Salt & Vinegar Chips
The races are done and the pressure is off, now you can breathe and sit back a little bit. If you want, you can even indulge in your favorite forbidden food (a whole bag of salt & vinegar chips for me). Don’t judge, don’t cringe, even the pro’s do it! Hopefully, the tri-season for most people was rewarding in and of itself and all the sacrifices of time, energy, a social life and really yummy un-healthy food has paid off. Being a triathlete requires a lot of giving up of stuff, but now, with the last race recorded in your journal or at the very least shared on Facebook, it’s time to stop, breath, think and yes, eat. I’ve actually been reading on what the top coaches recommend to their athletes when they’re not in action or intense-training mode. I’ve learned, that loosely, this off-season period should consist of five-phases. Rest. Reward. Review. Reset. Plan. (I know, I couldn’t come up with a good R-word that identified the “Plan” stage).
Your major work for the year is done. Rest. Rest your body, rest your mind, rest your bike, and your shoes and your wetsuit. That doesn’t necessarily mean tuck them away in the closet and forget they’re there. In this phase, you get to decide what that means. It might be as big as a vacation or as small as decreasing your activities to one or two a week. The key to this period, the importance of it is that our bodies and our minds need “real” recovery, not just the day or two between intense workouts, or the recovery from minor aches and pains, they need some good and serious TLC. Rest & Reward go hand in hand, while you’re decreasing the intensity of your workouts, this is the time to book that massage session or reach out to the friend with a hot tub and let your body feel and enjoy the rewards of gentle hands on your hard working muscles or the therapy of warm, bubbly water, throw in some wine-therapy and your body will truly love you. You have most definitely earned it. Eat the things you love. Stay up late, read something non-sport related. Shift the Balance back to Center.
Only after you’ve allowed yourself a couple of really good Rest/Reward sessions (at least one professional site, I forget which one or I would give them credit recommends between 2 – 4 weeks) should you begin the next phase. In the review phase, think of the goals you had set the past season. Did you meet them? Did you exceed them? Where did you surprise yourself? Where did you come short? This is the time to think about the things you accomplished and what you learned during your training and competing. Make a list of the things that worked out well and the things that weren’t worth the time and/or effort. With so much information available to us through the internet and other media sources, it’s easy to become bogged down with “tips” and if you’re like me, you probably want to try every method that promises to increase your speed and decrease your weight. Review what worked for you through actual application and build on that. This is another step towards balance, as my friend Suzanne would love to say, in her most adorable southern drawl, “Honey, sometimes the juice just ain’t worth the squeeze.” With such precious little free time we triathletes get, figure out what juice is worth squeezing.
You’ve rested, rewarded yourself, reviewed last season’s up and downs, now it’s time to Reset next season’s goals. The reason I say reset is because what you may have planned for the next season, after reviewing the previous one is going to need tweaking. If you had some long bike races in the original goals but realize that your swimming was not at the level you’d expected or hoped it would be, them maybe some swim events might take the place of a few bike events, etc. The important thing about reviewing is that it allows you to as objectively as possible see where your future efforts need to be focused. Two seasons ago, I was at an extremely difficult place in my triathlon journey. I was a terrible swimmer and deathly afraid of open water. I know it’s fairly common and technically, it didn’t stop me from getting into the water, however; for two or three days prior to any event I was making myself sick from worry and fear, it got to the point that at the end of that tri-season, 2013, I told myself, either I was going to become a better and more confident swimmer or I was going to hang up my tri-gear for good, at least in competition. Truthfully, even at the moment, I knew that wasn’t an option, however it made me act. I joined a Master’s Swim Team (MAC Swim Team, which will be the topic of future blogs), worked hard all winter long. In the summer of 2014, despite feelings of frustration and inadequacy I completed a Swim to the Moon 5k. Yes, 3.1 miles of open water swimming. Little ole scardy cat me. I never imagined that would be possible, but I did it. I still get nervous in open water but not nearly as bad. So, the point is, take time to rethink your goals to make sure you’re getting the best training where you need it.
The last phase is the planning phase. Research the events that you’re interested in. Make sure you know if they are qualifying events, how quickly they fill up. This is a good time to see if early registration offers a discounted price for entry. Check out some of the previous year’s age-group times and what your goals are based on past participant’s performances. Review the courses. Will you need to train for hills? Is the swim in a small quarry or a major lake? Also, especially if you’re mixing in other events besides triathlons, make sure they’re spaced out accordingly. You don’t want to plan a cluster of small events together and then a group of large events back to back. It’s important to give yourself enough recovery time between major or intense events. Take into consideration the time of year, will you have had enough open water training swims? The same with biking, even though you can train on spin bikes or trainers during the winter, nothing compares to rolling wheels on pavement. Also, its a good time to actually plan, a general outline of what your training schedule will be like.
Triathlon training is very intense and very time-consuming. The rigorous workouts take so much from our bodies, and equally, if not more so, from our minds and our hearts. It’s not unusual to become depleted after an intense season and we need to rejuvenate to remain healthy. Our bodies provide and perform for us every day and it’s important to appreciate what we put them through and kindly and lovingly take care of them. Finding the right balance at the right time will increase the likelihood of many, many years of triathlon fun. So, I’m going to end this blog, grab my Salt & Vinegar chips and thoroughly enjoy each and every one.
Swim, Bike, Run, Breath, Live and Love ~ Vicky