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Active Root and triathlete Kirsty explains what she does during the triathlon off-season to keep her fresh, prepared and motivated for for the season ahead!
So it is that dreaded time of year again – the off season. The time of year when your last race seems like a distant memory and your next race seems like a lifetime away. It doesn’t help that it often coincides with the festive season (which now seems to run from late October) and therefore the season of partying and over indulgence. It can be hard to stay focussed and be motivated to train, especially when it seems like every time you go to step out the door it is cold, wet, windy and dark.
My off season started with a massive crash back down to earth. I knew I was injured last season, and that the injury had flared up over my last couple of races. I took some time off and started a physio rehab program, but most definitely underestimated just how angry my body was with me. It gave me a wee clue in my first week back in training, with my hip and back getting steadily more painful as the week went on. Then, when I wasn’t giving my body enough attention it decided to humiliate me into listening to it. Long story short, my back completely went while I was on the loo, I fell off the loo with the pain, my husband ran toward the screaming and found me lying on the bathroom floor, unable to get up, covered in my own pee. Nice!!!!! It took him a while to scrape me up off the floor, all the time with me shouting ‘I know it wasn’t actually in our wedding vows, but I am sure being married means you have to love me for better or worse.’ This was definitely not one of my better moments. Ok body, I am listening now.
That led on to another period of no training at all, then very light training, then almost normal biking and swimming with minimal running on land and loads of water running. For anyone who has not water ran before, it involves strapping a floatation belt to your person and running round and round in circles in the pool trying your hardest to break a sweat and get your heart rate up to some sort of level resembling a normal run. Every time I do it I get ‘Baby Shark’ stuck in my head. It is very difficult not to question your life choices running round in circles in a pool for up to 2 hours at a time trying your hardest not to sing that ridiculously annoying song aloud. Luckily I am running more on land now and less in the water, although I feel the water running belt at my pool and me are so bonded now that it will have to come and live with me after I hang it up for good.
Try getting off-road
My usual motivation over the off season is the cross country running season. I get to catch up with my Cambuslang Harriers club mates and get clatty running in the mud, wind and rain. It is so much fun. For any triathlete looking to stay motivated and keep racing over winter I strongly recommend it. Not only is it fun and gives you something to work towards, but it builds a lot of run strength and keep you race sharp. I promise you, once you go back to road running, it will feel like you are running on clouds compared to the sometimes ankle deep mud you get during cross country in Scotland. I am hoping that my injuries will continue to improve and I will be able to get back to race some of the cross country season. But in the interim, I have enjoyed being on the other side of it and watching all the brave club runners from all over Scotland brave the tough courses this beautiful country has to offer (although I think most of the runners would have described it differently – most possibly as brutal).
Analyse your season and look at areas of improvement
I also take this time to analyse my season and identify areas for improvement. Obviously my main area of focus has been on rehab. I know now that my legs were not strong enough to embark on the increase in training I tried at the end of last season. While my lower body may look like I have borrowed it from Chris Hoy sometimes, it is definitely not the temple that I believed it to be. So I have begun a physio and strength rehab program which is already having a positive impact. This is the perfect time of year for anyone to work on their weaknesses – without the pressure of races coming up you can be completely honest with yourself, identify the areas for work, and batter away at them until you feel they have improved.
I try to take a look at my nutrition at this time of year as well. It is inevitable that, during the off season, you will carry a wee bit extra weight. That is natural, and by and large my excuse for eating cake (and drinking mulled wine, and using mince pies as energy bars). We live in a cold country, those extra pounds keep us warm in the winter. But I do not like to put on so much I am going to struggle to shift it when I need to. So I have been looking at my overall diet and identifying changes that can be made without effecting my energy levels for training. I have also switched to using the new Active Root electrolyte drink for some of my smaller training sessions. I still get the energy and boost that I would with my normal Active Root, but with fewer calories. It works a treat, and means I can treat myself after training to something chocolatey too.
Plan the season ahead
Planning for next year is all done at this time of year too. I build a rough plan of the races I want to do, and try to decide which ones will be my A races (the ones I want to be at my peak for) and which will be more tester races to see where my fitness is at different points in the season. This is where I rely on Mike again. He has all the fancy technology that I don’t understand that will help us chart the volume and intensity of each week’s training from here to next season and I try to write my training plans accordingly. What better way to motivate yourself but to set goals for next season and have a detailed plan of how to get to those goals. However, remember to build in flexibility. Life is what happens when we are out making plans, so you never know what is going to crop up. Just now I have to build in flexibility to every day of training, as I never know how my injuries will be from day to day, and I tend to be quite busy at work at this time of year. So I have key session that I want to get through, and additional optional session that I would love to do as well, but that are only done if the legs feel good and I have enough time round about work. That way it almost feels like a treat when I get to do the extra sessions – ok, not a treat like getting to go to Disney land as a kid, but a weird sort of a treat that is torture at the time but you feel awesome about afterwards.
Take time to relax
Most of all, my biggest tip to stay motivated during the off season is to relax. As triathletes we put our body through a ridiculous amount of strain during race season. During the off season we need to treat it kindly and relax. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to stay motivated. Enjoy time with your family and friends. Do those things that you wanted to do during race season but couldn’t get time to get around to. I have started an annual event now every November where I meet up with my flatmates from my Uni years – either they come to visit me or I go to Belfast to visit them. We spend the weekend acting like we are the teenagers we were when we first met (even though we are all now plummeting towards 40 at a scarier rate that we would care to accept) and drink, chat and dance the weekend away. It is such a great wee way of relaxing and getting a reminder of what was important in life before the madness of triathlon took over. I love it, and it puts me in such a positive frame of mind while I face the reality of a massive block of training without the reward of a race at the end.
As I write this, I have just come back from that annual trip. I loved spending time with the girls, and I am relaxed and motivated to get on with the off season. I know I have a huge mountain to climb to get over my injuries, and that I may be on the side-lines for a wee while longer yet. But I feel like this off season is my opportunity to get to grips with my injuries and build some well needed strength. As I always say, a happy athlete is a fast athlete. Fast may not be quite the word I would use for myself at the moment, but I am definitely happy, and eager to see what the next few months will hold.