Return to form after a lengthy off-season: 5 essential tips

Your season has just come to an end but before you know it, you’ll be champing at the bit to get back into full training mode in preparation for the following season.  Much like everyone else in the world of triathlon, you’re always looking to get faster, stronger and fitter in order to improve on past results.  However, a return to training after a (somewhat) lengthy layoff shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Here are 5 essential tips that will help you avoid certain mistakes and ensure a proper return to training.

1- Plan ahead

12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes.  A full calendar year is quite a long time.  The proper preparation to a season can take anywhere between 12 and 20 weeks, depending on one’s experience and overall fitness level.  Starting off too quickly, as if you hadn’t missed a beat since the previous season, is the most common mistake athletes make.  Sure, it may seem flawless at the beginning.  We rarely have motivation issues during our first training block.  It is in the long run however that starting off to fast can have a negative impact with a gradual loss of motivation and fatigue as you approach racing season.

There is no shortage of cross-training opportunities during the winter (skiing and snowshoeing to name a few) and taking advantage of these opportunities will reap its benefits during the triathlon season.  These activities do not only give your body and mind a break from the three other disciplines you live and breathe for during the summer, but they also give you the opportunity to build/maintain your endurance and fitness level during the off-season.

2- Identify your weaknesses

An athlete’s strengths should never be ignored and one should keep working on them to be able to maintain them as strengths.  It’s rarely hard, however, to convince an athlete to keep working on their strengths.  The same can not be said about weaknesses however.  Athletes quickly get discouraged in regards to their weaknesses and have a tendency of keeping them on the back burner.  Perhaps we should look at them differently?  If you have a hard time with swimming, think of it as an opportunity to improve rather than as a weakness.  The easy part is identifying your weaknesses.  The hard part is to do something about it.  There’s no quick fix solution.  It is by prioritizing your weaknesses and putting in the work that you’ll be able to transform them into strengths.

3- Patience is key

Getting back into full training mode can at times be discouraging.  You may notice your power output numbers have slipped or that your HR is through the roof even during a low intensity workout.  It’s best to start the season on a clean slate and not to compare your early March numbers with late August data.  Your fitness level will eventually catch-up and you’ll be ready to build on the previous season in no time.

4- Nutrition

Time off of training usually comes with weight-gain.  It is hard to make a 180 degree turn in regards to your eating habits as you suddenly chop your training volume in half.  Putting on a few pounds in the winter is quite normal, and probably not so much of a bad thing either.  The idea here, like most things, is to do it in moderation.  When training volume diminishes during the off season, you have to adjust your daily diet accordingly.  But don’t worry, there will be plenty of time to shed your winter pounds once you get back into the groove of training in the spring as the process of weight loss (calories in vs. calories out) is facilitated by an increase in training volume.  The most important part is to eat properly following a workout.  The idea here is to replenish your glycogen reserves which will help with recovery and to prepare for your next workouts.

5- PB’s during training sessions?

Some athletes are undeniably strongest in training.  There are numerous factors that can explain this.  It may be from a lack of knowledge when it comes to dosing efforts during a race.  Perhaps it’s the environment of race day that stresses them out and causes counter performances.  It could also simply be explained by a lack of experience in one or all 3 disciplines.  The advice to be given here is to become a student of the sport.  Strive to understand each discipline and how they tie into one another rather than to simply put the hammer down on all of your training sessions.



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