Planning for an off-season: Recharging your system

As hard as it can be to take time off from training and racing, the rewards are well worth it.  This rest period is critical for both physical and mental rejuvenation.  It is a time to let your muscles recover from the long and intense months of training and racing. It is time to let your mind enjoy a change of pace that will help restore your enthusiasm for the upcoming season. Typically this recharge period should be at least 4-6 weeks in length. And yes, you will lose fitness, maybe put on a few pounds, but this is absolutely necessary if you want to continue to get stronger and improve moving forward.  

 You cannot expect to maintain your race fitness through the winter months. To quote Joe Friel “Fitness is transient”.  Peak anaerobic endurance and sprint power fitness lasts for only a couple of weeks, whereas as peak endurance fitness will last a little longer, but not into the off season.

 The purpose of the rest period is to allow:

  • Your joints and muscles to heal and repair after many miles of training and racing. Without the period of rest, injuries could result
  • Hormone levels to regain a balanced level
  • Re-stimulate the central nervous system
  • Restoration of the energy-producing enzymes inside muscle fibers that are naturally broken down during training
  • Refueling of glycogen stores within muscle cells
  • Endocrine, nervous, and immune systems upset by training are allowed to return back to normal

What to do with this extra time on your hands:
Don’t hurry your recovery. Enjoy this time. Get re-acquainted with your couch. Go on; put your feet up and catch-up on some movie/TV time. Use this period to catch up with old friends that don’t train or race, schedule some over-due appointments, start a house project, try some new sports (mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, etc.), or find some worthwhile volunteer work. 

Planning for the next season:
1. Reflect and set new goals-
Towards the latter half of the rest period reflect on last season’s results. What lessons did you learn? How will this shape the goals for the upcoming season?

2. Mental preparation-
Get yourself mentally ready to resume a training schedule throughout the winter months. Write a training plan or hire a coach to help together a training schedule that is realistic and appropriate.

3. Equipment-
Make sure your equipment is ready to start back up again. Are your running shoes worn out and need replacing? Is your bike ready to brave the winter weather?

4. Research-
 Read about new training techniques and new equipment.

5. Make commitments-
Commit to any lifestyle changes you want to make (especially any nutritional changes).   

Now go forth and embrace a guilt-free hibernation period!

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