Training

6 Rules for Owning the Off-Season

There’s a fine line between recovering well and doing too little.

Ahhh, the off-season: When your races are firmly behind you, and those finish line feels are all but fuzzy memories. When your weekend calendar is free of bricks or sufferfest trainer sessions, and your “A” race—or any race, for that matter—is still months away. So, what to do with this precious time? While bingeing on Netflix is always an option, there are plenty of ways to spend the off-season without sabotaging your hard-earned fitness. Take it from your fellow triathletes and apply these off-season rules:

Do… Take Time Off

Even the pros press pause in the off-season. “The body, but more importantly the brain, needs a big break,” says pro triathlete Rachel McBride, who lives and trains in Vancouver. “I’ve learned it’s really beneficial to take a week or two completely off. It’s amazing how quickly I go from, ‘OMG, I’m going to be so bored!’ to filling my time with other fun rad stuff, like having a social life!”

Don’t… Get Too Lazy

The last thing you may feel like doing is getting back into the pool—or back on the bike—after a long season, but gradually reintroducing a steady mix of low-key training will prevent any major setbacks come spring. “Rather than starting over again, at the ground floor, or even worse, the foundation, think of your continued training like building floors of a skyscraper,” says Raeleigh Harris, an age-group world champion and triathlon coach in Truckee, California. “You’ll be in a better position to improve.”

Do… Date Around

Nope, we’re not talking about swiping on Tinder or Bumble. Use this downtime to try out different types of workouts that fall outside the typical tri domain. “I signed up for Class Pass and tried all kinds of things, from Barre to something called SwimWOD—basically swimming and deck-side plyos,” says Washington D.C.-based age-group triathlete Katie Tobin. “I stayed active without pace or distance goals. Plus, I found a barre studio I really like and now train there year-round.”

Do… Step Up Your Gadget Game

Fiddling around with new tech, upgrading to the latest version of Zwift—who’s got time for that when you’re training 10-plus hours a week? Now you can play with some new (or new-to-you) techy toys that can elevate your fitness game. “Last winter, I bought a used Wahoo Kickr,” says age grouper Debra Stroiney-Cilley, of Vienna, Virginia. “It significantly helped me when I got out on the road again to ride and race this spring.”

Don’t… Be Afraid to Gain Some Weight

Hitting the weight room is an off-season rule every triathlete should follow, but avoid the scale. “In the off-season, I spend more time doing strength training and building muscle, but I also put back on a few pounds of body fat,” McBride says. “It’s ‘bye bye, six-pack’ for a couple of months, but super important for big picture recovery.”

Do… Get Social

Remember those folks you used to hang out with before your life revolved around your next workout? They’re still around, and chances are, they still want to hang out with you. “I cherish the off-season as a way to reconnect with my family and friends,” says Melissa Cox, an age-group triathlete in Dallas, Texas. “Off-seasons are great for the body, mind, and soul.”