It’s that time of year when you have completed your final and/or big race for the season and are ready to “take a break”. To some beginner triathletes this may seem like I am saying to “do nothing” but really it means doing something different or mixing-it-up. As a coach, I have learned that this “off season training” is vital to the success of an athlete’s next season so it’s important to understand what to do. Here’s what you can expect to learn from this article:
– Why triathletes need an off season
– Track and measure your food consumption
– Have on-the-go portable nutrition handy
– Hydration is key
– Planning for the upcoming triathlon season
Why Triathletes Need an Off Season
The important thing to remember for the off-season is that you don’t want to completely get out-of-shape, lose muscle or gain fat tissue. But you do want to allow time for your muscles to fully recover as well as your mind. The day-after-day training grind can cause burn-out over time, so a yearly off season is important for athletes to keep them fresh and ready to compete the next season. It is still important to maintain some fitness and muscle tissue by continuing with daily exercise and eating regularly. Usually after the last big race of the year I take about 6-8 weeks “off” from traditional swim-bike-run type training and do “easy” training. These are not hardcore workouts, but more of a loose structure, like “what do I feel like doing today?” This is the time of year not to worry about pacing, speed or pushing yourself. It’s about just enjoying movement. I encourage my athletes to do other sports they enjoy most days of the week (5 to 6 days, 45 – 60 minutes each day). What they do usually includes things that can’t normally fit in during the race season while doing specific triathlon training; Possibilities may include rock climbing/bouldering, soccer, hiking, karate, pickle ball, Zumba, aerobics class, shooting hoops or just go for a nice walk or an easy jog. Yoga is also a great thing to do a lot of in the off season and helps aide recovery and maintain flexibility. Mix-it-up and have fun! It’s important to enjoy what you are doing.
Track and Measure Your Food Consumption
As mentioned, it’s important to maintain lean muscle tissue. This can be done through continued movement, basic core strength training and watching what you eat. Proper nutrition is actually a really big focus for me in the off season since I am not exercising as much or as long (no 3-plus hour Ironman workouts). It helps me to track my food consumption and eat nutrient dense foods which help my body recover. If you follow me on Instagram (@theblonderunner or @coachloraerickson) you will see I recently posted info about a food tracking app which can keep you accountable. Proper nutrition is often neglected by athletes because they already look “thin” and “fit” but the body will breakdown without consumption and absorption of proper nutrients and this will eventually hinder performance.
A common mistake made by triathletes in the off season is to simply eat too much, especially empty carbohydrates. With lower exercise volume, calories need to be reduced, but many triathletes continue to eat the same amount. It’s time to start reading labels and break out the measuring tools. This way you can ensure you have the information to eat the proper amounts and make healthier choices. It also helps you identify hidden sugars and unhealthy foods. Many of my athletes are often surprised to see high levels of sugar or fat in foods they consume regularly. Another thing that can help is to start your day with a fruit or vegetable and make sure you incorporate 6-8 serving in each day. Those fruits and vegetables will give you the nutrients needed to repair muscle tissue and help your body get ready for the upcoming season.
Have On-the-Go Portable Nutrition Handy
While my race season is super busy with training, working, family and traveling; my off season is just as busy getting caught up on things I missed and prepping for the upcoming season so I find I am on-the-go a lot. This on-the-go life is often where athletes get into trouble and end up eating fast-food or other junk, so it’s important to have portable foods handy.
Some time ago I did several book reviews and I just fell in love with the nutrition concepts in these books, The Feedzone Cookbook for Athletes and Feed Zone Portables. The author simply nailed my thoughts on hydration and absorption as well as eating real foods or quick products made from real foods. The book teaches you how to make your own “portable foods”. Realistically I didn’t make as many of the recipes as I planned to but that even made me more excited when I learned about the meal bars they came out with. I have found it a good idea to pack foods to take with me on busy days. These bars are easy to stash in a gym bag or purse. They are also great to take on hikes and are super soft and moist as well as nutritious. Many are gluten free as well. My recent favorite is the savory miso. It’s so good! They also have other tasty flavors.
Hydration is Key
Hydration is the key to staying healthy and recovering in the off season. Often during the offseason triathletes don’t think about staying hydrated, but they need to consume water regularly to keep up with the body’s demands. We lose most of our moisture from breathing and winter air can be dry, sapping moisture from our bodies. A good rule of thumb for water consumption is half your body weight in ounces (about 8 cups for most people is a good rule of thumb). Depending on your exercise level and body composition you may need more. Sadly, on average, many people don’t consume enough and experience signs of dehydration like; nausea, dizziness, cramps, achiness, soreness, general sluggishness, sleepiness, etc . It’s important to get enough water and electrolytes, so you might consider tracking that as well.
I particularly like the light flavor of the Skratch portable sports drink mix (read my product review) is well balanced and makes boring water palatable. Recently I am getting creative and have loved mixing flavors like lemon & limes with oranges or strawberries with mango. #mixitup
One thing you might have noticed is the color. It’s not heavily pigmented, they simple use natural products, no fake colors. Plus they are low calorie to help keep things in check.
Planning For the Upcoming Triathlon Season
The off season is a good time to start mapping out what races you want to do for the upcoming season and evaluate how the previous training worked for you and how closely you met your goals. Identify areas that you would like to see more improvement in and set new goals. It is important to reevaluate progress and review your goals regularly through the season. Get your mind ready to start your training again with a base phase if you like to periodize your training. You may even want to set a “start” date, when you will start implementing more structured training. Training Peaks is a great tool for this. If you are not sure how to do this, you can hire a coach to help (let me know if I can help, I’d love to work with you) You will also want to check over your gear and make sure everything is in working order. Replace old, outdated equipment and upgrade things as necessary to set yourself up for a great upcoming season.
In conclusion, it’s important to focus on rest and recovery but still remain active in the off season mixing in new activities as well as eat properly with on-the-go nutrition handy and plan for the upcoming season and setting new goals.
Coach Lora Erickson
Coach Lora is a certified running and triathlon coach and top-level AWA triathlete recently competing in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Africa. She works will all level of athletes. To learn more visit BlondeRunner.com or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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