When you think about your year, think about it like a garden. You can’t plant summer vegetables year around, you need to give the soil time to rest. There needs to be time to mulch. If you want your garden to be abundant in the summer, then you need to have an offseason.Dr. Lindsay Taylor
In the northern hemisphere, the weather is starting to get cooler, in some places the leaves are changing and falling off the trees, and in other places the snow is starting to fall. That means many athletes are starting to end their 2019 athletic seasons.
As we approach the offseason, it is very common for an athlete to wonder what they should do? Do you continue training at the same intensity as you were in-season? Do you take time off? It is OK to change your focus to another form of fitness? If so will you lose all the progress you made? Should you loosen the reins on your diet and training? There is a lot of advice out there for how to train when you are in season, but little advice about how to have a productive offseason.
I like to tell athletes to look at the offseason in this way….when we are training when do we make the most progress? When do we build muscle, get faster, get stronger? All this happens when we recover. It is the recovery, the time we are not training, that makes us better. Look at the offseason like an extended recovery period.
With no races on the calendar, it allows us as athletes to do things we would not do during our race season when we are worried about how something might effect our performance. What types of things might you consider doing in your offseason? Here are some things you should consider:
- Take time off!!! Don’t be afraid to do nothing but gentle exercise for 4 weeks or even MORE!
- Heal lingering injuries
- Make dietary changes
- Focus on other training modalities
- Focus on weaknesses in your sport
I invited my good friend Dr. Lindsay Taylor to join me for a discussion on what to do during the offseason. You can listen to my interview with her below. But if you are looking for a short synopsis of what we talked about, keep reading below.
Take A Break and Heal Injuries
Your number one priority heading into your offseason is recover both mentally and physically. It is tempting to jump into a new training block or continue where you left off with your in-season training. In reality though, if there is any time for a break, now is the time. Even if you feel fine and you are at peak fitness, we can’t train and compete at a high level year round, your body needs a break, and now is the time to do it. If you have injuries or are starting to feel burnt out then it is even more important to rest, not only from a physical point of view but a mental point of view as well. Take a few weeks off from training. Not one or two weeks off, I am talking about four or more weeks off! Do restorative forms of movement, like walks, yoga, time in the sauna, and mobility work. If you have any injuries your “exercise time” should be devoted to healing them. That also might mean not exercising and resting the injury.
Look Into Different Training Modalities and Address Weaknesses
After some time off and assuming all injuries are healed, what is next? For me personally, I like to take the offseason to pursue other forms of fitness that might not translate directly to my sport. I love focusing on building strength and strength train in a way that would normally hinder me if I was in season. In the offseason I can lift in a way that might effect my running and not worry about it. This offseason, since I am dealing with a calf injury, all my aerobic work has been on the Concept 2 rower since running bothers my calf. I am enjoying the break from running and trying out other forms of aerobic work. The point is you have the time to pursue other fitness modalities, so go for it. It may not translate directly to helping your performance in your sport, but it will certainly contribute to your mental fitness and your overall health, so why not?
Make Dietary Changes
You might also consider making dietary changes. Changing your diet mid-season can be pretty tough to do because it often takes time to transition. If you are thinking about switching to a Primal/Paleo or even a Keto diet now is the time to do it. These types of dietary shifts often require a period of fat-adaptation. This takes time, often times a month or two. During this time you will probably experience a dip in performance, which is why doing it mid-season is a bad idea.
You might also be looking to loose a few pounds. This is going to imply a caloric deficit. Operating at your highest potential in a caloric deficit can be hard, again making it tough to do mid-season. So if you are looking to cut back the calories, and drop some excess body fat, your offseason is a good time to do that.