How to stay busy in the off season

The off-season is finally upon us. Although, is there really an off-season anymore? With big races on the calendar all 12 months, it is tempting to eschew time off to maintain that hard fought fitness and prolong racing.

Having lived in areas with winter for my entire triathlon career, there has always been a natural stopping point to the season. During this time, I like to focus my attention on things that get ignored during the season.

1.    Focus on your weaknesses

Let’s be honest, we all tend to spend the most time on the things we are good at and avoid the ones that need work (for example, I dislike bowling because I cannot manage to keep the ball out of the gutter. However, since this is not an activity that will make me better at triathlon, I will continue to not work on it).

In all seriousness, the off-season is the perfect opportunity to embrace your weaknesses and make them strengths. This is an excellent time to have your swim stroke videotaped, get a bike fit and/or have a running gait analysis. The information from these ventures will surely help you improve in the respective sport if put to good use.

Flaws that are detected from the analysis of an expert will allow you to find appropriate drills and incorporate them into your workouts to help you remedy the situation. The off season is the perfect time to slow things down in your training in order to practice proper technique with the hope that eventually you will be faster more economically.

2.    Hit the gym

Triathletes notoriously find excuses to avoid the gym. Gym workouts are important year-round, and particularly in the off-season, for three reasons.

First, muscle imbalances are a common problem in triathletes. Often, one leg is stronger than the other. Or, the quads are overdeveloped resulting in over-use of this muscle. Triathletes also generally have weak glutes, hamstrings and very tight hip flexors. These problems can lead to loss of power and/or injury.

Take the time to have an evaluation by a trainer or physical therapist to determine your strengths and weaknesses and then tailor your workouts to amend the problem areas.

Yoga or a good stretching routine will aid in lengthening and loosening the tight and shortened muscles from biking and running.

The second reason triathletes belong in the gym is to counterbalance the constant forward motion. It is an excellent time to practice lateral and rotational movements (I must insert a shameless plug for my DVD, Functional Strength Training for Endurance Athletes. The group of exercises that Chuck Wolf has helped put together is phenomenal).

Finally, triathlon is not an explosive sport. Much of the time, we chug along, causing a loss of pure power. The off-season is the time to work on explosiveness with plyometics and heavy lifting moves (i.e. deadlifts and squats). The dividend will be better climbing ability and more resiliency.

Of course, any time you start a new program, make sure you consult with an expert to ensure that you are doing the moves properly. You certainly do not want to end up with a gym related injury.

3.    Enjoy other sports

The off-season is the perfect time to engage in other sports. Winter sports are bountiful, and surely there is one to suit your needs. There are the obvious choices, skiing and snowboarding.

If you are like me, and you cannot bear the cold that comes with those sports, there is snow shoeing and cross country skiing. Snow shoeing is my preferred sport – there is no learning curve; if you can walk, you can snow shoe! And, if I do happen to fall, I am close to the ground and the surface is plush snow.

Or, you can just build a snowman.

Not from an area with winter activities? No worries. Mountain biking and trail running are perfect ways to keep busy.

Or, if the season burned you out, catch up on the TV shows on your DVR/Tivo or watch all of the Oscar contender films.

You may also like...

5 Responses

  1. Bret says:

    Enjoyed the blog post! I focusing on my swim this off-season. Hope you have a Merry Christmas!

  2. Christi says:

    Great post! I am currently a confirmed "gym rat!" I love lifting and seeing the strength that it brings!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful article! Still trying to figure out an activity for this winter 🙂

  4. ultimatestamina says:

    Awesome post. I like to work on yoga, stretching, and mental planning for the New Year. Also a good time to take a look at nutrition changes that could produce faster recovery and get your body use to them before serious training starts.

  5. Lynn Smythe says:

    Great article! I just finished my 2010 race season. Over 20 events, mostly duathlons, with a few cycling and running events.

    I didn't start racing until I was 45, just turned 47! Great blog.

    I'm trying to go to the gym 3x per week during the winter, to work on my upper body and core strength. I used to collapse during my longer events, but am finding strength training is making a HUGE difference.

    Take care,
    Lynn Smythe