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Home>> Tips and Techniques: Off-Season Training Recommendations and Motivation
Late fall and winter months are difficult time periods to remain completely focused and committed to training. Assuming you took some time off after your last race of the season, you are probably searching for activities that will keep you fit as well as interesting enough not to cause burnout prior to the competitive season next year.  The following sections provide some suggestions on how to structure your off-season training time.

Plan next season's goals. Planning your goals and objectives should be one of your first activities prior to launching into training for the next season.  Your training and racing season goals determine the quantity and nature of the activities for both the off season as well as how to peak for your primary goals next competitive season. Discussing and socializing your goals with your friends in family is an excellent reinforcement technique because your friends will ask you about your training and remind you of your goals--even if you would rather they forget.  Making your goals very public provides great external motivation for those days when you would rather sleep-in than log the extra miles.  More on developing personal goals for the next racing season>>.

Reduce intensity. No matter how committed you are during the racing season it is very difficult to maintain the same high level of intensity year around.  Maintaining training intensity has both physical and mental components. Even the most resilient athlete benefits from intervals of rest after demanding physical competition and research has demonstrated those athletes that properly rest come back stronger than their un-rested counter parts.  Intensity is more than merely counting intervals and tempo runs--intensity encompasses how many times a day you train as well as how long a single training session lasts.  A quality hill repeat session or a demanding track-based interval workout taxes the body, but also requires a great deal of mental effort (at least for most athletes).  Taking a break from weekly high intensity training sessions (intervals, high tempo or fartlek) allows your body to recover and equally important: rejuvenate your motivation.  The ideal is to enter the next session eager--ok willing to run or bike intervals and hill repeats at an intensity to improve your overall speed and elevate your lactic threshold to spare glycogen.  More on lactic acid>>

Maintain and Build on aerobic base.  While rest and reducing the intensity dictate removing or greatly reducing track workouts and intervals from your weekly training routine, it does not translate to removing the base building activities and workouts.  The off-season is an excellent time to build back and expand the aerobic base you developed last season for your trail marathon, 100 mile mountain bike race, 100 mile ultra or multi-day adventure race.  A strong aerobic base is critical for success in the next racing season, however: depending on where you live logging a truly long run can be a challenge.  I had forgotten how difficult it can be to run in snow and slush for many hours so I am suggesting some alternatives to maintain and build your aerobic base.  Combining some or all of these activities:

Geo caching.  Geo cashing involves registering with a geo cache site and locating caches in the geographic area you would like to train.  I have even used this technique in the summer with kayak and running in which I down loaded 5 to 6 cache site to my GPS that formed a ring around the lake where I train on the kayak.  You start off kayaking as hard as possible and go ashore close to the cache then sprint to the site, log your presence and sprint back to the kayak--repeat.  Obviously, substitute Nordic skiing or snow shoeing in the winter, but construct a set of geo caches that feature the terrain you are preparing to compete on.

Snowshoe races. If you can run, you can snowshoe...yes, there are a few differences in stride, but essentially it is running with the extra challenge of snow, ice and a 8"x25" inch platform strapped to your foot.  Given the additional challenges of the running surface and the snowshoe, snowshoeing is an excellent mode of exercise to maintain your aerobic base.  The Turquoise Lake 20 mile Snowshoe Run in Leadville, Colorado is a challenging event.

Loppet (definition), 10km classic or skating Nordic [cross country] ski races.  Nordic or cross country racing is an excellent means to maintain or elevate your aerobic base.  Both classic and skating use many of the same muscles as cycling which will prepare you for early season cycle training.  More over, because Nordic skiing uses your upper body as well as your lower, you receive a more complete muscle workout and it is easier to elevate your heart rate due to the increase in working muscle mass.

Try one or all of the suggestions above to maintain a positive attitude and establish a strong base for the next season.