Where’s the Off Switch?

It's been 3 weeks since Cobra Energy Drink Ironman 70.3 Philippines (make that 4).

The local triathlon season begins in February and kicks into high gear in the summer once the major races are underway:  Subic International Triathlon in May, 5150 Triathlon in June and Ironman 70.3 in August.   Being the most prestigious race on the local race scene, everyone wanted to be at Ironman 70.3, myself included.  We trained, ached and bled for that one race.  It was the "graduation" from months of training and sacrifice.  For many, it also marked the final race of their racing season.

The off-season is looked forward to just as much as the major races because it means we all get our license to drink and eat whatever we want and stay up late on weekends.  Stuff we would normally avoid while we train for our A-race.

Cebu was my A-race so after that, my weeks began to take on some semblance of normalcy.  I didn't have to worry about getting up at 5:30 every morning to do a swim, bike or run.  I began taking in more than my fair share of chips, burgers and pizza.  It was full-on recovery mode.

But I've learned that the off-season is a double-edged sword.  All that idle time is great for repairing damaged muscles, catching up on sleep and whatever.  But before you know it, you start missing workouts, making up all sorts of excuses not to join team rides or swim sessions. It was easy to come up with an excuse.  Any excuse.

Over the years, I've put together a bag of tricks to help kick-start my ass, whether it's to get me out of off-season mode or get me out of a slump.  A lot of these were things I picked up from friends, coaches and fellow runners.

Do something new. After completing my A-race last year, the last thing I wanted to do was swim, bike or run.  I wanted to get outside but wasn't looking forward to working out.  Instead, I signed up for paragliding lessons. A friend of mine was offering lessons through a large outdoor store chain so I figured why not?  I didn't get to fly because the winds were too strong when we headed out but the experience and the workout from learning how to control a kite and canopy were just the break I needed.  This year, I cleaned the cobwebs off my mountain bike and hit the trails.  Boy, did that wake me up!

Don't rush it. The best advice I got about getting back on track was not to force yourself back into a training schedule, especially when you're still feeling sore from a big race.  Post-race recovery workouts to flush lactic acid out of the system are good, but the key is to take it easy.  If you've got races planned after your A-race, make sure you build those into your program so you can incorporate proper tapers and build periods.

Resume group workouts. It's easier to workout with a group than on your own.  Gather your training buddies and start heading out for runs or rides together.  Distance doesn't matter.  The key is to get back into a regular workout schedule and training with a group makes that so much easier.

Minimize idle time. Recovery periods and off-seasons are essential to every athlete.  But "recovering" from one can be tricky once you've found a good place on the couch and consider a bag of chips and beer as "nutrition".  To avoid this, find something else to do just to keep your muscles active--walk the dog, run with the kids, ride your bike to the grocery--until you start to get back into the groove.

Reward yourself. You've just gone through months of training and abstention from everything bad for you to get where you are now.  A juicy half-pound cheeseburger or steak to celebrate your race won't hurt!