The season is over. Even the toughest of guys and gals will eventually surrender to the cold due to snow and ice. There's no way around it: off season is here. Our best advice? Listen to your body and recover properly so you're mentally prepared for next season.
But that doesn't mean stop training.
Picture these two types of athletes: One becomes a couch potato, stopping exercising altogether. Your athletic couch potato loses stamina, fitness, muscle. The athlete has dropped the ball and picked up the Doritos. When the season starts, your couch potato struggles to push the pedal.
If you fall into this type of extreme: at least you enjoyed yourself over the winter break. But you've set yourself up for a painful uphill battle. Don't do it! Resist the temptation. It's okay to spoil yourself now and again, especially with the family festive period coming up. But don't overdo it, please!
The other extreme is even worse
You end up training like it's on-season, afraid to lose your fitness levels and endurance. You maintain the same training intensity. You injure yourself, you overtrain, or you end up burning out mentally. NOT GOOD.
The pic above sums up the second extreme pretty well. The real question is, what should you be doing in off-season?
Three Step Program
We suggest a three-step program for you to follow. It'll keep you fit as a fiddle and you'll be ready to pick up where you left off from the previous season.
1. Relax, rest, give yourself a break.
Depending on the length and intensity of your season, take 1-4 weeks completely off from your hard training routines. If you're endurance junkies like us, this may sound hard to you. But it's absolutely crucial that you rest both physically and mentally. I've personally had a burnout from overtraining, as have some of our pro athletes. You don't want to pick up an injury or hurt your mind.
Give your body time. Recover from those micro-tears, those niggling miniscule injuries that have been bugging you for the past months.
Training in Step 1:
It's hard to completely switch off, but we suggest you minimize your exercise you long walks and short, 'easy' jogs. 2-3 times per week. No real effort required. Do some yoga, pilates, stretching. To sum up:
- Take a break, exercise lightly
- Recover mentally and physically
- Depending on your season's intensity, decide how long you want to put yourself through Step 1.
2. Ease your way back into training
1-3 weeks. Start training on a daily basis, but don't max out on effort zones. If your plans consist of 6 zones, we suggest you don't exceed zone 3. You can start integrating strength training exercises in this stage - any strength training that is relevant to your sport (i.e., working on your hammies!).
Warnings of Step 2:
Athletes often mistake this step for an excuse to just continue their regular training. Don't make this mistake. Ease your way back into your training. There's a significant difference between step 2 and your season preparation training (which comes later). Going easy is sometimes harder than going all-out. To sum up:
- Maintain daily activity
- Include Strength and Flexibility exercises
- Work on your 'weak' spots
- Avoid high-intensity workouts.
3. Base + Strength training / Consistency
4-8 weeks. Test yourself here. Try max out, or do tests in isolated settings (if possible). You need to establish your starting point and see what you can improve on. This is pragmatic to view your progression, but also to give you that little motivational boost.
Again, don't make the mistake of maxing out every day. Step 3 isn't about maxing out daily. It's a period of getting back into your consistent training routine.
Step 3 is about:
- Getting back to the fitness level you were at during your last race
- Adding intervals and strength training
- Testing your thresholds
- 4-8 weeks of easing back into regular training.
Should I be taking my supplements?
Yes, but there are certain things we really advise against. Here's a brief outline of the types of supplements you should and shouldn't be taking:
Step 1: Glutamine
Get off recover and energy drinks. There's no need to be taking them when you're gently exercising. We recommend adding 1 teaspoon of glutamine twice per day, in the morning and before bed time.
Step 2: Protein Power
Depending on your body type and general nutrition (i.e. if you're getting too little/too much protein), it's suggested that you add a protein powered recovery drink or whey protein after your workouts. Also, stick with the glutamine. If you're being really conscious of your body, try Isolate whey that'll last you through most of the winter.
Step 3: Everyone's different
Try start incorporating all the same supplements you would normally use during competition season. We offer a variety of brands because everyone's different - there's no one product to fit them all. Some people prefer complex carbs, some prefer sugars. You should know what suits you best. Otherwise, feel free to ask me!
Keep in mind:
- Ndure (lemonade flavored, woohoo!)
- Ultragen is probably the #1 choice for most endurance athletes, and is certainly a customer favorite in our shop :)
These two are the essentials of sports nutrition for endurance athletes. There are many other products I could recommend but the three linked above are definitely the core of any endurance stack. There's no magic product that makes you faster or stronger. It's all about hard work and giving your body the proper nutrients.
How to get faster during off-season:
Here's some of the perks to training. Keep in mind that a lot of what I wrote above is entirely dependent on the type of athlete you are. If you need specific training regimes, feel free to ask me :)
- Improves muscle function
- Increases lean muscle mass
- Decreases fat levels
- Decreases risk of injury
- Maintain testosterone levels*
*Endurance exercises cause a lot of oxidative stress, which lowers testosterone. Strength training helps you balance this out.
Intervals & Drills:
- Improves muscle fiber firing efficiency
- Train fast-twitch muscle fibers
- Sustain performance in high-effort tasks
- Improve your form & technique
Ladies & gentlemen, I wish you an awesome off-season. Just remember, every athlete is different. If you need some help shaping your festive training period, let me know! We're always eager to help athletes get through these "difficult" times!