The dreaded off-season. An athlete’s worst enemy. Biggest nightmare. As a coach my biggest fight.
It’s natural, trust me. You are not alone. You’ve worked hard this season, you’ve done your last big race. You don’t want to lose the fitness you have built. You don’t want to let go of that strength and speed and you don’t…. admit it…. want to gain weight.
Fear. That is what holds us back in the off-season. Fear of letting go and never getting it back.
But you see it happen all of the time. Athletes who are on fire 1-2, maybe even 4-5 seasons. Then disappear. Drop off the face of the earth. The ones who train all year round. Big miles. Structured all the time. Who are afraid to step off the path because they fear they will not be able to step back on it again.
But stepping off of it…. is necessary in order to make the gains you have worked so hard for.
I am not saying lay on the couch. But a little couch time each day won’t hurt anyone. The ones it hurts are the folks who don’t get off the couch. Not us. We need to find the couch for a small period of time. Rest your legs, rest your head. Get involved in a TV show. (You can watch it on the trainer later in the season).
Go hiking on trails. Pick apples. Go to farms and see what kinds of activities they have going for Halloween. Turn off the heart rate monitor. Look away from the pace clock. Give up structure for a few weeks. Just move every day in some fashion.
I will be REAL layman about this: in order to make progress season to season…. we have to take a step back to step forward. We have to de-condition a little bit (a little bit, not a lot). We have to heal up the niggles, or prevent them altogether. When we train we essentially create micro-tears in our muscles. When we rest they heal and they heal stronger. Muscles are built outside of the gym so to speak. Dialing it down a notch for a period of time will not only ensure you come back physically stronger….. but mentally as well.
The whole key to stepping back…. is having faith. Having faith in yourself, in what you are capable of and what you are willing to let go of to gain.
For me…. I am taking a BIG risk this off-season. I have stepped back my swim and bike tremendously, and bumped up my run and my strength work. I have never allowed my bike to go….. not this much. In 2014 there is something I want and in order for me to go after it….. I need to be hungry for it. To be hungry for it I need to let it go and change the focus. Change the strategy. Change the scenery.
I have to believe. I have to have faith. I have to be completely connected to my own truth. The easy path is to hold on out of fear. What makes us successful is taking that calculated and sometimes not so calculated risk sometimes. Keep rolling the same way down the hill and you learn one thing: how to roll down a hill that one way. You need to move right and left, flip things upside down. De-condition to recondition. And again, have enough faith in yourself to do that.
I have faith. I believe. I am already hungry for the chance to have at it. Ten weeks until I hit the ground running. Until them I am primarily running and I am loving it.
I love running through the woods. I love having my eyes on someone’s back and forgetting about pace and HR and protocol and just running. I love running through the grass with the cool air blowing through my hair. I love everything about hitting the dirt. It’s good for me in more ways than one. A fresher, stronger, faster athlete awaits me. One with big dreams for 2014.
Don’t let fear rule your off season. Embrace the change. Go drink some apple cider. Break out the mountain bike. Put away the heart rate monitor. And the training log. Move every day.
“Trust me now…. believe me later.”…. take the break!