By Chantal Cummings
For most of us triathletes, the race season may be coming to an end or, you might have already finished racing for the year. It can be a hard time to get your head around as you come down from the high of racing and you might even be experiencing some post-race blues now that the races are complete (all of which is very common so don’t fret). And just to make everything sweeter in the northern hemisphere we are being plunged into the start of the shorter cold dark days! The good news is that this is also the time of great opportunity if you approach it the right way. Even if you have had the best race season of your career (if so, hats off) there are always improvements which can be worked on - this is one of the greatest things about doing sport. On the flip side, if you haven’t had the best races, use the 24hr golden rule (this is when you can cry, tantrum, be sad about everything, say that you want to give up) and then remember why you love doing this sport and work on turning it around.
So how can you use the off-season as an opportunity to grow into a better athlete?
You might already know the answer to this but if not, look back at your races this year and analyse them by asking yourself questions such as;
- Is there a particular discipline that is holding me back from achieving my goal?
- Was there a part of my performance in races this year which I feel I could improve?
- Did I really get my nutrition plan right during the race to ensure I could put my best race together?
- How did I feel going from one discipline to another throughout the race?
- Was my preparation/stress the week of the race supportive in achieving my goal? What can I do to change that next time?
- Did I let my negative thoughts get in the way of my performance?
Once you have done this, prioritise 1-2 areas which you feel you will benefit the most by working on them during the off-season. For example, out of a handful of areas on the list, my run performances have been the biggest frustration this year and I know that getting the work done on that will bring me the greatest gain next year so that will be my focus. Now is the exciting part, when you actually have time to get stuck into improving that area without the distraction of preparing for a race or trying to recover from the last one. Create small goal posts along the way to keep you engaged in what you are trying to achieve whilst allowing you the chance to make and celebrate the small wins. That might be throwing in the odd Park Run or testing a new nutrition plan whilst out on a long ride or brick session (bike to run), or just knowing that you have consistently hit each training session for a week - you set the goals and go chase after them.
The other thing to take advantage of during the off-season is the chance to do things other than triathlon. Whether you are only in your first year of racing or a seasoned pro, we all dedicate a fair amount of our time to the sport and we turn a fair amount of invites/occasions down to fit training in. Take some time to say yes to meeting friends or spending a weekend with family to give you a healthy mental break from training whilst being safe in the knowledge that you have plenty of time before needing to be fully stuck in again. This is something which we all find a little tricky as we ultimately love the sport but you will thank yourself for it when it comes round to full race season. Plus it should hopefully win you some brownie points which we all need to stack up ahead of the next year!
So get to work and see how you can use your off-season to turn some of your weaknesses into one of your greatest assets for the year ahead.