11/10/2014

 It’s November, it’s cold and getting darker earlier, it’s the off-season and time for Turkey and pie.  What a wonderful time of year for us endurance folks.  Right?

The “off-season”, the time of year that cyclists, runners and triathletes seem to always look forward to.  A time to relax, enjoy the holidays and simply take a mental break from countless hours hitting the pavement.  However, for many athletes, this is the most difficult time of year.

The off-season or transitional period is probably the least understood training phase.  There are many interpretations of the purpose of the off-season and even if it is needed at all. 

So, what is the purpose of the off-season?  Simpy, it’s to shed ALL of the fatigue accumulated in the preceding season so you can start from a blank slate at the start of the new season.  For the average athlete, fatigue will decay rapidly for the first 2 weeks (known as tapering) and will continue to decline but at a much slower rate for about the next 2 months.  So, about 2 months post race, they will have less than 1% of fatigue remaining from the season, however, will retain roughly 20% of their fitness they gained during the season.  Zero fatigue plus some fitness for an athlete will enable them to undertake an all time high training load in the following season.WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME?????

You DON’T want your off-season to be sitting on the couch or for it to be too long or you’ll lose what you gained!!!  If you are looking to make measurable improvement in your racing performance for next season, you can’t wait until next season to start the process. Now is the time when the biggest gains are made.  So what should I do during the off-season?

1.  HAVE FUN – ENJOY YOUR FITNESS!Your  #1 objective is to shed fatigue.   Workouts during the first 60 days after your season should make you feel more invigorated after the session than before it.  Hikes through the fall foliage, a spin on the mountain bike, discovering a new activity, basically, think “feel good” and have FUN!  The more removed from the specifics of your event, the better.  Try NOT having a plan for the 60 days of “off-season”, instead, be spontaneous and focus on recovery!

2. SPEED AND POWER TRAINING Speed and Power are two related qualities that can diminish rapidly and take a lot of time to reacquire.  Focusing on short high intensity intervals on the bike will improve your your FTP (functional threshold power) and resulting in a higher power output and w/kg. Likewise, circuit routines that incorporate basic speed and agility via tools such as agility ladders, plyo-boxes etc are a good inclusion to keep you busy and prevent basic skill, speed and power decline during the off-season.

3.  FLEXIBILITY AND SKILLS Flexibility can decline almost 100% within 4 days of training interruption.  While it can be re-acquired at a good rate, the off-season is the perfect time to make in-roads in this quality.  Use this period to shift the focus of your training and address your opportunities for improvement.  This is the best time to work along side a coach to work on technique and efficiency.  During the season, you don’t have time to play around with your training.  Here, you can work on skills and techniques to make you stronger and more efficient so you can enter your race training in the spring with new skills, strength and focus to develop the energy systems to achieve your goals.

Rest, recover, stay focused, and make the most of YOUR off-season.