The off season; a time for relaxed training schedules, sleeping in every once in a while, drinks with the family, and if you live in a majority of the United States it is time to pack up the string bikinis, put away the flip flops, shorts, and tank tops to switch them out for sweaters, long sleeves, fluffy ear muffs, and gloves. While it is important to take a break after a long season it can be easy to get bogged down in the dark and cold.
In theory the off season is exactly as is it is worded, a season of being off. Off can mean a whole mess of things; taking many days off, sleeping in, eating donuts, or indulging in whatever it is that you don’t “allow” yourself to do during the training and racing season. However, this is merely a theory. The off season and winter training is a time for growth. It is a time when strength is gained, when personal records are created, when athletes are built, and most importantly when you fall back in love with your sport.
The off season winter training is a time when it can be difficult to motivate and stay focused based on battling crazy weather conditions and while everyone has their different ways of counteracting winter training here are some tips to getting the most out of your off season.
Staying motivated when the sun comes up late and goes to bed early can be difficult. The best way to counter act motivation is to set a schedule, similarly to a schedule that you would have during race season. This schedule does not have to be a strict one but giving yourself a guideline helps to keep you on track. Write your schedule as you would during your training season however leave space for interpretation which will give you the flexibility you need to not feel as though your life is being dictated by another schedule.
Through this schedule track your progress through journaling. Not only is it fun to look back to see how far you’ve come but journaling is great way to keep up your motivation as it helps to hold you accountable.
The off season is a great time to focus on your greatest weakness in your sport or to hone in on some skills you need to improve. Slow down your training and pick one or two things that you really want to improve use those as the basis for your structure throughout the season. Getting a coach to help you with technique during this time so that you are learning how to improve properly can be helpful during this time period.
Battling the Weather:
Snow, cold, rain, wind and ice; mother nature has its way of throwing the book at you during the winter and even if you have all the motivation in the world it is easy to get bogged down by the weather. When the weather becomes frightful there are a couple things you can do in order to continue progressing through the off season; bundle up and head outside, take it inside, or a mixture of both.
When heading outside you need to make sure that you are layered for the elements. In all weather conditions you want to avoid cotton directly against your skin as it does not wick moisture properly which can leave you chilled, remember you still sweat even in the cold you may just not feel it as much. If it is really cold you want to ensure that your torso, hands, feet, and head are kept warm as these are the areas in which most of your heat is either generated and / or lost. In tune with layering you also want to keep in mind the avoidance of frost bite as it is very prevalent when bare skin is exposed to the elements, this may mean wearing high socks so that your ankles are covered, wearing a neck gator or scarf to cover your chin and nose, hat or head band over your ears.
While it is more than possible to continue your training outside despite the elements sometimes you just have to take it inside to that dreaded treadmill or in the killer pain cave we’ve all spent some time in. Don’t be afraid of the treadmill or bike trainer as the work you put in on either one helps to build muscle endurance and strength for when you hop back out on the road.
Staying hydrated is something most people forget about when the weather gets colder and the training moves in doors. It is easy to keep hydrated in the summer because your body immediately lets you know it is time for liquid when it is hot out, however, in the winter you forget that you are still sweating despite the cooler weather. Cramping and dehydration can still occur in the cooler temperature so ensure you keep up your hydration with water and Ultima Replenisher so that you are keeping your electrolyte levels up without introducing any artificial sugars or flavours.
Flexibility and Fun:
It is easy to lose yourself in the craziness of racing and training during the season to the point where you may even be wondering why you got yourself into the mess you are in. You started training for a reason and the off season is a great time to find that love again. Take the watch off on a couple of your runs and run for the love of running, join a group so that you are being active with other, or even cross train with things like Zumba or spin class. When you find the joy in your training it becomes fun again and reminds you why you do what you do.
Don’t be afraid to re-work your schedule if you want to. By maintaining flexibility during the off season training you don’t feel as tied down to it resulting in the prevention of burnout.
Take your winter training by storm and fall back in love with your sport, training, and yourself. Passion is created in the off season and passion is what makes an athlete.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY MOTIVATED DURING THE OFF SEASON AND/OR WINTER TRAINING?