Unstructured activity means letting go of a training
plan and listening to what your body feels like doing.
JANOS SCHMID T, TRIATHLON.ORG
not to move. While I’ve found that it’s usually beneficial to introduce
light activity during this second week, perhaps you need 10 days of
complete rest—or more. This is the one time in your entire year where
you have carte blanche to do absolutely nothing and feel good about it.
Have fun, take a vacation and spend time with your friends and family!
Now, more than ever, is the time to listen to your body.
Naturally, volume is reduced during this time. If you normally train
20 hours per week in-season, you might train somewhere around five
to 10 hours per week during these light activity weeks. If you’re like
most triathletes, you are bound to be concerned about losing all the
fitness you worked so hard to gain over the summer. Relax. It always
comes back. Trust me. In fact, seasoned professionals learn to become
quite comfortable losing a bit of fitness during this time—many even
look forward to it. They realize it’s not only beneficial for short-term
recovery, but also for longevity and continued success in the sport.
Seek medical advice. This first phase of the off-season is also
the perfect time to set up a few appointments with sports medicine
professionals. I highly recommend regular blood work at least two to
four times per year. Collecting this sort of information at several points
during the year allows you to quickly catch any blips in the data as you
begin to get a sense of your own personal norms. Blood work during the
off-season is particularly important as you need to be certain your body
is ready to begin training for the upcoming season.
The start of the off-season is also a great time to look into regular
physical therapy, massage therapy, ART or other types of bodywork. If
you’ve been carefully managing a chronic injury during the season you
now have some freedom to really address the issue. While the goal during
the season may have been injury maintenance, the goal off-season is total
repair. Deeper, more intense bodywork is something you can consider
now without fear of being too sore the next day to complete a key session.
December training. If November was your first month of the off-season, December is the time to start introducing a little more struc-
ture and focus to your training. This is not the time, however, to jump
back into high-intensity workouts. Be sure to keep your volume at no
more than 50 percent of your maximum in-season volume. If you can,
add in sports such as cross-country skiing, cyclocross or trail running.
Aerobic fitness is aerobic fitness, no matter how you achieve it. You
will have plenty of time to focus on swimming, biking and running in
the months ahead. I would strongly suggest maintaining at least one
or two sessions per week of each discipline in order to preserve your
“feel” for each sport. December is largely about doing what you can
when you can. The holidays can make it a challenging month for everyone. Try to keep the stress low, enjoy yourself and go with the flow.
New year, new plan. As we move into January most athletes have
already selected their major goal races for the year and the planning
process is well underway. At this point the schedule for the year may
be nothing more than a rough mental plan, and it doesn’t need to be, at
least not at this point.
In my opinion, planning may very well be one of the most vital and
labor-intensive tasks that any athlete or coach will undertake. You start with
a blank page and about a thousand questions. Where to begin? What to
begin with? How much time do we have? What can we safely and realistically accomplish in that time? What are the athlete’s greatest limiters? What
are his or her other commitments? After all is said and done it’s important
to remember that your annual plan and multi-year plan is not set in stone.
You must revisit and revise it consistently throughout the year. In fact, it’s
not uncommon for my athletes to have “A”, “B” and “C” plans at the ready as
results and qualification criteria can create many different scenarios.
With this in mind, planning is one of the key reasons to work with
a coach, or at the very least, to consult one. With years of experience
comes a well-developed sense for what works and what doesn’t, and a
fresh perspective can make for an excellent sounding board. If you’re
not fortunate enough to work with a coach it can be a great idea to
discuss your plan with a fellow triathlete. Another option is to sign up
for a spring training camp and use that environment to help figure out