Your season is finished… you reached a high level of fitness and had some great results, maybe even a few PB's, or even qualified for the Nationals or World Championships and want to go even faster next year. So what do you do? Try to maintain this fitness as best you can and soldier on, or rest completely for a few weeks, or ease back slowly before building back up again?
Most athletes of any level from novice to professional will have trained hard, consistently for about 9-11 months of the year and packed in a few hard races causing deep levels of fatigue, tiredness, stress (physical, emotional and hormonal) and taken a lot of time away from their families to complete and compete in their sport. So for these athletes it's time to ease back, stop training altogether and REST, RECOVER, RESTORE, REPLENISH and REVITALIZE themselves!
High levels of fitness mean high levels of fatigue, so the body needs a few weeks to step back and do nothing at the end of the season. Mentally many athletes have no problems doing nothing…they physically and mentally want a break, and know they will bounce back revitalized, ready for a different type of training program to prepare them for a stronger, faster new race season!
Some athletes that have reached a peak or PB in performance don't want to lose what they worked hard for.
They are scared that they will not reach the same level again so have too little rest or none at all. Be careful if this is you. Holding onto peak fitness through the winter may get you great races in early spring in March - May… but the key races start in June - October! By then you will surely be burnt out before the season has started or injured!
So how long do I rest for?
Such a hard question to answer as that should be discussed with your coach (if you have one) and depends on your training load and races completed through the year and how the athlete feels. For instance, right now in November 2018, I have 2 athletes continuing training (not resting from season) as they are building from mid / late season illness so they had a few weeks of rest. Emotionally and physically they feel good, and will continue to train with no break till spring.
Other athletes are resting between 2-4 weeks… doing absolutely NO TRAINING in swim, bike, run or gym! NOTHING! I have also ensured they do no other physical activity. For these athletes, they have earned their rest. They should not be afraid of putting on a few pounds and enjoying food and drink otherwise neglected through the year (and yes for lean endurance athlete,s it is important to gain weight and put on a few pounds, typically between 5-10lbs, in the off season!).
What Comes After the Rest? Planning!
Athletes will then start a training program which is planned in TrainingPeaks and based around their own unique lifestyle, work and family commitments.
Some will begin a 'classic' / linear or reversed / polarized periodization model approach to training.
Whatever training plan model they are using, it is important to not go crazy with too much volume and intensity straight away (to gain fitness lost through the rest period). Instead, find a rhythm of training through shorter, manageable sessions that can fit easily around your lifestyle.
In the beginning of your off-season training, it would be wise to focus on limiters/weaknesses. Try to add a little more consistency in the sport you are weakest at. Take 1-2 sessions away from your strongest discipline and replace with 1-2 in your limiter. However, many athletes are so reluctant to work on their weakest discipline. They focus too much on making their strongest even stronger, as generally, that's what they like the most. Whilst having fun is the most important part of training, if you are looking to improve then you must find alternative ways to improve especially if you have been stuck in a rut or have only found very small gains.
Whatever you choose to do, a coach can help take away any guesswork by planning your training around your weaknesses, work, family and lifestyle.
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