Off season- Love it or hate it??!

At the end of a hard season we’re repeatedly told the importance of taking some time out. The pro’s do it so it must be right hey??!! I’ve always been forced (literally) to take at least 2 weeks away from training at the end of the season and I’m usually a pain in the backside! I spend the whole time feeling guilty that I’m not training, feeling lethargic and fat and basically end up annoying the hell out of my coaches and friends…all in all not always an enjoyable couple of weeks for anyone involved! So following my somewhat frustrating season of racing, initially when told that I would have to take 3 WHOLE weeks away from training I could already feel my blood pressure starting to rise…I mean, what on earth am I going to do to fill all this extra time and, actually, thanks to shingles, haven’t I had enough time off already this season?

Anyway, needless to say I was massively overruled and the three weeks of enforced rest was upon me. So, have I enjoyed it and what have I done?! Firstly, I can honestly say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my break from triathlon. I think I was actually sick to death of the sport that I normally could talk about all day long (sure, my friends are usually bored to tears!). So this time away was time to not think about swim, bike, run. I used it as time to go back to basics and let myself go (in the literal sense too – I still can’t believe that I actually gained 3kg in 10 days!) Precious time to spend with family and friends, without worrying about getting up at the crack of dawn or what high protein, low carb meal I was going to consume that evening. It was literally full fat cheese, a tub (or 2) of ice cream, some trashy books and some long overdue hours sitting/lying on my rapidly growing backside!

Secondly, I dabbled in some yoga and even some meditation – yes, you read that correctly! If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be partaking in yoga and meditation I would’ve probably have fallen off my chair laughing but I’m serious, it’s been an amazing experience. My first yoga class was a joke, I could barely reach past my knees, let alone touch my toes and I’ve never been so ashamed or aware of my serious lack of strength and control (and I consider myself to be fairly strong). These yoga regulars float from one position to the next with barely a drop of sweat running off their bodies and make a headstand look like a walk in the park. Impressive is all I have to say on the physical front!

On the mental side of things, you walk into a slightly surreal, tranquil environment where everyone is doing what is called “ujjayi breathing”, which translate as “breath of the ocean” or to a yoga beginner….very noisy, slightly ridiculous breathing! Something that I wouldn’t normally buy into, but when in Rome… Once you’ve got past your initial judgements and joined in with the rhythm of the class, you steadily start to feel all the stresses of the day melting away. Any headache or tension disappears and all of sudden everything starts to feel calm inside. If this all sounds like a pile of nonsense why not just give it a go… you might be as pleasantly surprised as me.

So with the rest and reflection period nearly over, I started to feel like it was time to start planning and setting some goals for the year ahead, a part of the season that always fills me with nerves and excitement. It’s time to say your dreams out loud and to remind yourself of the reason we do what we do. This process for me this year has involved a trip to Cath Spencer-Smith (a specialist sports doctor) for some advice and a “once over”. Time to have a look at my overall health, get some blood tests and make sure I have someone who can help to keep me on the straight and narrow with my health. I’m excited to have someone with so much experience to hand, if anyone can get my crook body back on track, I’m sure she can!

The final piece of the ‘off season’ jigsaw is the decision to make a change in coaches. Not a decision that I’ve found easy but one that I feel is right for me to move forwards. Up until this season I have been predominantly coached by a good friend Jon Munroe, who is wealth of knowledge in the field of athletics – he’s been an amazing motivator in terms of getting me into the sport and encouraging me to achieve my potential. Despite his extensive knowledge, I feel that I need someone who can look at the bigger picture with me and help me balance the mixture of the three disciplines a little better so I have turned to ex-pro triathlete and cyclist Paul Mill. I know that Paul understands my physical and mental strengths and weaknesses and I have every faith he will make me behave and push me to be the athlete I want to be. I’m finally excited about the year ahead and chomping at the bit to be back in training.

So no matter whether you love it or loathe it, I’m 100% convinced that it should be factored into everyone’s end of season. Use it as a chance to take some time out and to reflect and address the things that you need to get on top of….see a physio if you’ve had some niggling aches and pains, find a good coach, get a blood test, seek a new club or go and have a swimming assessment. Whatever it is that you need to address remember to face your fears and embrace your dreams! And roll on the winter miles!

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