Ideas For Your Off-Season

Ideas For Your Off-Season

  • October 12, 2017
  • Blog

Fall had arrived and most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are entering our Off-Season. So what exactly is the Off-Season? The term “Off-Season” can be a bit misleading to some. The Off-Season is not time taken off from training, but rather it is time taken off from racing. This all so crucial time away from racing allows you to focus more on your training to allow for bigger advancements in your overall fitness and future racing ability.

Here is how a year of training and competition looks to a committed, high level amateur or professional endurance athlete:

  • END OF SEASON BREAK: after a short 1-2 weeks of time off, truly ‘on vacation’ from their primary sport, they’re ready to get back into training in their off-season. 
    • Pro Tips: As a general rule of thumb, the older and/or lower training volume (ie. time crunched) the athlete, the shorter this break should be. If you only train 8-12 hours a week, you don’t need to take much of a break. Simply changing the type of training you do in the off-season will be enough of a break or change of pace. It is just too hard for most people to get back into ‘training mode’ and too much fitness can be lost if the break is too long. The younger or higher volume athlete may take up to 2 weeks off from training. These athletes will recover faster and have a higher fitness base that will not drop off as much with more rest time.
  • THE OFF-SEASON: the Off-Season is the larger chunk of time sandwiched between your short ‘end-o-season break’ (above) and the start of your competitive race season (below). With the stress of racing and being “race fit” removed in their off-season, they can focus purely on training to improve weaknesses and gain a higher level of fitness for the next race season.
    • Pro Tips: Depending on the athlete and when his/her race season begins, the off-season can be as short as a couple months (ie. end racing in October and begin racing in February); or it can be several months (ie. end racing in September and begin again in April). Keep in mind that the longer your off-season, the more time you have to train and improve your fitness and likely the greater improvement you’ll see in your racing ability the next season. Those athletes that can’t stay away from racing and pack their annual schedule full from spring through fall are often the ones that don’t improve a whole lot from year-to-year, or they are getting paid to compete (and are already at the top of their game!).
  • THE RACE SEASON: this is the time of year the bulk of their racing occurs (typically Spring through end of Summer or early Fall). This is when training becomes more race-specific as they build up their top priority events. Training also become more polarized, with their race prep training and recovery balance being of the most importance. During this time overall training volume often drops when compared to the hight of their off-season. This allows for more freshness as the begin to add the demands of racing to their schedule. This is why you must make the most of your Off-Season training, racing gets in the way of training once race season arrives!!
    • Pro Tips: You may still race in late in your off-season, but these are typically low-priority events that are done more as workouts and early season fitness gauges, opposed to races you are peaking for or looking to perform at your best. Your goal in the off-season is to build your fitness to the highest point, then once in race season you are sharpening your fitness to the specific demands of your goal event(s), and recovering between multiple events.

For most endurance athletes, you should be TRAINING to the best of your ability from November through April so you can RACE to the best of your ability in May through October!!

 

SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER FOR YOUR OFF-SEASON:

Move from ‘Least Specific’ to ‘More Specific’ training as your progress through your Off-Season.

  • As you enter your Off-Season training, your race season is many weeks, if not months, away. The further from a peak performance you are, the less sport specific your training needs to be. This ‘non-specific’ training allows for a nice change of pace, using muscles that aren’t frequently used, and ups the enjoyment factor of training differently. Weight training in the gym and cross-training by hiking, rowing or skiing are great examples of non-specific training. Then you can progress towards easy/slow base miles to build your aerobic system if your race-specific training is typically fast and powerful; or train the power and speed side of things if your target events are long distance (i.e.. slower) events like ironman or marathon mountain bike events. Later in your off-season you can progress towards training that gets closer to your target race demands as fitness improves.

Train Your Weaknesses First.

  • Similar to the “Least to More” Specific training progression described above, start your off-season training by focusing on your weakness(es). Again, racing is a ways down the road, so take the time to actually improve your ability this time of the year. Then as you move towards racing season, progress your training towards training your strengths. This method will encourage improvement early on and then build confidence as you approach race day.

Strength Train!

  • Don’t be afraid of the gym or ‘getting huge’ and slow. Improving the strength of your individual muscles fibers has been proven to improve power production, delay fatigue, and improve injury resistance. This can only be accomplished by moving your body in different ways than you’re accustom to and adding resistance.
  • Read my previous BLOG post about my strength training concept HERE

Break your Off-Season into Thirds.

  • Look at how many weeks you have available for your off-season training and divide the amount into three distinct training blocks that focus on the following…
    • 1/3 Focus = low-intensity, aerobic base building combined with building movement strength in the gym.
    • 2/3 Focus = medium-intensity, anaerobic threshold training combined with peak strength in the gym.
    • 3/3 Focus = small amounts of high intensity training combined with peak power in the gym.
  • From the completion of your Off-Season training, you’re ready to move into your Race Prep training and progressively back out the intensity; from high, where you finished off-season, to progressively lower as you build towards your goal race. As you back out the intensity you develop the volume (endurance) needed for your target event(s). Athletes focusing on races under 2 hours can often race very well right out of their off-season training, while racers looking at 2-5 hour long events need a block or two of extending endurance training to really peak, and ultra-distance racers need to add even a bit more volume to their program to be ready for their event demands.
  • Read my previous BLOG post about my aerobic conditioning concept HERE

Get on the Trainer!

  • The trainer is perhaps the perfect environment for improving your cycling economy, strength, and power. Through training with the new generation of Smart Trainers in our S:6 Trainer Studio the last three years, I’ve seen larger improvements on the bike than ever before. By utilizing cadence, power, and heart rate you can maximize your time and make the most out of your off-season training on the bike.
  • Check out my 24-week Off-Season Trainer Plan available on Training Peaks

Don’t think you can’t race.

  • You can still race while in your “off-season”. Most people do. And you can sometimes race particularly well in the last third of your off-season training. You want to create your annual training program targeting a few goal events for the year.  Starting your off-season, it may be 6-8 months until your next “A” race, but you will likely (and should) race a few times before your first target event. Plan your Off-Season to finish with 3-12 weeks of Race Prep training before your “A” race (depending on duration of A race). Go ahead and plop some races into your program along the way for both fun and to gauge fitness and race-readiness as you approach your target events.

 

If you like what you’ve read thus far, consider my Complete Off-Season Training Program for cyclists of all kinds and triathletes looking to make a statement on the bike next season. If you live in the Denver area you can join us for in-person training from November through April, or for those that live outside of Denver you can download my program via Training Peaks and follow along at home on your trainer and at the gym on your own.

Learn More:  Complete Off-Season Program

What ever you decide and what ever your training & racing goals are for the next season, be sure to make the most out of your Off-Season. Don’t let this valuable time of the year pass without maximizing your fitness gains that will lead to better performance when your  next Race Season rolls around.

 

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

The Six Components Of Fitness Of Sessions:6

The Six Components of Fitness of Sessions:6

It’s common thought that to become a better athlete you simply need to train more and push harder to be successful. 

Many athletes are familiar with the 10,000 hour rule which states that it requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to obtain elite level proficiency in your sport. In many ways this concept holds true; you need to put in the time for your body to adapt to and learn the skills and movements required to perform at a high level of sport. However, we have found that there is more to the equation of improvement in sports than simply just training more. You certainly can and do become a better athlete simply by doing more of what you are striving to improve; more hours on the bike, more miles on the run, or more time in the gym. Assuming you have the time and fitness to spend 5+ hours a day training your sport, in time, you will become highly competent in your sport, allowing you to compete at a very high level.

There’s no question that if you put in the time, you will improve. But is this high volume, single-focused training approach the right way to maximize performance? Maybe, maybe not. Is it the only way to maximize performance? Definitely not.

Then what is the ‘right’ way or ‘best’ way to improve as an athlete?

There are many theories out there to follow, however we have found the answer to be: “It depends.” It depends on who the athlete is. How old is the athlete, what is the athlete’s background in sport, what is the athlete’s lifestyle, do they have a job, do they have a family, do they have the time, energy and physical capacity to allow them to train 30+ hours a week, week in and week out? If you’re a 20-something year old, athletic individual with minimal life stress and plenty of financial backing then it’s time to put in the big volume. However, if you’re over thirty, have to make money to support yourself and/or your family, or are a less than perfect physical specimen, then simply doing more of the same thing is not the best path to follow to reach your fullest potential.

Through working with hundreds of different athletes coming from all shapes and sizes of background in sport, we have found that there are six essential components required to maximize fitness and athletic development.

So how is the aspiring athlete going to maximize improvement when spending endless hours cranking out the effort is not an option? We have found over the years that all athletes must make fitness and sport a lifestyle, much like a professional, focusing on both the large and the small components of fitness to build the best possible athlete they can be. We have identified six key elements that are crucial to athletic success, and they can all be implemented regardless of the individual experience level or the amount of time the athlete has to devote to their sport.

The SIX elements of sport performance that make up the SESSIONS:6 Sport Performance philosophy:

  • Aerobic Conditioning

  • Strength & Stability

  • Skill Proficiency

  • Diet & Nutrition

  • Stress Management

  • Mental Fitness

By learning, incorporating and striving to always improve upon these six key components of fitness, an athlete will be better able to reach their fullest potential in sport performance.

The first three components, aerobic conditioning, muscular stability, and skill proficiency make up the physical “training” an athlete with do.

Aerobic conditioning can be achieved by not only spending more time performing their sport, but also through various modalities of cross-training during specific times of the year. Training aerobic endurance by going longer at times, as well as incorporating moderate and high intensity interval training, at and above an athlete’s aerobic and anaerobic thresholds at specific points in their training year, will improve their aerobic conditioning.

Including muscular strength and joint stability training will improve an athlete’s range of motion, application of force, and overall durability. Improper joint mobility and/or joint stability limits nearly every athlete in some manner. Improving these characteristics through proper strength training modalities, an athlete will become more efficient and able to use more of their given maximal aerobic capacity.

Developing the skills to move the body in the most efficient manner is critical to maximizing strength, power, speed and endurance. Wasted energy through improper movements not only slows you down but wastes valuable energy, limiting your performance. By incorporating drills into an athlete’s training program they will be able to maximize gains in strength and power as well as achieve a higher usage of their given maximal aerobic capacity.

The last three key components, diet & nutrition, stress management, and mental fitness are efforts made in between the physical training sessions.

These details require as much or more effort to incorporate into an athlete’s routine, but they can also often yield some of the biggest results.

Most athletes are aware of the importance of nutrition but few actually take it seriously for any length of time. Through optimal nutrition you not only perform better on race day, but you are also able to achieve optimal body composition for improved performance, optimal energy levels to improve training capacity, and optimal hormone operation within the body to improve health and recovery.

Recovery between training sessions is critical to maximize your training consistency and adaptation. Learning and incorporating proper recovery methods as well as recognizing other forms of stress in your your life and adjusting your training accordingly will allow you to train more effectively and get more from each training session.

Finally, perhaps the most neglected and overlooked component of success in sport is the power of the mind. Getting yourself in the right mindset to train to your fullest potential and compete to maximum ability is one of the toughest things for athletes to learn. It is subsequently also one of the most important abilities for athletes to transform themselves into champions. Practicing mental strategies and learning how to train and compete to your true ability will unlock the complete athlete within you.

To become the best athlete you can become and reach your fullest potential in the least amount of time possible, you must address these six crucial components of sport performance development: aerobic conditioning, strength & stability, skill proficiency, diet & nutrition stress management, and mental fitness.

When any one of these components is neglected or underdeveloped, an athlete will fall short of their maximum ability. Don’t fall into the trap that there is only one path to improvement, doing the same thing over and over. Rather, choose to expand your vision and athletic ability by addressing these six components of fitness to allow yourself to continually evolve and improve as an athlete.

By incorporating these 6 components into your daily training and lifestyle you will be able to consistently improve your performance year after year.

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

I. Aerobic Conditioning

I. Aerobic Conditioning

In a previous blog post, I introduced our six components of fitness surrounding the Sessions:6 training philosophy. In this blog post I’ll dig a little deeper into the first component of sport performance:  Aerobic Conditioning. 

When people think of the word “fitness” the mind often goes first to aerobic conditioning. Aerobic fitness gives an athlete the ability to “go” and keep going. This is especially true for endurance sports like running, cycling, swimming, etc. Building up the endurance to go the distance is a primary objective for those athletes newer to athletic training and/or those training for long distance endurance events. But training to go long is not the only piece of the aerobic conditioning puzzle.

You can think of Aerobic Conditioning as two distinct elements:  

  1. Endurance

  2. Speed

Think of these two elements in these defining ways: endurance is the ability to maintain pace while speed is the ability to create pace. To be successful in sport and fitness you need to maximize both endurance and speed through creative training strategies. The shorter your goal event the greater an emphasis on speed and power will be required; while the longer your goal event the greater an emphasis on endurance will be required. However, regardless of the length of the events you are training for, you need to train both elements to maximize your aerobic conditioning.

Picture aerobic conditioning as a sliding scale. On one end you have the shortest duration, highest intensity output, the ‘alactate’ burst of maximum power; on the other end you have the ‘all day’ maximum endurance effort. In between these two extremes you have the classic physiological energy systems of anaerobic power (60-seconds to 4-minute max output), Vo2 max (8-minute to 16-minute output), lactate threshold (30-minute to 60-minute output), aerobic threshold (2-hour to 4-hour output) and aerobic endurance (extended output).

 

Energy System:                               Duration:

  1. Alactate                                                   <10 seconds          
  2. Anaerobic Power                  1-4 minutes                
  3. Vo2 Max                                  8-16 minutes                
  4. Anaerobic Threshold           30-60 minutes                                  
  5. Aerobic Threshold                2-4 hours                            
  6. Endurance                              >4 hours

       

Training all six of these ‘zones’ of intensity is critical for all athletes. Balancing the amount of each level of intensity, and at what point in their training year it is emphasized, makes up an effective aerobic conditioning training program.

Aerobic conditioning is highly trainable, although it can take many years to fully maximize in human physiology. Every human is born with an innate capacity to process oxygen, known as maximum oxygen uptake or, simply, Vo2 max. The more oxygen an athlete can supply to their working muscles the faster they can go. Vo2max is trainable to a certain extent, but everyone has their genetic ceiling of maximum uptake. One of the primary goals with aerobic conditioning is to maximize the sustainable percentage of their Vo2max they can reach in training and racing. Improving one’s ability to perform at the highest sustainable percentage of their Vo2max can be achieved by training any of the above mentioned energy systems, but is most effective by training all of the energy systems through an effective training program.

Training longer durations at lower intensities has many identified benefits such as increased mitochondria and capillary density to improve oxygen delivery, maximizing the use of slow twitch muscle fibers, improved fuel utilization and carbohydrate storage, and an increase in the volume of blood your heart can move with each beat. Long, slow distance training has been a staple of endurance sport training for years. For athletes that are coming to endurance sports from a ‘speed based’ background, are relatively young, healthy, have the time, and have lofty goals of racing performance, high volume training can help them succeed. Although as valuable as the benefits of low-intensity training are, you must have the time to put into this method as it requires increasingly higher and higher volumes to create the stimulus needed for improved fitness.

Most amateur athletes with a job and family to balance with their training schedule usually can only find time for limited amounts of high volume training. This leads us to consider how else can we improve our aerobic conditioning?

Training the short, powerful, high intensity energy systems happens to also have many identified benefits, and these can often be achieved with much lower training volumes. Benefits of high intensity training include increased oxygen utilization, improved lactate tolerance/utilization, maximizing the recruitment of both slow and fast twitch muscle fibers, increased hormone production, reduced insulin dependency, and improved movement efficiency. The benefits of high intensity training cannot be ignored, nor should the high intensity training in your training program. High intensity training definitely has its place in the sport performance training program, with the amount and timing of it being a key part of the metabolic puzzle.

Every individual has their own genetically given strengths; some athletes are more powerful and faster over short distances, while others are built for the long haul and can maintain moderate outputs for extended periods of time. To maximize your own sport performance you must identify your strengths and weaknesses and then create a training program that will improve your weaknesses while maximizing your strengths. Put simply, by improving your short-term high intensity energy systems you can go faster for longer, and by improving your long-term low intensity energy systems you can extend your speed over longer periods. These opposing ends of the physiological energy system scale should come together at some point inline with your targeted race-day intensity level you plan to predominantly utilize during your goal events.

Regardless of your strengths and weaknesses, your objective should be to create your own training program to give you the right amount of training stress to minimize fatigue and maximize performance.

The goal within your training program should be to apply just the right amount of low intensity and high intensity aerobic training to create the perfect amount of stimulus for your body to adapt to. Too much stimulus can lead to illness, fatigue or injury; not enough stimulus and you fail to continue improving and don’t reach your fullest potential. Mixing the right amount of training stress (balanced with “life stress”) into an individual’s training program is the secret to maximizing fitness and is unique to every athlete.

 


Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.