Why should I have an off-season? As a coach I get this question often, and every time I adapt my response based on the athlete who is asking. Training takes it’s toll on more than just our body; it’s necessary to know what sacrifices so we can continue to compete in our sport without getting burnt out. Sometimes these are our relationships, and other times it’s our bodies. In Part 1 we discuss the psychological and social benefits of an off-season.
The first benefit of an off-season is having extra time to spend with your loved ones. During race season, relationships tend to take a back seat to training and competing. When the season is over, it is important to recognize and thank those in our lives who often times make sacrifices so we can enjoy this time consuming sport. For me, I get to say “yes” to exploring and experiencing new things with my wife. Last week we went to a Coffee Expo here in Denver and were able to enjoy eachother’s company. We hardly get to do these things during the season because races occur on weekends and we both have work and other commitments during the week.. So in the offseason I try to set aside a day for us to spend time together which I thoroughly enjoy and miss when training. Whether it’s your significant other, parents, or friends, taking time to focus on those who support you will not only strengthen your relationships, it will also make these special people more likely to be forgiving when we ask them to wake up at 3:00am on a race day.
The off-season also allows athletes the opportunity to get the housework completed that may have been put off for our weekend long rides. I know I’m not alone in this department. My athletes share these stories with me all the time, and the off season is the time to take care of those things that often go ignored during the summer months. We get to trim the branches hanging over the house, redo our firepit area and go through our race shirts that we never wear. With not being exhausted from burying ourselves in our training, we have more energy to complete household tasks. Take advantage of this time off and get whatever need to get done in order to make your life simpler when training starts up again.
Athletes also tend to neglect doctor visits because “we train so we must be healthy.” Just because you look healthy and fit on the outside doesn’t mean you are on the inside. Go to the doctor and get your checkup. Make sure your hormone levels are normal, cholesterol looks good, and everything else is in tip-top shape. The dentist is a necessary visit too. Our dental health is a big factor in our overall health, and we are lucky to live in a country where we have access to dental care. Just go to the dentist. Again, getting some of these life things taken care of in the off-season will only lessen your stress when you are focused on racing.
The biggest psychological benefit I always see from taking an off-season is mentally hitting the refresh button. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? By the end of the off-season you will be jonesing to get back in the saddle, or in the pool, and that enthusiasm carries over into the sessions itself. This mental break allows athletes to be better focused when training resumes, meaning each session has a greater impact on performance.
As competitors, we tend to focus in on how we can improve in our sport. The idea of taking time off seems counterproductive, but it is just the opposite. These are just some of the benefits to utilizing an off-season, and the significance of these benefits will differ depending on what is important to you. Most of us can be convinced that this rest time is to our advantage and will improve many other aspects of our life, and in turn our training, but some are still skeptical. Some athletes need a little more persuading that an off-season is a good thing. In
Part 2 we will move from the social/emotional benefits of rest and then discuss physiological ones.