Image credit: rkramer62
Part of our weekly Fitness Friday series.
For many weekend warrior athletes, the offseason is often lazy time. And, while you do need to rest, the best athletes are those who use the offseason to their advantage. Much like a business cycle, the downtime is the time to develop a competitive advantage. How? By simply doing what your competition isn’t: getting out there!
So, yes, get your rest, but don’t put on 20 pounds pigging out watching football. Instead, seize the offseason as the time to get ahead of your competition (just hope they’re not reading this too!).
REST UP: Regardless of the sport, any kind of sustained physical activity wears and tears at your body. Your body does need a break. And your mind needs a break too – after all, physical endeavors are mentally challenging as well . Even the most elite athletes in the world take some planned down time at least once a year. Sleep more, eat well, stretch… let your body heal! It’s amazing what 1-4 weeks off can do for your body. Yes, I said 1-4 weeks off. Believe me, your body and mind will thank you later! If you’re in good physical condition, your body will enjoy having the time to heal and you won’t lose much, if any, ground when you ramp back up.
Typically, I wind down in November. My family’s schedule is usually speeding up for the holiday season by then, the clocks have changed back and it’s dark out earlier, it’s starting to snow. It’s a new rhythm of the season so it’s nice to lay low for a bit – work out once or twice a week to maintain my base – and let my body heal.
RAMP UP: Since most folks simply try to maintain their base training (at best) during the off season, any progress you can make on your own will put you that much further ahead of your competition come warmer weather. Tack an extra mile onto your run. Pop your bike up one gear higher. Hit the weights for a few extra sets. It’s those incremental increases that add up.
Think about this, “In March, I’d love to be able to _____.” Set a goal now of what sort of shape you’d like to be in by the spring. Work backwards from those goals and know what extra push you need to make each week or each month to get there.
BRANCH OUT: Since most of us experience colder temperatures and a certain amount of snow during the winter, it’s particularly tempting to make excuses. “It’s too cold to run.” “I have to go out in shorts to drive to the gym?” “It’s dark out already, I’ll just stay inside.” Sound familiar? Winter is the perfect time to branch out. Grab some snowshoes or cross-country skis. Take up swimming at a local pool. Do some backcountry skiing. But don’t make excuses. The cross-training will strengthen muscles you didn’t know you had and you’ll stretch your athletic mind with activities you’re unfamiliar with. You’ll hit the ground much further ahead once all that snow melts!
So, offseason = downtime? Nope. It equals competitive advantage. All hail the offseason!
Ben Murphy, founder of The Father Life, is an Adventure Athlete, Writer, and Wellness Advocate who used to be obese. You can ask him your questions at www.BenMurphyOnline.com. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and three daughters.