The Off-Season Is Here // Nicole Pugson

the off-season

I can’t quite believe that I’m typing the words ‘off season’ already. Where has this year gone?

For many of us, our race season started back in May (even earlier in March if you’re into that duathlon malarky…). So for five straight months we have put the pedal down both in training and our chosen events; awarding ourselves with moments of joy and victory but perhaps not rewarding ourselves with enough rest. Now that we’ve sufficiently battered the bike, eaten more pool laps for breakfast than single grains of cereal, ran our feet into offensive sights of blistered carnage and finally acquired some very questionable tan lines, I think it’s time to enjoy some well-deserved RECOVERY.

I’m well aware that asking a triathlete to ‘stop’ evokes the same reaction as if you asked any self-respecting human being to chew and swallow an acorn, i.e. ‘it’s absurd’. So therefore carry on training but perhaps with a different purpose in mind. Most of us have put in the intensity and volume over the summer and during the next few months you may want to think about honing in on other elements that may have been neglected over race season.

So, with the above being said, here are my five top tips to surviving the off-season…

the off-season
the off-season

REST & RECOVERY

You don’t want to do this for too long or your momentum will slow, but take a few weeks off to recharge! This includes a number of different factors. Sleep is always important, but now that you don’t have to put so many hours into your training, take that extra hour in bed in the morning. Nutrition is still key, but this is perhaps where you can colour outside the lines a little. Race weight is a BIG goal for athletes during the summer months, and many will have found themselves looking at indulgences and saying ‘no, I couldn’t possibly’, ‘well that’s going to make me less aero…’, ‘lycra is relentlessly unforgiving…’. Give your willpower a break and eat what you want (within moderation obviously, you’re not starring in the next episode of Man vs. Food). Psychologically it’s best to not always deprive yourself, so have a break, have a Kit-Kat.

PICK UP HEAVY THINGS

Power = strength + speed, the amount of force applied and the velocity at which it is performed. Power is significant in all three disciplines, swim, bike and run; dedicate the time now to building strength so that you are primed to benefit from the speed work you’ll bring in closer to the season start.
You can look at full body resistance training, shooting for the ‘3 sets of 12 reps’ rule with also some combination workouts performing less reps with much more weight. Typically, Crossfit style workouts are advantageous as they merge resistance with functional movement, challenging your neuromuscular reaction and power in one go. Plyometrics style workouts are also just as good, for instance pairing squat jumps alongside deadlifts, or scissor jumps with weighted glute bridges.
Strength training is also key to avoiding injury; the stronger your muscles are, the less impact your bones and joints will take when you up the volume.

the off-season
the off-season
the off-season

TECHNIQUE IS KEY

Normally when we hear the words ‘technique’ or ‘drills’, they pretty much trigger an involuntary eye roll followed by a prolonged groan of blatant contempt (for some of us it can even induce the ‘mini-sick’). You can be as strong as you want, train as much as you want, but if your technique isn’t there, then pfft…all those hours will only get you so far.

Swimming – look at focussing your swim sets around improving your form and movement in the water:
Kick drills: basic extension, 6-3-6.
Keystroke drills: catch up, doggy paddle, sculling, shoulder tap, shark fin.

Cycling – work on your balance and a smooth pedal stroke:
Single leg pedalling
Upright pedalling with resistance (that helps to improve your core balance in the saddle)
Grinds, where you up the resistance to a much slower cadence and concentrate on completing the stroke without moving your upper body.
Ride the paint! When you are out on the road, if it’s quiet, bring your wheels just alongside the white lines middle of the tarmac and focus staying smooth and straight.

Running – single leg work is key:
Hopping drills, working muscle elasticity and power when lifting off from the ground.
Agility drills like grapevines, ladders, strengthening the smaller, but still essential, tendons and ligaments.
Balance work such as hopping onto a Bosu ball or functional core exercises (mountain climbers, spidermans, quadruped limb raises, look them up!).

REIGN IT IN

You’ve done the hard stuff. Challenged your maximum heart rate on plenty of occasions throughout the summer. So now it’s time to reign it in and work on your aerobic endurance. Have your few weeks break, exercise because you ‘want’ to, not because you ‘have’ to, and then bring some gentle training back into the programme. It won’t be about intensity this time, but keeping your heart rate low and building that aerobic engine. The pace will probably feel like turtles stampeding through peanut butter, but that’s what it should be. A lot of us feel like we have to hammer it all the time in order to improve but building a strong aerobic base does wonders for your performance when you start bringing in the hard stuff later on.
If anything, it’s a great opportunity to fall in love with all the disciplines again, where you don’t have to push yourself to the limit!

the off-season
the off-season

REFLECT, EVALUATE, CELEBRATE

Finally, it’s time to have some mental recovery as training and racing puts immense pressure and stress on us psychologically. It’s easy to become obsessed with the numbers; goal times, paces, watts, rpm, swolf, heart rate (the list is endless, literally…) and end up overlooking all of our achievements. Don’t forget that everytime you PB (personal best), you should celebrate rather than let it become a new time that you need to beat. Look back on your season, think about the moments when you struggled and why, how will you shape yourself to tackle them better next year?
Think about your accomplishments and give yourself a pat on the back! Not just that, but also remember why you loved certain events, it doesn’t have to be because you made podium. It could be because you were with great company, or you loved the course profile, the location was awesome, you didn’t faff around and clock a 5 minute transition (legit happens to me every race…).

But best of all, what will you do next? What does 2019 have in store? Me and my flatmate have a very long list of events and sportives that we want to complete next year, which we will inevitably (and sadly) have to dwindle down…I’d love to be able to take them all on, but unfortunately I’m not made of titanium, nor am I made of money! Saying that…. SG when are you going to make some running kit?

So with all of the above in mind, enjoy the time out. Enjoy the extra rest. Enjoy the off-season folks!


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