On Tipcast 72 I discussed the importance of using your off-season as a springboard for next season’s success. Sound like old advice? Yup, you’re right. But the truth is, many athletes still fall well short of the mark in the off-season by resting too much, or simply having no coherent plan.
FORGET THE REST
The days of long months of recovery are gone. “But I trained so hard during the season, and my body needs to repair itself!”, you say. And I say bollox! Unless you’re a pro finishing multiple Ironman’s, marathons, or racing 60 plus days you’re body is just fine. A couple weeks off, or some periodic weeks off throughout the fall are plenty. Anymore than that and you wipe about your base fitness.
Yeah, BASE, you remember that term. That thing that you’re supposed to spend months building is already built! So why tear it down. Short rest, and build, then short rest and build some more. Moreover, unless you’re a pro who can spend months just building fitness, you simply cannot afford to lose that much fitness, because it takes too long to rebuild when time is crunched. So here’s my rule:
Relax and recover throughout the fall, but next more than 2 weeks at the beginning of the off-season, and never more than 1 week throughout the winter.
HAVE PLAN, WILL FOLLOW
Another problem is the lack of structure in the off-season, another carry-over from the good old days. “But too much structure year-round will lead to burn-out!” you say. And I say, too little structure will lead to few gains.
The fact is, you need some specific goals in the off-season, and training objectives to achieve them. The off-season is the key to eliminating major performance bottlenecks. As I discussed in the Tipcast, you need to find the two biggest bottlenecks and determine if you can minimize one or both; sometimes bottlenecks are very different and it may prove too difficult to improve both in one off-season. In contrast, not having a plan and simply training like chaos theory, or racing your way through the off-season, like many cyclists do with cyclocross, can leave you more tired than you started and actually exacerbate bottlenecks. The purpose of a off-season plan is to structure a big picture plan for training, rather than detailed workouts. So here’s my rule:
Identify your two biggest bottlenecks in performance and develop a training plan to minimize one or both within 3-4 months. Then build a winter plan that addresses these bottlenecks in a relaxed plan. In other words, the training emphasis is on dealing with the weakness, without using lots of intense, detailed workouts.
If this all sounds abstract, its not. Here’s what I determined about my own bottlenecks. First, simply looking at Strava segments from various races, and some power data I saw a clear drop in bike race times, despite seeing an overall improvement in race results and times, as well as technical MTB sections. A closer look at the data showed that my powerboat on many climbs was also down. This is despite the fact that my road climbing data was up over the past year. Why?I have a few reasons that I’ll discuss at a later date, but it honestly doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I need to improve my bike power output this off-season; i.e., HIT.
As I’ve often lamented, my swim is slow, and hampers my overall results. Despite some promising swim results this year that helped my overall results (lots of top 10’s), I’m still too damn slow. So diving into my Garmin data I spotted one thing I never looked at before; my stroke rate is seriously low, akin to wonder why you cannot climb with the group without realizing you’re grinding away at 40 RPM! So I am also going to continue to focus on my technique, but also increase my stroke rate 5-10 SPM minimum.
So then taken together, I started with outlining my overall periodization plan for 2016 and came up with a basic plan for the next 5-6 weeks. I’ve also reduced the number of Fall races I have planned, but included one MTB race for fun and a bit of a test. Reducing the number of races helps you focus on the training you need. I don’t pay money to train, so if I show up to a race I plan to give it 100%. I also keep my structure fairly low for the fall, but have a specific goal/s in mind.
From this plan, I will continue to flesh out my 2016 season, but with so much going on in my life, this is enough to keep me focused on clear training outcome objectives. Looking for more help? Email me to learn about my new one-on-one consulting service for athletes and coaches. Get the second opinion we all need from time to time!