Off Season Time
It’s that time again, the OFF SEASON. Well, honestly, its been that time for a couple months now. My road season really ended in July and since then… well I’ve been enjoying (mostly enjoying) what an off season entails; rest, fun, variety, and wellness.
Let’s start with REST.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, an off season is the period of time after the race season when most athletes take some down time. But resting is only part of the equation and honestly not my favorite part. Shocker I know, but taking an extended period of time away from training has never been for me. I am trying to change that though. At the end of my off season, before I go back into training for road cycling, I will be taking 2 solid weeks OFF. That’s right, OFF. Meaning no training. No running, no cycling, no real workouts. I’ll check back in after that happens to let you know how it went. I’m a bit skeptical about doing it, but in the back of my head I feel it’s the right thing to do. But back to now. Now I am still pretty active. I find the most difficult part of the off season can be a lack of identity; “I’m a cyclist! I’m a competitive athlete! But… I’m actually currently doing nothing..”. So staying active and training for ‘something’ keeps me focused and accountable to my identity as an athlete, just not as a road cyclist.
On to the FUN part.
I’m still cycling a few times a week just without any focus. I’ve done some long rides, some hard group rides, some slow group rides, trainer spins to catch up on tv or magazine reading, bike handling drills, gravel rides and dabbled in cyclocross. How is this fun you ask? Well it’s great to have no pressure! It’s great to do whatever feels good without concern for power, pace, or duration. I have a couple gran fondos (Hincapie & Bookwalter) planned for late fall; an attempt to have fun on the bike and not lose all my cycling fitness. Losing all my hard earned fitness is always a concern of mine during the off season. But fondos are always great fun; so many people come out to ride and it’s always a race disguised as an ice cream social. These two will be extra awesome because I’ll be joining my teammates for them! I’m sure I’ll chase some strava segments too because that always makes me super happy. Fun is also doing what you’re good at and for me, that’s running. I love running. It makes me happy. Partly because of the runner’s high and ease of it (just put on shoes and go!) and partly because, well, I’m pretty good at it. Not only can I run a marathon, but I can WIN a marathon. Well I can’t win them all, but realistically I can have more promise of standing on the podium after 26.2 miles on foot than at a big cycling race. So I have 2 marathons planned this off season; Lakefront & Madison. Let’s face it, winning is fun.
What’s not fun? VARIETY.
Seriously, it sounds like fun but it isn’t. It’s hard AF to challenge yourself, go out of your comfort zone and do things besides the thing you’re good at. In my case, I’m good at endurance. I am not good at intensity. I am not good at anything involving technical skill. So, one big focus I’ve had this off season is to work my weaknesses. I did this in the form of cyclocross. Cyclocross is nothing like road cycling. It is short, high intensity, high explosive power, and very technical. I cannot bunny hop, I hate riding surfaces that aren’t smooth, I’m terrified of muddy, narrow descents and off camber tight cornering. So I’m doing a sport I actually am terrible at to attempt to be a better cyclist. It’s working. It’s super difficult, my body is bruised, and my ego is bruised (I swear I’m a good athlete...!), but I’m also better at dealing with surprise on the bike, handling difficult maneuvering, getting back up and keep going, and also seriously developing my intensity work. Other than cross, I’ve been doing some gravel riding, tennis and plan to do plenty of nordic skiing once the weather turns arctic here in MN.
Enough of that, let’s move on to Wellness.
This aspect is crucial during every athletic season, but it changes focus throughout. Right now, my off season wellness is comprised of more self care; massage, stretching, ice baths, face masks, nail painting, etc… Mental wellness has included listening to podcasts, working on sleep (I actually sleep worse during the off season), and diving back into a creative hobby; painting! During the hectic race season, its impossible to have time for all of this and the off season is a great time to take care of yourself. Wellness also includes nutrition. Honestly my nutrition is more lax during the off season, which is okay, can’t be strict all the time! The body needs to gain a few pounds, indulge a little (chocolate & wine for me!)… just not too much, to be an overall healthy person. During this time, I also experiment more; try different sport foods, recipes, vitamins and supplements. This way I know what might work, might improve things, might be tolerated better, speed up recovery, etc… at a time when it won’t compromise performance. A few things I’ve implemented recently are Swisse Wellness’s CO-Q10 to boost my mitochondrial power, KLEAN Athlete’s new Beta Alanine to help boost explosive power, cereal and milk for pre long run meals instead of a bagel, and Daily Harvest smoothie cups (use code LORIPICK for 3 free) for post workout immediate nourishment.