Late autumn and early winter are off-season for many runners, cyclist, swimmers and triathletes. It’s the season of rest, recovery and new beginnings.
Off-season is important for athletes because it’s crucial to take a break from intensive training and allow yourself to rest and recover properly before the next race season.
Without a proper recovery period, your progress usually hits a wall sooner or later.
When you start training again with a fully recovered, revitalized, healthy body, you’ll get the best possible training benefit, whereas without a proper recovery period, your progress usually hits a wall sooner or later – usually sooner.
If you skip or neglect recovery, the danger is that it it will come back to bite you when you get back to racing again and you may find yourself getting injured and sick easily because of fatigue.
But after sufficient rest and recovery, it’s time to get back in the game… slowly and softly.
Off-season training program
This off-season training schedule is used by many top athletes, but it’s suitable for regular exercisers, too.
Of course, if you’re not a pro athlete, you need to balance training and rest according to your work situation and family responsibilities. In any case, a complete break from sports and work is necessary for everyone.
- Kick off your off-season with a 2-week period of complete rest, or nearly no training at all.
- After the complete rest period, slowly start your off-season training: Take it easy for the next two weeks and do only half of the training you would normally do.
It’s good to do different sports in the beginning of your training season to give your body new, varied stimuli.
Every now and then you need a rest period longer than two weeks. For example, when I was suffering from fatigue and a leg overuse injury after the IRONMAN World Championship, I decided to take six weeks off from training. During that rest period, I only did light exercise that was entirely different from triathlon, such as downhill skiing.
Moreover, it’s good to do different sports in the beginning of your training season to give your body new, varied stimuli. For example, yoga and ball sports are a great change for endurance athletes.
Allow yourself to take a break
I know, you may be thinking: “What if I lose my fitness during the break and all my hard work will be wasted?”
What if I lose my fitness during the break and all my hard work will be wasted?
If you’re enthusiastic about sports, resting isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Many of us are afraid of losing the fitness level we achieved through hard work and I admit that many times I’ve stressed too much about losing my fitness during off-season.
Sure, after a couple of weeks of rest, training feels tougher than usual but we should keep in mind that it’s surprisingly easy to get back in shape and restore your fitness level when you’re not starting from scratch.
As a rule, you could say that the more years of training you have, the more you can afford to rest. It’s not at all uncommon that elite athletes have made their record performances after coming back from injury.
Monitor your recovery
I have used the Polar Vantage V to help me find balance between training and recovery. The Polar Smart Coaching features allow me to monitor both my daily recovery (from training and overall stress) and training load.
Keeping an eye on recovery data is key to avoid under-recovery. Make sure you take some time off and rest so that you don’t start your training and racing season with anything less than a 100% charged battery.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.