Improving Your Off-Season Plan

I’ve spoken about this topic before. Well, actually I talk about it every year. This is such an important time - The off-season - and it is often overlooked and undervalued. You can't train hard twelve months out of the year. You risk overtraining, burnout, and not getting the full recovery you need both mentally and physically. After a long season of training and racing, this time of year (depending on your long term periodization and racing plan) is critical to ensure that you set the foundation for another good season.

This isn’t to say that you should take two months off. Take too much time off and you risk losing your base fitness, and thus starting your pre-season back at square one.

Two to three weeks of downtime is ideal - but no more than that. Two or three weeks allows you to rest and reenergize yourself without losing your base aerobic fitness. You should follow this period of time with a couple of weeks of unstructured training provided by your coach. What does that mean? For my athletes it means having some programming on the calendar, but you get in training when it’s convenient. A training prescription is provided, but it’s easier workouts designed to get the body moving again, with reasonable volume and intensity.

After this period, you can now look ahead and begin your pre-season training refreshed, energized, and ready for more intensive training. 

Please note that the off-season does not mean there’s no training focus during this time. You might have some goals for volume and perhaps some goals in regards to getting in some additional swimming or cycling sessions. But it’s all pretty low-key. Additionally, have meetings with your coach. Talk about what went right, or wrong, last season, and what you’re both going to do to remediate limiters moving forward. You should be discussing your upcoming season races and goals.  Based on this collaborative discussion, your coach can then look at what the upcoming season looks like and begin creating the high level plan that is required for success.

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This is a great time to lay the physical groundwork for next season.  At the gym, work on strengthening muscle groups that support the prime movers. Look to add strength where needed to facilitate injury prevention when training intensity picks up.

Most importantly you should be taking advantage of this time to work on any deficiencies that you and your coach identify. Were you lacking a little power on the bike? Need to find efficiency in the swim? This is the time focus on remediating these limiters before the season is in full swing.

Training and Nutrition

As individuals are now deep into base-building phases, moving on to race-specific training, or in some cases are already beginning their racing season, nutrition is a topic that shouldn't be overlooked in regards to successful triathlon training. Not just race-day nutrition, but your overall nutritional plan.

I'm talking about properly fueling your body to train, recover, and race.  Triathlon training is not a diet. In order to perform at your highest possible level, and reduce the risk of injury, proper nutrition is key.

I hear far too many athletes talk about losing weight, cutting carbs and calories, in an attempt to get to their "race weight". Spoiler alert: I used to be one of them. My worst race of my career was when I weighed the least.  My best race? About 7-8 pounds heavier than what I thought I needed to be. Ah, what a little education can do.

Chances are, as a triathlete (or swimmer, or cyclist) you need more calories than you think each day. A balanced and well thought-out diet includes proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Yes, fats and carbs - don't be afraid of eating healthy fats and good quality whole grain carbohydrates. The percentages of each macro-nutrient will of course change throughout the year as you progress from off-season, to pre-season, and through your race season, but you need all of these macro-nutrients to ensure that you're maximizing the impact of your training and staying healthy.

My education as a triathlon coach, as well as my education in sports and performance nutrition, has really opened my eyes to what a proper pre-season, race-season, and off-season, diet can and should look like. Incorporating a well balanced, whole-food based, nutritionally sound diet during your training is critical. You'll train and recover better, and you'll race better as well.

Questions? I'm happy to help. Jump down to the comments and ask away.

The Challenges Of Being An Age-Group Triathlete

It's been a great season for our athletes. PR's, podium finishes, a trip to World Championships in Canada. I'm a proud of the effort and dedication my athletes have put forth.

Yet for some it's been an interesting season. Work and life are providing all the challenges they need. And that's the interesting part of being an age-group athlete. Best laid plans are often disrupted. And I'm not even talking about the potential for an injury.

One of our higher performing athletes is active duty in the Coast Guard. Just as our training was hitting a high note, and some key races were fast approaching, he'd receive orders to be away for two weeks. Okay, we adjusted. Then he was deployed to Houston to help deliver aid after the hurricane. You can't argue with that. But suddenly the training is on hold, and the season is completely upside down.

Another athlete had some new job responsibilities added to her plate. You know, a conference call with an east-Asian office on Thursday nights at a god-awful time. So Friday AM sessions are out. So we adjust the week around. But those new responsibilities sometimes mean longer days. Workouts are missed. Okay, we adjust again. But getting momentum and regularity was a challenge. Target races are rescheduled. 

And how about a new addition to the family? That will assuredly add to the stress of scheduling workouts while balancing life at home. Add to that some extra work thrown into the mix, and races have to be skipped as preparations just couldn't be accomplished. An Xterra Pan-Am qualifier last year had a heck of a time getting in one Xterra race this year.

Balancing life and work and training. That's part of being an age-group athlete. Dealing with conflicts and changes to schedules creates the need to be flexible on all fronts - for both athlete and coach alike. But it can be difficult to digest and process at the time.

It's easy to give up and say "well, this season is over", but it doesn't have to be that way. Keep your focus. Find alternatives. Change your "A" race (as annoying as that may be). Explore other racing options like targeting a mountain bike enduro instead of letting all the Xterra prep go by the wayside. Easier yet, choose a shorter distance target race. You can't get in the training hours necessary for an Ironman? Find a 70.3 instead. Or even an Olympic distance race. True it might be your ultimate goal, but move that target to next season. You have myriad options available to you.

It's not all or nothing, and that's important to keep in mind. Work with your coach to find alternatives and adjust training and racing schedules to accommodate changes as they arise. You can find a new goal to keep driving you through this season and into the next.

Equally as important: Utilize your coach during this process. That is part of our job after all. Being a coach requires not only understanding the training that's necessary for the athlete, but it requires that we be a sounding board. We're here to  listen to you, the the athlete, and help you navigate the options available to still have a successful season no matter what is thrown your way.

 

Navigating The Holidays

It's that time of year again. The holiday season is here - and that means Thanksgiving, Christmas parties, and Christmas itself. This is the time of year that athletes are taking time off, and tend to overindulge. It is the off-season afterall, right?

Well, it is most likely the off-season for most. But that doesn't mean that you have free reign to eat too much, drink too much, and ignore your training. A little focus, a few smart choices at dinner, and you'll come through this holiday season unscathed.

Don't skip your workouts

The pool may be closed over the week of Thanksgiving. But that doesn't mean you can't get out and run or ride. Continue the momentum of your off-season training and get your running or riding in. I like to joke with my athletes - "earn your Thanksgiving dinner". Get in a run or ride early that morning. And the day after? Yep, do something. Anything. Just because it's the holidays doesn't mean you can take the week off. You're traveling for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Pack your running gear. Get in a couple easy runs. You'll feel better if you do. 

Don't over-indulge

You're thinking about seconds?  Okay. Just wait a little bit. Let your stomach send all the signals to your brain that it's full, or not. If you think you want seconds (thirds?) just wait 15-20 minutes. You might not be as hungry as you think. 

Equally important, don't overdo the alcohol. As the saying goes: Everything in moderation. You'll snack / graze less if you drink less, too.

Do make smart choices

Whether you're hosting dinner, or bringing a side dish, it's easy to add some healthy options to the table. Mashed sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. And I'm not talking about the sweet potato casserole with brown sugar and marshmallows! Just a straight up substitution. A sweet potato as more fiber than regular potato's, and is rich in potassium and vitamin A. Make green beans and almonds sautéed in garlic instead of the old green bean casserole. Ditch that can of condensed soup with the fat and sodium. How about dairy free / veggie broth mushroom gravy. (You'll never know the difference - and neither will anyone else.)

It's really quite easy to make some substitutions with healthier, more nutrient dense, ingredients. Do a little Googling. You'll find recipe substitutions abound. Or email me - my wife is a cookbook author and we can hook you up.

 

So, be that person and bring a kale salad to the holiday shin-dig. You think I'm kidding? My wife has a killer recipe!

Do workout the day after

Get back outside. Organize a run with your usual group of running buddies. It doesn't have to be a hard workout, just enjoy the morning with a nice aerobic run to keep the momentum going. If the weather is good, get on the bike. Even a hike. Anything. And since it's the holidays you don't need to do this before the sun comes up. Wait till after breakfast. Ride at noon. Sleep in for goodness sake.

Most importantly, work with your coach to ensure your schedule is manageable if you're traveling.

This is a great time of year. Enjoy being with your friends and family. You've worked hard all year, so enjoy yourself.....and with a little planning you'll come out on the other end none worse for the wear.

Thoughts on Training

Training for a triathlon is hard work. Training for most any endurance event is.

However, to perform well you need to train with high intensity and quality, and sometimes it's difficult to keep the motivation up. Those early mornings - the sun isn't up yet and you're heading out to run, or driving to the pool. Or, worse yet, you're getting on the bike trainer. 

Those are tough sessions to get up for. You're tired. The sun isn't yet up. You're by yourself......

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