time - not the needed recovery from a long training and racing season. We've spent the last number of months building speed, endurance and power - getting fitter and faster. And now? With every passing recovery week, the fitness feels likes it's slipping away. All those hard earned gains lost. It’s tempting to keep pushing to maintain current fitness so you start next season well ahead of this season

That’s an easy way to get injured and burn out. We cannot maintain the race fitness throughout the entire year. We need the time to recover from the stresses of training and racing. So the off season is actually just as important as the rest of the training season. Unfortunately, most athletes see the off season as either a time to for complete rest - there’s a reason for all the jokes about cyclists and their winter weight gain -  or keep trying to do some structured intensity and don’t reap the benefits of the off season.

But that's not how the off season needs to be. The off season is a time to recover from all the hard work, yes - but it's also a time to play and have fun. Unstructured training - just get out and move without have an agenda for the day. Changing up the kind of training to spark interest. Work on some things that you didn’t have time to address during the specific training phases. Keep it simple, keep it fun and don’t worry about what your average pace is during your run or your power output on the ride.

So some suggestions for how to optimize the off season and come into the next training phase ready to work hard.
1) Change up the sport - if you are a serious road runner, try some trails. Running is running, yes, but trail running works the body differently then road running. It requires mores stabilization in the ankles and core, providing a whole body workout. It’s important to remember that paces are much different on the trails then road so don’t try run the same pace for a hilly trail run as a flatter road run.  Cyclists have the same choices - different bike, different trails, even some fun on the snow fat biking.
2) Address weakness - Are right hand switchbacks the biggest challenge you face on your mountain bike? Nothing like the off season to hone in on the skills and really practice things. Skills get tossed to the wayside when there’s intervals to be done. So take the time now, when there’s no intervals planned to address any skills that you have identified as weaknesses. The same principle applies to rehab and pre-hab activities.
3) Do something different - Are you a trail runner wanting to take a break from running? Pick up something different like cross country skiing. Or throw a leg over the bike and add that into the quiver. Working muscle groups in a different way during the off season is a great way to round out fitness and prepare for the coming training season.
4) Let it go - Now is the time for letting go of the stress of training and effort of meeting targeted training. Just go out and move without worrying abut what you are doing, how you are doing and how are you are going. Just move - run what you feel or go climb a hill that you never got to during the season. Explore new roads on the bike, the side roads that never fit into the training schedule. Look for what keeps you happy and restores the motivation and drive for when training resumes.