The Off Season: Time for Reflection

It’s the end of the season, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s a time to take a bit of a break, recharge the batteries and a rejuvenate both body and mind. Now is the perfect opportunity to take stock of all you did during the year. Celebrate your achievements, analyse the season and plan for next season. But where do you start? Here are some places you may consider. 1. Assessment of the season 2. Identify Strengths and Weaknesses 3. Consider Time 4. Things outside training Assessing your season Consider breaking this down into a review of race results and your training log. Start with assessing your race results. Finish times, individual splits, where you placed in your age group and relative to the field. No race is the same, even if you race on the same course year in year out. Factors change all the time. Weather varies, wind directions change, temperatures can be different and the water conditions too. Give a good honest appraisal of the races and those conditions. Training Log After going through your races then look back at your training. Were you consistent in your training? Did you miss many sessions and what were they? Did you try anything new and how did that work? Did you balance training load? How was your distribution of training intensity? These can lead to some very interesting findings. When you step back you can start to see patterns emerging to help inform next season. For example, if you were sick or injured frequently throughout the year what was the intensity of the training like? Were there other life stressors at play adding to the training stress load. You can learn from these patterns and mitigate against them by adjusting training and recognising tell tale signs that it is time to back off. Identify strengths and weaknesses? This one is rolled out a lot. But that is for good reason. We need to take an objective view on where there are areas for growth and improvement. You can then objectively look and see where you focus your training on areas that can be strengthened. Don’t just simply say I need to improve my swim, bike or run. Look a little deeper. Start with your strengths and identify the areas you are strong. You can then decide whether you simply need to maintain these strengths over the off and pre season stage of training. This can free up time to work on areas for improvement. What is it that you need to specifically address? Is it technique, injury prevention, strength, power or endurance? If its technique have you had someone analyse your technique? Have you had some video analysis done just so you can visually see how you move in the water, on the bike, out running and in the gym. The swim is a good example here. Out of the 3 disciplines technique is probably the most difficult to master. Nearly everyone says I need to work on the swim, but rarely say what or how. If it’s a technique issue do you need to spend time on your body position, catch and pull phase, breathing, head position etc? Something as simply as seeing yourself swim can really highlight what needs work. If you have been injured or have a recurring injury over the years have you made steps to assess the cause. For most runner’s calf and Achilles issues dominate physio treatment tables. Seeking out a good physio, physical therapist and S&C coach will help you speed up this process. A good functional S&C programme can really help to build resilience, improve bone density and help injury prevention later in the season. Time Time is something that needs to be a big consideration. We all want to train the house down but have to plan training around family and work commitments. You should do a quick audit around availability for training. If you are planning on doing an Ironman don’t pick a race at a period that you are usually extremely busy with family or work. You need balance and support from family so sit down and plan out that for x amount of weeks you need this amount of time to train. Training camps are also a great way to get good block of training in so consider negotiating a week away for training. Be honest if you only have 8 hours to train then plan for 8 hours. It provides clarity and focus for training and will remove stress. Book out the time you have set aside for training and treat it like any appointment or business meeting that you would not miss. You are taking time for yourself and it’s important. Things outside of training Training is training but there are other things you can do to boost performance. Top of the list is sleep. When it comes to performance sleep is so, so important. It’s when the body repairs itself after hard training sessions. Studies show that for most people a minimum of 7 hours is required to maintain your health, 8 is great and 9 to 10 is superb. How many hours are you getting? To help with sleep a good nightly routine can help. Getting away from your phone or tablet 30 mins before bed. Reading in bed and a hot shower before bed also helps. If want to Improve your sleep consider small targets at first like aiming for an extra 15mins this week per night and build it over time. Maybe you would like to work on your bike position to get more stable, powerful and aerodynamic. A good bike fit can help here or even setting your turbo trainer up with mirrors around to check on position. Swim, bike and run equipment is always changing to help athletes move faster (Nike 4% is a good example). Now is a good time to review what you are currently are using and what you might like to use next season. These are just some thoughts on things to consider this off season. Is there anything there you need to work on or something not in the piece that you plan to work on, please let me know. Until next time

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