With the winter temps coming at us in full force this past week and Turkey Trots being ran, it’s fair to say the endurance athlete off-season is in full swing. If you’re like me I’ve been in off-season mode as soon as the temps dropped below 60 degrees. My bike was on the indoor trainer. Cold weather running gear was starting to make it’s way out. If you were among one of my unfortunate swimming buddies you had to wait a solid 10 minutes for me to finish fussing with my cap and goggles delaying the inevitable splash into cold water. However, the one thing that has not been altered are my strength and mobility sessions.
It is this allure to accruing miles and yards that draws so many to keep moving forward but it is also what breaks us down.
The “off-season” is a time to break from the norm. Regardless what sport you participate in the necessity of changing routine and focusing on YOU and YOUR BODY rather than your next PR or Bump in mileage is so important. Speaking as an endurance athlete and as a IRONMAN Certified coach, the off-season is a time to decompress from an incredibly long season. Training can last anywhere from 18-30+ weeks. The focus and attention to training is both physically and mentally taxing. Endurance training (cycling, running, swimming, walking, etc) wears on the body step after step, stroke after stroke, in a monotonous straight ahead nature.
It is this allure to accruing miles and yards that draws so many to keep moving forward but it is also what breaks us down. A season full of training demands an off-season to focus on technical weaknesses, core strength & stability, and better mobility in overused muscles and joints. The end game being durability and increased performance in the season to come. Figuring out how to integrate everything into your weekly schedule can be an overwhelming task. Below are few tips on where to begin.
Focus on your ROOTS
And by ROOTS I mean your feet! Begin by learning how to mobilize & stabilize your feet. Teach the muscles of your foot to activate and create a natural arch. Allow your toes to move without restrictions (barefoot) through walking, lunging, and squatting patterns. I’ll also include your ankle. Get your ankle mobilized and moving well in partnership with your feet & toes. Exercises focusing on mobilizing and activating can and should be performed daily. I have begun to introduce several of these exercises into my personal routine as well as a few of my clients' routines. It’s an eye opening challenging experience and one that may just resolve a few injuries experienced further up your leg.
You’ve spent the better part of a year moving straight ahead. It’s time to focus on moving outside of a forward (sagittal) plane of motion. Add a group class into your weekly routine that will challenge you laterally and in a rotational manner. Even better, add a group class that will move you through all 3 planes of motion with an emphasis on unilateral or single sided control emphasizing stability and core strength. But wait there’s more! A group class will kick your training immediately out of the comfortable and familiar aerobic energy system and engage the anaerobic system as you work through shorter bouts of activity.
Focus on Overall Strength Gains
The off-season is the perfect time to place more emphasis on moving weight and getting stronger. By adding lean muscle mass you’re giving your body the ability to thrive in a punishing environment. Strength gains in the off-season allow for a better weight to power ratio on the bike, a stronger finish line kick, and the ability to sustain performance over the course of a long training season. Ideally, adding 2-3 sessions a week would be amazing. If one strength session is all you can squeeze in that still works. Focus on a full body program, hitting the major movement patterns, as well as being attentive to core strength and single sided strength & stability.
It’s easy to do what comes naturally, like running or riding a bike. While the off-season is the perfect time to begin focusing on your “ROOTS”, it’s the hardest piece to begin implementing because of how challenging it can be. You can choose to take on any accountability hacks you’d like. Set reminders on your phone. Leave sticky notes everywhere (my personal fav). Put it into your Training Peaks or Google calendars. All of these options are great, will they work for you? Or are you the type of person that works better when you have someone putting together a smart, progressive, and supervised program? Regardless of what works for you, you must hold yourself as accountable to your off-season training as you do your grueling competitive season schedule.
Sign Up For ROOTS
I intentionally and shamelessly left this one for last. Above I’ve outlined the makings of ROOTS, a 9-week Off-Season Program for Endurance Athletes. My goal is to provide all endurance athletes an opportunity to work with a professional that understands the demands of in-season training and how to properly integrate the needs of the off-season. ROOTS provides 3 training opportunities - 1. Monday Mobility 2. Any CPC Class 3. A Supervised Strength Session - with me and/or CPC Staff for 9 weeks starting on Monday December 3rd. If accountability is what you need and smart, progressive programming is what you want this is the perfect program for you. There is built in flexibility to create a weekly schedule that works for you. Let’s face it life is busy, but it shouldn’t prevent you from investing in yourself so you can do what you love for years to come. Interested? Email me at email@example.com.
Regardless of whether you enroll in ROOTS or not, this off-season break from the norm, mobilize, move 3-dimensionally, and integrate a strength program into your weekly routine.