Friday, November 1, 2013

How Should I Approach the End of the Season?

Get loose this off season!
The end of the season is an interesting time and is approached by athletes in many different ways. No matter what, though, it is a time to rest and relax. At least a little bit. With so many races spread throughout the entire year, it is very easy to become a 12-month racer, and delay the end of the season to the next year or even the year after that. Since everybody’s physiology and psychology are different, I do not take any single approach to my athletes' end of the season routine. The only commonality is that everyone takes some type of downtime to recharge the batteries before it is time to ramp up the training for the next season.

In my years of coaching, I have found that there are 3 distinct categories of end of season attitudes. Which one are you?

  1. "I am so glad the season is finally over! I am taking 2 months off.” This seems to be the rarest category of racer, but, they do exist. They cross the line at their last race and then they hang up their athletic equipment for a while. Once the holiday imbibing catches up and the waistlines start to expand, they don their running shoes and get back to training. 
  2.   “Phew. That was a long season. I need a little time off and then I need a real decrease in training.” This is most common category of athlete – the person who may need a total break from training for 7-14 days and then wants to get back into a regimen that includes less frequency and intensity. This is a very healthy perspective on the end of the season.  Where can I obtain this sane outlook for myself? 
  3.  “When’s my next hard workout coach? I’m forging through until my Ironman 10 months from now.” Ok, ok. I confess. I fall into this category. C’mon, don’t tell me you are surprised! The Twin Cities marathon was incredibly disappointing, but, perhaps due to my slow down at the end, I was not sore. Usually, I am crippled for a week after a marathon, but not so this time. My legs recovered at warp speed, so I relished the idea of running the California International Marathon in December. My body is much smarter than my brain though, and it shut me down loud and clear. I got sick and was relegated to weeks of forced rest – the very kind of rest I impose on my athletes but was rue to take myself (bad Coach).   Everybody needs some down time at the end of the season. That amount of time is very individual though; there simply isn’t a formula to know how much time someone will need before they start feeling peppy and motivated and ready to take on their next set of goals.
After the initial time off (whether it is 2 weeks or two months), I devise workouts that have drills to work on form and shorter intervals to maintain some fitness but not incur fatigue. The total number of training hours is drastically reduced. I view the end of the season as a time work on weaknesses and hone the skill set needed to excel the following season.

Create some end of season objectives that make the transition from heavy training into restorative training easier. Determine your race schedule and goals for the next season. Is your bike fit maximizing your power? Find an expert to help with you with your swim stroke. Make sure you haven’t developed any bad run habits that might lead to a future injury. And, speaking of injury, the end of the season is the time to get into the gym and get stronger.  I am not suggesting a regimen of Olympic lifts, but I do recommend sorting out muscle imbalances that are typical in endurance athletes.

The bottom line is this: you cannot cheat recovery, so tackle it with the same vigor you do with training.


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