by Head Coach Lance Watson

As originally published by Training Peaks

The offseason is a time for rest, and it’s crucial for setting yourself up for the next season. Avoid these common mistakes to stay strong year-round.

When we think of the offseason, we often rush to shut everything down, take a break, and put our feet up. This is not necessarily wrong, as taking time off should be a relished element of the postseason. But, believe it or not, you can take your break too far! The offseason is an awesome opportunity for nourishment and for paving the way to a healthy, happy, fit, and fast new year. Here are five common mistakes to avoid.

Mistake 1: Not Gaining Weight 

This might sound like your coach just gave you a “get out of jail free” card, but this is not quite the case. If you have been racing endurance events for the past six to eight months, the chances are that you’ve reduced your body fat and started to break down muscle.

Most top athletes will try to add a little bit of body fat through the winter to keep their immune system robust while giving them something to work from when they start to ramp up endurance miles in the spring and build muscle back in the gym.

Generally, you should aim to increase your body weight by 2% to 3%. Decreased training volume with a sustained calorie intake might be all it takes, but make sure to enjoy some treats along the way. Focus primarily on a nutritious plate with whole foods and lots of color.

Mistake 2: Not Practicing Technique

While it makes sense to back off the overall volume, the offseason is a prime opportunity to develop sport-specific skills. Because you are not in perpetual train-race-recovery mode, you have the ability to really dig into technique work.

Spend less time looking at the pace clock and more time recording videos of your technique. This is your golden opportunity to become a more efficient athlete. Work with a skills coach to learn how to handle your bike like a tour racer or dial in your running posture like an elite marathoner. Learn the difference between stroke rate and stroke efficiency in the pool, adding both to your toolkit. 

Mistake 3: Avoiding Intensity

While we want the body to regenerate through the winter, it is also important to sustain movement efficiency. Overall training should be more aerobic in nature and skill-oriented, but it is important to move at sport-specific intensities to maintain neuromuscular efficiency while staying in touch with your aerobic and anaerobic threshold.

Do 25-35% of your typical weekly workload in Zone 4 or higher and sprinkle in workouts at this intensity throughout the week. It should all be “feel good” fast as opposed to “going to the well” fast. 

Mistake 4: Getting Weak 

Endurance sports tend to be very linear in nature, causing us to grow strong in some areas and weak in others. The offseason is a great time to cut back on endurance activities and add an extra gym day or two for a total of 3-4 times a week.

Make sure to focus on core strength and mobility — you can do core exercises every day. Mixing up your routine and working your sport-specific muscles on multiple plains keeps you fresh and teaches the body to be strong through diverse movements instead of completely linear ones. Consult a professional to determine muscular imbalances and to keep your strength scripts fresh and relevant. 

Mistake 5: Being Anti-Social

Get off your indoor trainer and spend some time working out with friends. This is the time of year when nailing threshold sets is far less important. Ride and run with slower friends you don’t usually get the chance to train with. Go for a walk/jog/hike with your partner. Play street hockey with your kids.

It is really important to periodize your season mentally in the same way that you periodize the year physically. At this time of year, focus on enjoying your training environment and social circle. Celebrate your health, fitness, and this awesome sports endurance community that we all love.