The Importance of the Off-Season

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The off season should be just that – a time to rest your body, to rehabilitate injury, and to plan ahead on how to improve performance and prevent injury in the season to come.

By Marjie Delo, MD

Member AMSSM 

 

This time of year, many triathletes schedule too many intense workouts and too much volume, concerned that they are going to lose fitness during the off-season.  However, instead of maintaining fitness, they end up fatigued, sick, or injured, or they peak long before the season has even begun.  The off season should be just that – a time to rest your body, to rehabilitate injury, and to plan ahead on how to improve performance and prevent injury in the season to come. 

 

There are two key parts to the off-season:

 

1 - The first should be the rest and recovery phase.  During the season, many triathletes develop overuse injuries, chronic muscle strains, muscle asymmetries, and joint subluxations and instabilities.  Unlike in contact sports, many of the injuries triathletes suffer are minor enough to allow continued training and competition.  However, an injured athlete will never be able to compete at their best.  Therefore, once the season has ended, take the time your body needs to heal.  Active rest, which may include rehabilitation and cross training, will allow healing. 

 

Flexibility and strength work are important parts of recovery.  For example, many triathletes have tight hamstrings, which can lead to low back problems on the bike; this can be actively addressed during the off-season.  Others experience anterior knee pain both with running and cycling.  This is referred to as patellofemoral pain, and can be addressed through strengthening of the quadriceps (especially the vastus medialis oblique) and the hip abductors. 

 

Muscle imbalances can cause problems with pedaling mechanics.  Core strengthening, which involves stabilization exercises of the abdominal muscles, paraspinal muscles, gluteal, and pelvic muscles, can help correct muscle imbalances.  Specific problems can also be targeted by active tissue release or chiropractic care. 

 

Once you have rested, had some fun cross training with skiing or snowshoeing, and treated your injuries, you’re ready to enter the second part of the off-season.

 

2 - The second part of the off season is the pre-season.  Many trainers refer to this stage as the aerobic base phase.  This phase can be further broken down, but the key concept is building your aerobic capacity while continuing to work on strength for muscular endurance and muscular balance. 

 

Drills are often an important part of this phase to optimize your efficiency in each leg of the triathlon.  This is a great time to have your swim stroke evaluated, revisit your bike fit (not only to ensure that you are aerodynamic, but to prevent injury from a poor fit), and be sure that you have the proper running shoes for the type of runner that you are.  All of these things will not only help your performance, but also decrease your injury risk. 

 

Throughout this phase, intensity should remain low, with the duration of workouts lengthening leading up to the season.  A good aerobic base is an invaluable foundation to build intensity and speed leading into the season.  Having good core strength, adequate flexibility, and good form all give you the best chance of having a successful, injury free season.  Happy training!

 

Marjie Delo, MD

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date: February 7, 2008

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

FIND A SPORTS MEDICINE DOCTOR

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