-Sharone Aharone

Enjoy the fall and set yourself up for success next year! 2020 was likely the most “unraced” year in your life, and the future of the next six months is not yet clear. Races collapsed one after another at random pace and order, some only three days before race day. Now, it’s November, and usually, at this point, we are in the “off-season” relaxing, fun training, and rejuvenating from 10 months of hard work. With everything that was going on this year, what should be the training approach now? How should we plan this phase? After all, this year seemed like one long offseason. 

Based on current events, I am optimistic that safe racing will resume in June, and therefore I suggest planning for next year accordingly and train this fall just like you did last year.

The “off-season,” or what I prefer to call “transition phase” between two racing seasons, is divided into two phases

  • Off-season – two to six weeks
  • Pre-season – four to six weeks

The transition phase’s goal is to put you at the start of the season in a better position than last year and ensure a greater peak in your next race phase.

Typically, the transition phase comes after every significant race period. During the season, the transition phase is short and lasts between 3 days to 2 weeks. This time allows us to recover, mostly physical, and give us the time to reflect and plan for your next racing peak. At the end of the season, the transition phase is extended to 1 to 3 months, but has the same purpose; take a break, recover, reflect, plan, and start working on your limitations. The balance between the time you take off training and the training you do at the pre-season will make the best transition into your next season. 

The alternative to a planned transition phase is doing minimal random training for three months, getting completely out of shape with the risk of showing truly little progress from year to year. The flip side of this option is to train ridiculously hard for this time of the year and stay 100% in shape. An approach that will most likely lead you to lose any interest early in the training season. 

Start the off-season with little training for a period of one to two weeks. Let the stress of the past season dissipate before you go at it again. Give yourself a complete mental, physical, emotional, and yes, a dietary break. Losing some fitness and gaining some weight will help you recover faster. Towards the end of this period, you should plan your activities for the pre-season phase. At the end of the “off-season” period, you should feel energized and excited to train again.

The pre-season phase should prepare you for your next season. Last season’s performance and your following season goals should play a significant factor in deciding what to focus on. Start with the end in mind; what is your most important goal for next season. Think of the one or two things you need to improve on based on your last season performance and set a plan to work on them. Whether it’s swimming, biking, or running, I suggest you start with improving your technique and later add more fitness. Avoid working on everything at the same time. Focus on one sport, build it as much as you can and maintain the other sports with one workout per week; Work with a coach on your swimming, get refitted on your bike, or learn about nutrition for better performance are some examples of what you can do now.

One important thing you can incorporate during the pre-season is weight training. It is a known fact that endurance performance dramatically improves with strength and conditioning. The pre-season period is the best time to start lifting. Start your strength routine with a focus on proper movement patterns, core strength, and stability. Once you accomplish that, begin developing strength by adding more weight and more complex movement exercises. Jumping into plyometrics, lifting heavy or doing intricate movement patterns will almost guarantee extreme soreness and risk injury. Talk to one of the Well-Fit coaches if you need help putting a strength training plan together.

Most importantly, set up your routine in a way that does not stress your schedule or interrupts your sleep.

Another fun thing to do as the weather gets colder is to plan your next racing season. For most age-group athletes, planning two peaks racing periods per year is ideal. Plan your first peak to be early in the spring and the second in the middle of the summer or early fall. Build your race season with moderate progression. A more aggressive approach will be to plan your races based on the performance you want to achieve in your big race. In other words, use early racing to sharpen on specific elements that are needed for the performance you want to have in your most important race. Once you have your races set, draw your training objective, and finish your yearly training plan.

Remember, winter training is a critical phase in your spring and summer racing success. A good and uninterrupted winter training will ensure a solid race season.  Plan your routine and make sure you lineup your support team and training facilities. Does it seem like a lot? Use a professional coach to help you set it up.