It’s that time of year again –the off- season. Boom! I have no training schedule. There’s no need for a 9pm bedtime or feeling guilty about eating Cornflake Ritter for breakfast. Did I just say that? What’s not to love about this time of year?!
Off-season suggests that this time stretches for months rather than a couple weeks, although, I seem to have stretched it to four weeks. This year my off-season started with a rest on my return to Boulder. Initially, I was quite happy to do just that and, in fact, that is what my body was demanding because I ended up sick again and back in bed devouring the whole second season of Downton Abbey. However, as I got healthy again it wasn’t long before I started having mixed feelings about my season being over. There’s no doubt this stemmed from my sub- par performance in Kona. I felt like I was in great shape but on race day I didn’t get to show that fitness off. I still had that racing itch. However, as I still didn’t feel 100 per cent I knew I had to call it a wrap on 2012, so off we went to Mexico. This was a pretty good place to guarantee that my season was over thanks to the plentiful supply of margaritas.
I knew I’d had enough down time when I started to miss my routine of exercise and physically started to crave getting back on the bike, or to slip on my Newtons for a run. I even started to miss the familiar chlorine aroma of the pool. After two weeks I was ready to start planning 2013, but before looking ahead I needed to look back on my year and see what I had learned. The first analysis I sent to my coach, Matt, was a little one sided. With the disappointment of Kona fresh in my mind, my focus was on what I had done wrong in my build that made being ill more likely. I think too little recovery at certain points in my build, getting greedy and wanting to do just a bit more and simply not listening properly to my body. I’m pretty attuned to how I am feeling, but in retrospect, I could see that I had ignored some of the signs that I needed to back off and instead tried to push through.
I think there’s a tendency among athletes to be hypercritical when things go wrong. Analysing where improvements can be made and identifying mistakes is an important part of progression, but as my coach pointed out, my analysis of 2012 was a little unbalanced. My rather long email
(I was a lawyer) failed to mention the good bits which included two sub-nine hour Iron distance races, two 70.3 wins and my biggest win to date at Challenge Roth. These were all indicators that I had progressed in 2012 too. Once I got rolling on the positives I could even glean some pluses from Kona.
I finally managed to run up Palani Hill for starters and there were no pictures of me marching up that blasted hill this year. I also managed to avoid “gastric” issues on the run that earned the nickname Penelope Pitstop from my sister last year.
My plans for 2013 are still coming together, a bit like my body and waistband. Something is telling me loud and clear that it’s time to get back to some form of training. I can’t wait. The start of the tri season is still a dot on the horizon and that’s why I enjoy this period of training up to the coming year. It’s no pressure, get back to basics and have some fun training.
You can shake things up a bit, and go a little off-piste. Why not dig out a mountain bike and ride the trails with friends, stick a coffee stop in during your long ride or jump into a cross-country race. Okay, that last suggestion should come with a health warning. Cross-country running is hard. Don’t be fooled by its shortness. I’ve made that mistake only to discover that 4.5K equals a lung busting, lactic acid fest in the mud, but I loved it. You can afford to be flexible with training and so redress the imbalance that can creep in during the rest of the year. Don’t stress if you skip the odd session in favour of seeing friends, or getting home early to see the family.
Out of season is also the perfect time to build those good habits like strength and core work. I will be placing a real focus on this during the winter. Although it’s part of my programme all through the year we all know that the three sessions can easily slip to two when the heavy training starts. It’s important to form good habits now and build a solid base. This should help prevent injuries and interruptions once the training volume increases at the start of next year. I hate being injured and that’s what will be getting me into the gym four times a week!
My final plan for the out of season is to get my pesky tonsils out. Not sure why this didn’t happen when I was 13, but I cannot wait to see the last of the critters. Lucky for me my love of ice cream is as great now as it was when I was 13.
Enjoy the off-season and go on, try some Cornflake Ritter for breakfast!