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Yes, rest is important. But be weary of falling into the trap of forming too many bad habits during your “non-triathlon” months.
What in the world is an “off-season” after all? I always chuckle when I hear those words, because for me, I am always lucky to have any sort of real, actual season with my klutziness, drama, and life. Any season at all is an “on” season!
However, for most triathletes, our lives consist of a year of more-intensive training from, say, about February to October with a bunch of smaller races and then one or two what we call “A” races—the big goal, the main goal and the purpose of the entire season. After the “A” race, we can let up a little bit, eat some foods we have been avoiding, and of course throw ourselves completely down the rabbit hole of destruction, post-race blues, and less-than-ideal food and health choices.
Sometimes I think we work hard all year just to blow up our fitness, life, and health in the off-season. I know that rarely has there been a season that I roll into March and think, “Heck YES, I am fitter and faster than I was going into Thanksgiving.” I tend to have that sense of regret and “oh man, if I had only done more squats.”
Last year, however, I took a bit of a different approach to my off-season.
My Body is Truly Not a Trash Can
I know I say this all the time, but really: my body is not a trash can. I don’t need to pile tons of junk into it. Yes, there are amazing goodies and treats and meals to be had from Thanksgiving into the New Year. There are many opportunities for bubbly and drink, even though I gave that up two years ago—that was a real off-season issue. If we just dial back our headspace thinking about the food and booze in the holiday season, enjoy some of the good stuff, but not act like frenzied, starving off-season triathletes, we will roll into a new season feeling a little bit more like the athletes we are.
My Butt is Important
Waking up my glutes was one of the biggest revolutions in my triathlon life. Glutes, however, can be lazy muscles if you forget about them. Even if I spend a little less time training than I would like in the off-season, I make promises to myself to at least keep the squats and the single-leg lunges in the rotation—at least once a week, but ideally 2-3 times a week.
From a practical standpoint, you can throw down 4 sets of lunges, bodyweight squats, and single-leg hip bridges in less than 10 minutes with no equipment. Keeping those key muscles working and awake going into the on-season is a big benefit.
Triathlon Training is Good for ME
During the off-season I try and remember why I do triathlon and the training in the first place. Triathlon makes me sane, gives me a goal and a purpose. Especially during the holidays, we can lose our goals and sense of self working hard to make everyone else happy. Training mostly as usual in the off-season (even if not as intensely) becomes that North Star to our lives; it’s predicable and steady even when we don’t feel that way. Other reasons? Well, feel like some sort of superhero at almost any finish line; triathlon creates a wonderful example for my family; training provides stress release; and the sport gives me an endless list of holiday gift ideas to provide my family.
Happy off-season, everyone!
Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. You can download a free copy of the book here. She is the host of the iTunes podcast, “The Same 24 Hours,” a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at MeredithAtwood.com.