Most triathletes in North America have finished their last races and landed in the off-season, and each winter this destination seems to get mixed reviews. While some athletes are happy to have some time off, many others struggle with this season. Indeed, we spend so much of the year going hard – building speed, increasing strength, racing from one training session to the next, fitting it all in. Oftentimes, when it comes to the off-season, we struggle to turn all that OFF. We know academically that time away from the sport is good for us both physically and mentally, but sometimes that is easier said than done. (Especially when we see our running friends out there PRing winter road races, and our FOMO kicks into high gear!)
When athletes are struggling in this way, I often encourage them to channel their time and energy into feeding their souls. Use the break to prioritize the things that you don’t have the time and/or energy to do during the season when you are focused on training and racing – from the little things to big things, and everything in between.
Whether it is cross-training (which will strengthen your body), learning something new (which will engage your mind), or strengthening relationships (which can fill your heart), any combination of these things can be beneficial to your well-being. Try a boxing class. Or yoga. Dust off your golf clubs. See what the pickle ball hype is all about. Meet a friend for lunch. Enjoy your coffee and the Sunday crossword in the sunshine on your porch. Take the dog to the park. Explore some new hiking trails. Go for a walk with a neighbor. Give your people a “yes” day. Let your spouse or kids (or both!) take turns picking a family activity. You might be surprised by the little things that your people have been missing while you were out training. Maybe it’s a pancake breakfast, a movie night, a new brunch spot, or a trip to the farmer’s market. Or something bigger like a weekend away.
Talk to your coach about how to maximize your off-season. There may be some sport-specific things you want to work on that will pay off down the road, like strength training or shoring up your swim technique, for example. Spend some time evaluating the previous year and setting goals for the upcoming year. And then get busy putting the “off” in “off-season.” With a little planning and intention, some time away can leave you feeling renewed, refreshed, and ready to take on a new training year.