As September approaches it usually means an unofficial end to the race season especially in triathlon in North America. If you are going to the World Championships in Hawaii or have a race scheduled deeper into the fall this post still applies to you, just not for a few more weeks.
Here are two common mistakes athletes’ make at the end of a season.
1. Not taking time off
It’s easy to roll off of a triathlon or road biking season and roll straight into cross country running season or cyclocross season but it’s incredibly important to take a break. And by take a break I mean really take a break! This doesn’t mean cut your training hours from 20 to 10. It means cutting your hours from whatever you are doing to no swimming, biking or running. Breaks allow you to recover physically, mentally and emotionally. Training effectively requires focus and intensity. If you are engaged all year round it becomes more and more difficult to bring the level of intensity required to actually improve. One of the biggest fears people have is that they will lose fitness if they take a few weeks off. Well yes, you probably will lose a bit of fitness but you will gain a renewed energy for the sport and that outweighs any fitness lost. Take a break- it’s important!
2. Not reflecting critically
It’s easy to look back and high five yourself at the end of a season. But you must also look back and figure out what your limiters were. What was holding you back from either reaching your goals or achieving bigger ones? If you can identify those things you can address them when you return to training. When you return from time off you will have several months to address true weaknesses. It’s easy to fall back into a routine where you settle into what you do well but if you want to make long term gains it’s important to spend time working on what is limiting you. Reflect critically at the end of a season and it will help you plan for the next season.
Sometimes the break itself allows mental space and recovery to reflect on what your limiters are with more clarity. If you’ve come off of a really good season you may be looking back with rose tinted glasses. If you’ve come off of a really bad season you may be looking back thinking you need to overhaul everything. In both of these cases the truth is probably less extreme. A really good season still has areas that can be better and a really bad season rarely needs a complete overhaul and sometimes isn’t as bad as you remember. Taking time off and clear reflection are connected and both are important for longevity and improvement in sport.