Most everyone appreciates down time from training. In its place, we should spend time reflecting upon our past and planning for the future. In this post, I’ll rant about how great training is in Alabama; I’ll give some tips to stay sane over the winter months; and I’ll entertain you with a poem.
Alabama winters are mild. It’s like Florida, but without old people and ‘gators. For me, the off-season is a time to enjoy athletic pursuits that aren’t feasible during in-season training. Our rural Alabama countryside is crisscrossed by narrow dirt roads. These rust colored byways are too often dry and dusty during the summer months but are right for riding this time of year. Sometimes I hop on the mountain bike and ride single track. Other times I just play a little tennis with my wife.
The trick is finding a way to do all this great stuff amidst a busy time of year. Here are some tips:
Limited daylight can make pre and post workday training a drag. Be flexible in your routine. My training schedule is drastically more flexible this time of year. In fact, I wouldn’t call it much of a schedule. I do what my work allows during the winter months, and I maximize workouts depending upon how I feel (i.e. speed work when it feels right, or recovery days when I feel tired).
Another solution is to hit the weights, or even living room floor. This is a great time to work on your weaknesses. Try out your local gym. Put on a tank-top and get pumped. That’s what I do. The limited light and morning chill usually means 5:30 am workouts are a no-go. Instead, I ride my bike to the gym then pump iron and work on stability for an hour. Sometimes I do shuttle drills. I’m still at work by 7:30 or 8.
Lack of motivation is another mood killer. Find something local to train for, or try a new sport. During my two weeks off after IM FL, I found myself sleeping in ‘til nearly 7. It was great to have some time off, but without some motivation, I was just going to lay around until Eric said “what have you been doing?”.
So I picked a couple of local races to nudge me off the couch. I did some easy biking and a couple of runs before the 4 mile Thanksgiving Turkey Trot in Memphis and a Toys for Tots 10K in Auburn. It hurt to push the pace, but it was fun to race with family and friends.
Spend time thinking about next season. How might your schedule best fit with that of your family’s? If your family travels with you, ask them which races they enjoyed the most. Would they go back?
Destination races get expensive. How can you maximize your time in the car while still racing fun and/or competitive races in your region? I’m busily scheduling next year’s season. It puts into perspective that the season’s just around the bend. Keep an eye on my website for upcoming events.
Cool temperatures aren’t a huge issue here in the South, but we have bad days occasionally. One thing I’ve learned is to ride on the weekends. Instead of a long ride on Saturday, and a long run on Sunday, I do two moderately long rides back to back and do my long runs during the week. This gives me more flexibility when I do the long runs and lets me ride during warmer mid-day temperatures.
The Off-Season is a misnomer. As athletes, we feel entitled to take it easy after the season. Sure, we’re off from racing, but most of us don’t need more than three or four weeks completely off from activity. Yeah, eat, drink and be merry. But you’re a machine; don’t forget to oil the chain.
Once an athlete is ready, he/she can resume with light workouts that don’t overly strain the body (or family life and work schedule). Unless the weather is severe, it’s good to be active for an hour a day during these cool, dark months. Numerous studies demonstrate immune system benefits from light to moderate exercise – just don’t over do it.
The niggles – not a racist term; look it up. Don’t let the little niggles and pains get you down. We’ve all got a twinge or two that pops up after the season. Do the core work that you’ve been putting off. Strengthen those stabilizing muscles in your hips, calves, and shoulders. See a personal trainer or physical therapist to mend what ails yah. And keep those extremities warm when you’re out and about.
Always begin workouts with a very light warm-up. In the mornings, I like to roll on the foam roller and flex my back as well as hips while having a coffee and watching/reading the news. If you’re not a morning person, try an afternoon jog while the temperature is at its warmest. And if you must, hop on the trainer before your run.
Now for a Poem. In the spirit of the season, I’ve written a traditional (though not in Japanese) holiday Haiku.
Holiday cheer is here;
Winters cool clime, in its prime;
Dirt road rides and then beer.