by Mikael Hanson of Enhance Sports
If you are anything like me, the arrival of fall elicits mixed emotions. Sure, the turning of the leaves signals the much-anticipated start of the football season and the approach of another World Series, it also means the days are rapidly growing shorter and the morning air has that edge that can only mean winter is knocking on the door. While the month of October has many fine selling points, unless you are doing a fall marathon (God bless your souls!), late October means that yet another racing season is drawing to a conclusion and the reflection period can officially begin.
Regardless how you’re racing season ended up (good, bad, or just plain ugly), one thing everyone needs come November/December is good old fashion rest. Inside Triathlon magazine recently did an interview with multi-sport legend Ken Glah (who has successfully completed over 21 Hawaii ironman races). In the interview, Ken outlined his five steps to racing longevity and while we all may not have racing resumes quite as impressive as Ken Glah, that does not mean we can’t benefit from his years of wisdom (so I thought there were worth repeating here).
- 1. Enjoy your training – this is the only reason to be involved in our sport, so find the aspects of training you like the most and focus on those.
- 2. Enjoy the races – which may come from the sheer thrill of competition, but also doing races in different destinations is a great way to include family and friends.
- 3. Be realistic – if you are in the sport for many years, it is important to adjust your goals from year to year, making sure they are attainable (as unreachable goals will only disappoint and decrease your enjoyment).
- 4. Don’t just train – While riding may dominate your time, engaging in other activities will keep you going for the long term (such as regular massages, weight training, yoga, pilates, and stretching).
- 5. Take time off – yes, training and racing are addictive, but it is critical to have recovery time in your schedule as well as planned time off during the year. You’ll never last in this sport if you don’t have a rich personal life outside of triathlon.
How to approach the off-season? Let’s begin with tip number five from above. The first step many of us fail to take is the brief, yet complete off-season break. This break should be a period of five to ten days in where one does not worry about hill repeats, threshold intervals, Bear mountain rides, or weekly cycling mileage. Leave the cycling toys at home and take some time to enjoy your family and friends. Go to a football game, take a drive in the country, go for a hike in the hills (yes, some form of mild exercise is okay), or just have a beer or three. Reward yourself for a successful season. This is also a great time to drop the bike off at a local shop for that end of the year tune-up, which will help remove the temptation of riding for the duration of the cleaning. As for myself, I eagerly look forward to this period to let the body begin healing all of those small aches and pains collected over the summer – and trust me after over twenty races spread across many different disciplines, they add up (my race tally so far: 8 duathlons, 6 bike races, 3 running races, 2 triathlons, 2 cross-country ski races,).
Once your mini-break is over, it is time EASE back into training, with an emphasis on the word EASE! With over five months before the start of the next racing season, there is no need to rush into things. However, on the flip side, one must realize the importance of building a solid foundation in the early season (Dec to Feb). Take a page from Lance Armstrong’s training, as he has often said that the Tour de France is won in December and not July. Before beginning your early season work, take a hard look at your last season. What worked in your training? What didn’t work? Where were your strengths and weaknesses? How did your fitness hold up over the season? And finally, what are your goals for the upcoming season? Only after you have accurately answered these questions, can you begin to build your next training program.
Use the early season to focus on the weaker aspects of your riding. Take some extra time to work on your pedaling mechanics, posture, and core strength. December/January/February is also a great time to try your hand at a little cross-training while you wait for the return of milder weather. Cross-country skiing, rollerblading, and hiking are all great endurance building activities, while yoga and pilates can help with your core strength and flexibility – all things we begin to lose as we get older.
The off-season typically means lower training volumes for most of us, as we slowly rebuild our fitness levels as the season approaches. Fewer four hour plus bikes rides past Nyack, means less of a need for that Krispy Kreme doughnut in the fuel tank. While I am a self-proclaimed doughnut junkie in the summer months, one must exhibit some self-restraint in the dead of winter. Some weight gain over the holidays is expected and normal, however we don’t want to over do it (a la Jan Ulrich – who is a big fan of his mother’s baking come winter). A rule of thumb is to try an avoid weight gains of ten percent or more on your frame (15lbs on a 150lb frame), as those extra pounds will come back to haunt you if they are still hanging around in June. By no means does this mean we should starve ourselves during the holidays, just pay close attention to the soda and alcohol intake, leave the dinner rolls for the in-laws, try avoid eating dinner after 8pm, perhaps consume a tad less pasta for dinner, and the one that kills me – fewer Krispy Kreme breakfasts!
Remember, while we are not professional athletes, we all share a small obsession for our chosen sport and the lifestyle that accompanies it, so rest and train smart so you can enjoy a lifetime of racing success!
Mikael is both a Level 1 certified USA Triathlon coach and Level 2 certified USA Cycling coach. The ultimate multi-sport junkie, Mikael competes in numerous cross-country ski races, bike races, running events, and duathlons/triathlons during the calendar year, with a focus on the sprint and Olympic distance triathlons (Ironman racing is a tad too long for my knees!). In 2005 he founded Enhance Sports, a mutli-sport coaching and racing company based in New York City. Visit them on the web at www.Enhancesports.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.