Ahhhh. The post-season. A time for sleeping in, forgetting about training and eating whatever you want…..Not so fast!
First of all, YES, reducing the workload in the post-season a must. It’s time to shift the load through smart tailoring and allow physical, mental and emotional healing to occur. But simply taking months off with no plan and no structure will sabotage next year’s potential. Many athletes find themselves spending the majority of the new year trying to simply recover what they have lost.
Let’s be clear about one thing – it’s post-season and then it’s pre-season. There is no such thing as off-season. You cannot be successful by taking weeks and months off from all activity.
Typically, athletes plan to take some much-needed time off. However, without a structure in place, what was intended to be a few weeks of light sessions turns into a few months. Many athletes find themselves in the middle of January with a much reduced level of fitness and confusion as to how they got there.
You can’t build upon a base if you’ve allowed that base to deteriorate beyond repair. You’ll first have to rebuild the base, leaving little time to actually construct a successful season on top of it.
While the post season doesn’t have a lot of stress or load, there are specific things that you need to accomplish in order to set yourself up for success.
Your initial focus during the post-season should be as follows:
- Initially, a complete break from structure, racing and training. Stay active but don’t “train.” No gadgets allowed. Don’t aim to hit training zones, pace, power or heartrate. Just be. Enjoy the freedom. Get back in touch with the “feel” of being active.
- Allow healing. Reduced stress, reduced loads. More nutrition. More rest. More recovery. Embrace this.
- Avoid building up fatigue. Fatigue will be counterproductive to the above bullets and will limit your growth.
After a couple of weeks of the above it’s time to smartly ease back into training. But we MUST get the focus correct. We don’t just jump into the same training we were doing before our last big race or event. The focus now is completely different.
Now our focus is:
- Build up the body. Lay the foundation in strength, technique and development that will allow your body to accept and excel under the high training loads that will come in the spring. This includes improvements in strength and functional fitness as well as technical improvements in all of your disciplines. Be patient here!
- Do NOT build up fatigue in this phase. Listen to your body.
- Keep life balanced. This is the time to ensure you are dedicating required time to the other pursuits of your life: family, career, friends, hobbies, etc.
- Establish positive habits that will be the basis for improved performance gains: commit to fueling after every workout (grab your favorite PROMAX bar!); commit to proper rest and recovery; and commit to good nutrition throughout the day.
Your success in 2016 will be directly related to how well you are able to do these things.
The last thing, and perhaps the most important, is to COMMIT. Commit to the training. While a training session that leaves you completely spent afterwards feels great, the athlete that lives off of those rarely maintains consistency in those efforts. The truth is that day-to-day 80 percent efforts are much more valuable over the long haul. Commit to frequent, but shorter, training sessions. Keep showing up.
Success comes from consistency. Day to day, week to week and season to season.