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3 Rules for the Off-Season

During one of the Zwift rides this past week one of the athletes asked me what my 3 rules are for the off-season. I was caught a bit off guard and gave a few keys to the off-season but later in the day it got me thinking about it. What are the keys to an effective offseason.

First we need to define what an off-season is. IT IS TIME OFF FROM TRAINING!! Yes I was yelling because you need to hear me people. When your season ends; after your last A race of the year, that is the beginning of your offseason which should last about 4-8 weeks and should end no later than 12-16 weeks out prior to your first event for the next season. If your first race of next season is scheduled inside of 12 weeks then it is still that current season so cancel that race and enjoy the off-season. So that means your first race of the new season should be at a minimum 16 weeks out from your last race of this past season.

The off-season is a time to enjoy your fitness. This is the time of the year you head out and use your fitness to do something fun. Get out there and try something new or do things that you typically don’t get a chance to do during the season. For me it is being sure to go mountain biking a lot; maybe get back to running and hitting the gym. It is also a great time to get out and enjoy the sports you love with people that might be slower or faster than you that you typically can’t train with during the season. Go on that coffee ride; or gossip run with your friends.

Rule #1. Don’t follow a structured plan. Now this doesn’t mean you should not (or can not) do structured workouts but it does mean that you should not have to do a certain workout on a certain day. Relax the schedule; if you don’t feel like running today then don’t; if you feel like swimming go for a swim; you want to sleep in then sleep in. You can do that structured workout tomorrow. In-season we have to follow that training plan which provides a certain level of mental stress so get rid of that stress for a few months. It will feel like summer break when you were a kid. You deserve the mental break as much as the physical.

Rule #2. Don’t drop your training volume by more than half of your typical training volume. If you normally train 12 hours a week, keep your offseason above 6 hours; 30 miles a week of running try to keep it above 15 miles. It is expected to lose some fitness during the offseason but we don’t want to lose everything we worked so hard to gain last year. Keeping the volume above half of your typical volume will mean you won’t need to take as long building back up when the season kicks back in. The whole 2 steps forward, 1 step back idea.

Rule #3. Work on the weakness you can’t afford to work on during the season. Use those few structured workouts to your advantage. This is about specificity; during the season we need to be race ready so our workouts are much more inline with the specific task/fitness we will need on race day. During the off-season we don’t need to be race ready so it is a great time to work on the other aspect of your fitness that will help elevate your overall performance. I will go a bit more in-depth on this topic in a coming post.

At the end of the off-season I like to insert a 4 week pre-season. Pre-season is about reintroducing structure without the pressure of having to nail your workouts yet. Those 4 weeks are more about getting consistent with your training/scheduling again more than the quality of the workouts. Get back on track first then worry about the quality.

The bottom line is training for endurance sports is stressful not only physically but also mentally. Most of us typically look at our workouts as a stress release from our typical daily work and home life; but it does stress our body and our mind so we need to step back and let go of it for a bit. If you skip a proper off-season you will struggle a lot more come the middle of your competition season feeling burnt out mentally. Take some time and enjoy your fitness instead of working so hard to increase it when you don't need it.

Keep moving forward, just a bit slower for now.

Coach Hammond


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