With the summer race season now a distant memory, we head into the colder months and the “off-season”. The lack of motivation to keep the fitness wheels turning when the weather is not great and we have no races to look forward to will grow by the day.
How do we take some quick steps during this lean period to keep, if not improve on those marginal gains that we have accumulated over the past summer racing period?
The saying goes – “those that fail to prepare, prepare to fail” or something similar along those lines. We don’t have to be that dramatic, but the off-season does give us a chance to reflect on what we have achieved during the past race season and then possibly re-act on what we want/hope to achieve in the next follow-up season
- Gloss over your past training schedules and try to summarise the good and the bad in terms of achieved results that may have come from them.
- Then match those race results to the training plans – did you do too little? Perhaps you did too much and over-trained?
- If the past race season was a success, you may just want to fine tune the formula that has brought you this success.
- If the race season was a flop, then you need an overhaul, a complete change of direction in the way you approach your training sessions. Now is the right time to sit down and put some additional thought into putting together some new training and racing strategies. If you have a proper plan in place for the off-season with an eye to starting off the race season in summer with a bang, chances are good that the levels of motivation will remain strong and steadfast over the next few weeks and months.
2. Implement some new training methods
If ever there was a time to try some alternative training methods, then it’s now. You don’t always have to swim, cycle and run, there are other forms of training that will keep the fires burning.
What types of training methods could I look at during this period that will keep me more motivated?
Functional training exercises tend to activate more muscles and consume more energy. These functional exercises also tend to improve your natural movement skills and enhance your general mobility. This can only be good for you and will most certainly bring something new and exciting to your daily training routines. Having to learn something new will definitely keep those motivational levels right up there
Why not try some Pilate’s classes? Pilates is a system of exercises using special apparatus, designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture, and enhance mental awareness. If we are saying “do something different” to keep those motivational levels right up there, then this is the jackpot. It may not appeal to all but why not give it a try and test the waters, who knows, you may love it. Many of the top PRO’s indulge in some form of alternate exercise and Pilates is on the list of many of them. Make inquiries and see if you can add this into the weekly routine at least 1 x per week over the off-season.
Try some Cross Country
Cross Country running has a huge heritage and following in the UK with an active and very competitive number of events all around the country. From fun and club level right up to the elite, taking on some cross-country running events will be sure to provide the spark in the run department that may be missing in the off-season. The stronger runners will love this form of run training while the weaker runners can use this to make them physically stronger and mentally tougher over the running discipline.
Change in scenery
We tend to be creatures of habit. We will follow the same run and cycle routes over and over until we know them like the back of our hands. The swim sets and swim pool often remain the same. It’s no wonder we have that “oh no, not again” feeling when we dress up to head out the door. Explore different areas, plot different cycle routes, get in the car and drive to a park for your run. Join a swim squad, even if for a day or two that train outside of your comfort zone ie: close to home and work. A change in scenery and training routes/routines will definitely add a spark to those motivational levels
Schedule an “off-season” training camp. This does not necessarily mean you need to spend money, take leave and go away somewhere where it’s warm (this is a good alternative of course if you can get it right). Plan a mini training “camp” or two during this off-season period. This can be done right at home – the mere fact that you have set aside some dates on the calendar to thrash through a few key sessions over say a Friday afternoon, whole day Saturday and Sunday will be key in keeping those motivational juices flowing. Plan for 3, one right at the start of this off-season period, one midway and one right at the end. This will give you some renewed inspiration and something to look forward to when the blues set in and training diligently wants to take the back seat
3. Strength in numbers
Training on your own is hard. If you do not belong to a training group as such then perhaps you should look at hooking up with an indoor cycle group at your local gym. The ZWIFT portal has become so popular with fellow cyclists the world over that most who train indoors have now switched to this portal for indoor cycling. If you have not tried Zwift already, give their 7-day free trial a bash and see if it’s for you or not. Some training centres offer this as a standard service. Training indoors when you are in a group environment with background music pumping will be a sure way to keep the endorphin levels at an all-time high.
4. Mental approach
This is a crucial part of your off-season planning and training to keep your proactivity flowing. You cannot really “train” the mental side as such but there are various techniques you can introduce to ensure that you work on the mental game and not just the physical.
- Do the hard things first. Pick your weakest discipline and work on it first leaving your strongest discipline till last
- Be specific. If you want to work on upper body strength, write down the specific number of reps or exercises you will do. … if you want to run faster, write down the times you need to achieve over say a 400m, 800m or 1km interval. Be time specific and the mental game will sharpen up.
- Deal with problems/issues that may come up when you are planning your training schedules for example. Address the issues – if any – sort them out during the off-season and things will flow a lot better once the summer season gets underway.
The off-season can be depressing but if you adopt some of the above-mentioned pointers, who knows, the colder months may just fly by and before you know it, its spring and you are ready to proactively roll into action.
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