Repairing and renewing in the off season

I needed that.  It's December 26th, two months into my off season and approximately six days until my "on season," when training begins anew on January 1st.

My 2014 season ended on a high note, with PBs at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon and the MultiSport Canada Lakeside International Distance Duathlon.  After 11 months of sustained training, alongside a particularly busy period in my work and volunteer lives, I needed a break.  Enter the off season.

As Eric D'Arcy suggested in Get Out There Magazine, "Now is a time to take a well-deserved break from not only the intensity of racing, but the build you did into the race season and for some of you, that may have started last December. This is a great time to relax, sleep, catch up and spend time with your friends and family, who supported you through your season, or who (not necessarily on purpose) got ignored."

Bearing this advice in mind, I entered my training hiatus with the twin goals of physical repair and mental renewal.  Coaches Roger and Tommy were both on board, noting that many of the Ignition Fitness athletes would also be entering similar periods following busy racing and training seasons.

I considered the toll taken by the intense training leading into my final two races.  In order to "fit it all in," I hadn't fit it all in.  I still attended my physio and chiro appointments, but had let my home exercises slide.  Likewise, my regular visits to the gym for weight training had dropped to once a week.

In response, for the past two months, I've reintegrated my physio homework, including single leg squats, gluteal bridge, wall stretches, scapula squeezes and modified planks.  These help to balance the strength in your glutes, open your hips and realign your shoulders.  Some of these exercises are easy to work into the everyday moments in life, like waiting for the elevator.  Others, not so much, so I added them to my gym visits, now that I'm back into the routine.

When it comes to running and cycling, I've mixed things up a little, ditching the prescribed pace work and instead, going wherever the workout takes me.  A couple of weeks ago, a group Santa run took us to a Ferrero Rocher hut at Yonge Dundas Square, complete with free samples.  This off season thing can be tasty!

Toronto Frontrunners reluctantly indulging in free Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

I also made a point to eat as much as possible, in an effort to regain the 5-8 pounds lost over the 2014 season.  Yes, I admit that weight loss is a problem many would like to have, but for me, it took me below my ideal weight to the extent that certain clothes no longer fit properly.  In an uncharacteristic splurge, over Christmas, I helped myself to cookies, carrot cake, chocolate, apple pie... well, you get the idea...  In 2015, one of my goals is to maintain my racing weight by increasing the caloric intake in my vegetarian diet.

Just as physically, I needed to repair my body, my mind needed a breather from the rigours of training.

I took time to myself, meandering a little more slowly on sidewalks and taking my time getting home after work, knowing that I would not have to fit in an hour long workout before dinner and bed time.

I recharged through the joy of an unstructured schedule, which at times meant exercising -- or not.  Happily, I read, polishing off the book Thrive, which speaks to rounding out one's life by emphasizing well-being, wisdom and rediscovering wonder.  Exactly the kind of reading material one needs at this juncture.

One of the bonuses of the off season is not having to worry about getting up early on a weekend morning for endurance training.  So I took the opportunity to reconnect with friends over lingering dinners.

I'm now ready for training to begin again.  How do I know?  It's that inner itch that wants to get going again.  I can feel my fitness has dropped a little, but mentally, I know what I'm capable of and, just as importantly, how I can improve from there.  Phil Mosley suggests on that athletes keep track of their daily motivation levels on a scale of 1-10 and once you hit 8, it's time to go again.  Leave it to a multisport athlete to make tracking one's motivation levels a daily, measured endeavour!

At the end of the off season, one's mind drifts to warmer weather and what that brings.  I'm enthusiastically writing and re-writing a race schedule, while impatiently waiting for the release of the provincial and national duathlon championship dates.  How to fit it all in?

Perhaps that's a lesson from this off season.  One can't fit it all in.  Don't even try.  Instead, find room for not only training and racing, but also repairing and renewing.  It's a path to the well-rounded athlete and the more sustainable approach to training.

I hope you've had a restful holiday season.  See you soon.