Making the Most of the Off Season

Any athlete knows that recovery takes many forms. You have periods of recovery within a workout (even within a stride or a swim stroke if you want to really get into it), easy days within a week, easy weeks here and there throughout a season, and for most athletes, there is a period once per year that is designated as an off season. Hey, that’s now! Let’s party!

It has been just over three weeks since the Ironman World Championships, and accordingly, my time spent engaged in athletic activity per week has dropped in the last few weeks from around 18-19 hours down to between half an hour and 3 hours. It’s easy to start feeling sluggish and unmotivated as a result of this change in activity level, so I’ve developed a few strategies that seem to help.

1. Stay busy
Whether it means catching up on all those chores that need to be done, reading a book, writing (that may be self-referential!), or finding a new and exciting hobby that won’t get in the way too much when it’s time to get back to training, having something to occupy your mind is important.

And raking leaves is a good core workout!
And raking leaves is a good core workout!

2. Enter some “fun” races
All races are fun, of course. If they’re not, you might be doing something wrong. But there is something different about certain events. Last weekend, I did a beer mile (I don’t drink alcohol though, so ginger ale mile for me) and woke up the next morning to do the Mount Sentinel Hill Climb. The hill climb was my first race ever in Missoula, now a full decade ago. I have now done it three times, taking fourth, fourth, and fifth. I’m saying the competition is getting stiffer. These kind of short and sweet events are little reminders that keeping the coals burning on low through the off season is not a bad idea. When it comes time to stoke the fire and get ready for next season, it’s a whole lot easier to get some flames out of it that way.

Sentinel Hill Climb 2014
Nearing the top of Mount Sentinel, sporting my sweet Kona tan lines. Myke Hermsmeyer Photography

Note: Usually, I spend the fall racing cyclocross, which also qualifies in this category. Unfortunately though, Kona falls smack dab in the middle of cyclocross season, so there was none of that for me this year. Sad.

3. Don’t let the nutrition slip
…at least not too much. My last couple weeks have involved, among other things, formulating a nutrition strategy to keep me strong and healthy through the winter and going forward. As most of those who know me are aware, following a vegan diet has been a big part of my life for several years, for a myriad of reasons. I believe that has served me well, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Looking back on the majority of 2014, I think my biggest mistakes have centered around eating too much refined sugar, particularly in the morning. Therefore, my #1 priority going forward is to revamp my approach to breakfast. Less cereal, more smoothies. Fewer pastries, more veggie omelets (no, I don’t eat eggs, but I make a mean omelet with a chickpea flour base). Note to self: add a recipe tab to this page.

4. Get excited about politics
Coincidentally, the off season happens to start at the beginning of November. Something else happens at the beginning of November. Election day is tomorrow, everyone! Remember to vote, because it matters. If enough reasonable people vote, Amanda Curtis will win the U.S. Senate race, and the world will be a slightly better place for a little while. Of course, that’s not all. Voter’s rights are on the line with LR-126, and there are a bunch of races in Montana, or I’m sure whatever state you’re in if you’re not in Montana, that matter.

5. Plan for next season!
For insufferable competition addicts, it’s hard not to be looking forward to the next race. I am going back and forth as far as my plan for next season is concerned. On one hand, I think it would be great to give Kona another shot and try improving on my race and travel strategies to get a better result. On the other hand, not doing Kona would open up the possibility of racing not only the entire cyclocross season, but also the Rut 50k, and possibly entering a lower key late-fall triathlon. In addition to allowing for more racing, this would suit my pocketbook much better as well.

Regardless, my plan is to tackle at least one Ironman next season. The finalists as of right now, getting shuffled around and weighed for their unique virtues, are Ironman Coeur d’Alene (again), Challenge Penticton, and Ironman Canada. I need to decide soon. The pressure’s on!

Also of note, for those who follow my day-to-day life, I have a new winter job! I will be working as a ski technician at the Trail Head from now until April. Come visit me and check out one of Missoula’s best local businesses.