OK, don’t let the headline fool you entirely—let me explain. Yes, after a busy year of racing and training, you absolutely need to take some down time to detrain, drop fatigue, and mentally refresh. You should 100% have a full break.
But—and it’s a big but—once you’re rested and refreshed, instead of detraining too much while you’re off or grinding away indoors until the actual season starts, it’s time to put the multiple sports back in multisport. Nailing the off-season is critical as it lays the foundation for the next year of training and can set you up for a season of improvement, enjoyment, and performance.
So what does a “perfect” off-season look like? It looks a lot more varied and “on” than you might think.
Let’s break it into weeks. The first two weeks might be complete rest and relaxation. This is also a good time to say “yes” to a second helping of dessert and enjoy everything you don’t usually have time for during the peak of your race season. This all helps restore hormone levels, recover from racing, and recharge yourself physically and mentally.
The next two to six weeks of off-season should be aimed at slowly building a general aerobic base and injury resistance, but with the main goal of keeping it fun. This is where cross-training comes into play.
A growing body of research suggests that when you engage your muscles in different ways—i.e., through entirely new activities and training stress than normal—it strengthens and enhances small muscles, tendons, and ligaments that are otherwise neglected, making you more resistant to injury later. It also builds a general base of fitness upon which you can erect a specialized triathlon pyramid when the time comes. And, most importantly, using your “off-season” to be “on” in some new sports is fun and mentally stimulating.
Ready to try it? Here are some great sports that will help you stay mentally fresh, get out of the swim-bike-run winter rut, move your body through different planes of motion, and build super strength for 2022.
- Skate skiing: A fantastic full-body workout that has great carry-over for running and cycling. This sport requires use of upper and lower extremities, so the cardiovascular demand is large. Also, the additional core and proximal hip muscle recruitment is great for creating an injury-resistant athlete.
- Snowshoe running: Another great cross-training activity that has obvious carry-over to road running is snowshoe running. This is one of my favorites as it is low impact and recruits all the hip stabilizers, which will make you a faster, more durable runner when it comes time to pound the pavement.
- Winter hiking: I live close to White Mountain in New Hampshire, so winter hiking is a go-to off-season activity. A solid three- to four-hour hike is a great way to build endurance, leg strength, and dial in your long course triathlon fueling and nutrition.
If your competitive side requires some race action, try jumping into a cross-country ski or snowshoe running race. Either will allow you to put forth a solid hard effort and keep you humble. Of course, these aren’t the only off-season sports you can try. Doing something new could mean anything: yoga, dance, strength training, rock climbing, cyclocross, rowing. As long as it expands your definition of multisport, builds your base, and gets you ready for the actual “on” season.
Amber Ferreira is an Ironman champion and two-time U.S. Snowshoe Champion. She is a triathlete, coach, and multi-multisport athlete.