Ironman Hawaii just happened a few days ago. Folks Down Under are gearing up for the racing season. And most triathletes in the Northern Hemisphere are about ready to start eating tons, put on some weight, and ignore training for a while during the ‘off-season.’ As a matter of fact, I get a lot of emails around this time of the year asking ‘hey, I’m looking for a coach for 2012, would you coach me early next year after the off-season?’ Or ‘what should I do to not get fat?’ Something along these lines.
I’m often bouncing between wanting to be upfront and tell them ‘What’s that off-season you’re talking about?’, and being a little nicer and say ‘yeah sure, we can talk next year.’ When I look over my past emails, I realize that the only athletes I end up talking with later happen to be those who get the first answer. So, over the past year, I’ve decidedly turned off the filter. And it’s really for the best. I have now more athlete requests than I can handle, and I work best with athletes who are self-motivated.
So, why all this blah blah? There is no off-season! Although it’s important to take a bit of time off, with some unstructured training, shorter sessions, less intensity, taking 2 months off (because it’s cold and because people want to spend the following 2 months eating) just puts you at a huge disadvantage. I was recently reading the summary of a lecture given by Arthur Lydiard (arguably, the most successful running coach ever), in Osaka, Japan. There is no mention of an off-season per se. But he spends a great deal of time discussing the importance of endurance (for the 800m runner as much as for the marathon runner) improving running mechanics / running economy, with hill bounding, hill repeats etc. to be the best runner you can be.
What does it mean for triathletes? Use your ‘off-season’ well. Spend a couple of weeks relaxing, no structured training to speak off, shorter sessions, do social rides, but keep moving to maintain some level of activity. Spend some time figuring out what your goals are for next year, a schedule that makes sense with respect to your family and work commitments, as well as other commitments you may have. You may also work on technical aspects of your sport: what can I do to improve my swimming technique, my bike position, or my running economy? This is a good time to work on the technical aspects of the sport. If you are thinking about getting a coach, spend some time looking at what’s out there, what services are offered, ask questions (see this as a job interview, and you’re the interviewer), try to see if you two are a good match, if the programs are really individualized, or just generic stuff, the level of interaction provided, etc.
In any case, here is some food for thought about the ‘off-season.’