Thursday, November 06, 2008

Off Season?

So most are finished with their 2008 race schedule. A few still have "A" races left like Clearwater this weekend, IM Arizona, or a late season marathon. But for the most part, endurance athletes are looking for some slack off time. When you train diligently for the better part of year, staying focused and sacrificing many of life's so called enjoyments, a little down time is certainly not a bad idea. I have come up with some guidelines for those in couch mode right now or who may be entering it soon;

  1. Take four to seven days totally off from training. Get some extra sleep, catch up on some neglected chores, but stay away from the pool, the weight room, the running shoes, the bike, ... Trust me, you aren't going to get fat.
  2. To make sure you don't get fat, back off the calories a bit. Enjoy some desert or an extra glass of wine now and then, but don't just jam food, and especially sugar, down your throat while taking a break from the rigorous schedule.
  3. After your short hiatus, allow yourself 1 hr of max activity in a very easy HR zone (A or z1) for 1 week. Try to do something each day, but max of 1 hr and EASY!
  4. So now, you are two weeks into your "break". Do a self check and see how you feel physically and mentally. Are you having difficulty waking up in the AM? Do you have some nagging injuries that are still there? Is your motivation low? Yes to any of these means take another week of 1 hr max easy sessions per day. If no to all of these, proceed to #5.
  5. Get back into it! Yes, I know two weeks seems short for an off season. Hear me out. First, I have witnessed many "enjoy" their off season a bit too much. I have three good friends who fall hard in the off season. I don't want to incriminate so I'll give them all an alias. Let's call them Jaker, Lenny, and Flooter. I've seen these guys get themselves in top shape, only to totally derail in the offseason. Picture top shape as reaching the highest rung of a hypothetical ladder - rung 10 say. The key in the off season is to rest and recover, yet not slip past the 6th rung. These three have slipped down to the 2nd rung. It's hard to surpass your previous years performances when you spend a great portion of the new year getting back to the level you were at. Many do long slow training trying to build a base when they get back into it. I subscribe to just the opposite. It's cold and dark out and you'll have plenty of time in the spring and summer to go long. So keep things short, but throw in some intensity. Also, focus on your weaknesses now, and add some strength training in. Unless you are under 30, strength training will absolutely benefit you - even though there are some so called experts who are skeptical of it.
  6. Do some short running races. Try to do two 5K's per month in December, January, and February, and run them hard.
  7. Do some different activities: Try snow shoeing, cross country skiing, hiking with a weighted back pack, in line skating, yoga, indoor soccer or basket ball (just watch the knees), or anything that's fun and makes you sweat.
  8. start developing your 2009 goals. Not just the races you are going to focus on, but more specifics such as time goals, training goals, ... Share them with your coach!

OK, this blog may be boring, but it's necessary and timely because before you know it, it will be March and your bike may still be in it's case from your last race in October (I did this one year) and you haven't been to a pool in three months and you only wanted to gain five pounds in the winter but you are now carrying 15. Don't let this happen to you. Off season is not an excuse to get out of shape!




MandyB said...

Good advice E-Rock!! Maybe I should lay off the cupcakes!!

Eric said...

I laughed out loud with your non-incriminating comment about dropping too many rungs.

I'll keep an eye on Flooter for ya and get him out there with me.

Great report on NYC. Good job despite what preceeded it. Rest up, you deserved it.

Eric said...

Enjoy some cupcakes Mandy - you have earned them. If you are ever on High Ridge Road in Stamford, they just opened a Crumbs - amazing cupcakes.

Flooter is rolling right now Eric! Stay on him in January and February though.

Anonymous said...

I will more than happily partake of some Double Stuff Oreo's during my break.
Question, go short? I thought the "off-season" was a chance to focus and work on your "non-strengths". running is not where I would like it to be, so wouldn't the "off-season" be the best time to improve, especially if I am preparing for an IM next year.

Jerry Biang

alan said...

A period of shorter workouts with some high intensity can actually help you build the strength you need to get more out of longer training later in the year and also it helps you avoid getting stale- and injured.

This kind of references the other discussion about which is tougher, a marathon or an IM. Sometimes when you are always focused on that long-distance base training, you have trouble finding the intensity you need on race day.

Some of it's mental, too. I think your brain is as likely- or more likely- to get tired going long all the time as your body is...

Eric said...

Hi Jerry,

You can make it more run focused but here's my theory on going short with more intensity over the winter months:

Long, slow volume works best when you can put in a huge amount of it. Most of us don't have the time necessary to see improvement from this long slow base. So the long, slow approach just makes us able to go long, but slow.

If you put some intensity into your sessions over the winter in the right doses, when it comes time to go longer for your IM, you'll be doing those runs aerobically but at a quicker pace.

Since you mention running, let's use that as an example. Say over the winter you worked on increasing your volume by adding more weekly runs in and maybe extending the time. the thing is, to avoid getting injured and to recover, you'd have to do so at a slow pace. However, if you spent the winter trying to improve your open 5K time, doing some key sessions to do this, you'd improve your pacing. How woould this benefit you when you are training for an IM? Well you'd enter the key IM training phase (12 or so weeks out) more fresh and with faster legs.

Of course the very inexperienced (not you) need to spend some time building a base, but that's what the spring is for.

Anonymous said...

I see your point, I guess the key is to find the "right doses" of intensity, plus it is cold out here in the East, who wants to stay out in the cold for long running sessions.
So would the same off-season pactice hold true for swimming as well?
Pertaining to strength training, I totally agree with you about having some kind of strenght training routine in the off-season.
I did strenght training in the 06-07 off-season and in the 2007 season I did the Tucson Camp, 2 Sprints, and 7 Olympic triathlons and my overall muscle fitness felt great.
During the 07-08 off-season I did not get the chance to do any strength training (moved across country, started a new job, house hunting, moved my family out here...wait I have more excuses) and I felt the difference in recovery times and overall muscle fitness.
Better believe that I will be incorporating a strength training routine into my 08-09 off-season.

Eric said...

The "right doses" of intensity is key. Most go too hard when they do their interval, tempo or fartlek work. The key during the winter is to dial in some intensity, yet go no higher than 85% of your max HR. Occassionally, I like to mix in some short sprint work and the effort may "feel" above 85% of max HR however the efforts should be very short (less than 30 seconds)with more recovery time. It's the long efforts they feel maxed out that take a bit too much out of the engine.

Swimming - definitely - keep some quality in there year round.

Anonymous said...

Okay so there I was sitting in my closet putting on my running shoes, just a week after the "end of my season", when I just started thinking that I really did not want to go out and run. So I decided to give it another week.

Well, four days later I just had to do something of a physical nature, so basketball it was.

Now my gym bag is already packed for Monday, I am just itching to go run, bike, swim, lift weights, or to do anything that gets me ready for IM Louisville, the races I have in 2009, and the LP Camp.