So, we’ve reached the end of the season….now what?
You’ve been following a tightly prescribed training programme, you’ve been looking forward to your “A” race and now it’s all over. If it went well you are enthused and want to do another, if it went badly you crave the redemption of succeeding next time. There is nothing on the horizon and a feeling of loss of the structure and the goal. What can you do about it?
ENJOY: if you fulfilled your goals bask in the success, wear your finishers T shirt and bore your friends! If you didn’t then grieve, accept and decide to come back stronger/fitter/faster/better prepared.
RECOVER: That doesn’t mean do nothing! Endurance exercise induces muscle damage and an inflammatory response. Complete rest for at least 2 days, maybe 3 depending on how you feel. Then go for an easy 30 minute swim or similar length bike. I always favour swimming first as it involves no impact at all and generally the most damage is done to the lower body, especially in long distance events. Moderate activity will help you recover better than doing nothing. The next day go for a longer cycle or swim (whichever you didn’t do the day before) say up to 45 mins. Your body will still be depleted after a long distance race so will likely tell you what is enough. If you have avoided any injuries you might then try a 20 min jog the day after that. Research suggests that 2-3 weeks of active recovery may be advisable after an Ironman to deal with all responses.
ACCEPT: that it is impossible (or at the very least counterproductive) to attempt to stay at the level you have reached to peak for your race. Training hard works because it breaks down the body which then repairs itself and does its best to be stronger to deal with the next period of training. Constantly training hard means full adaptation doesn’t happen and risks both physical and mental burnout.
DONT: Keep eating as though you are in full training as you will quickly pile on the pounds. There is no need to take gels or energy drinks on training sessions of under an hour as you will not deplete glycogen levels enough to require supplementation.
PLAN: Identify races for next year, what are your goals and how are you going to achieve them? This is probably a great time to consider a coach to help with those questions.
MENTALLY RECOVER: have a break from structured training, do what you want, make best of any good weather, different events, no-Garmin rides to the Pub or tea shop, try something different like off road running, cycling etc.
TAKE STOCK: pluses and minuses, areas to work on, limiters, now is when you have time to improve swim stroke, pedalling technique, running stride pattern.
MAINTENANCE TRAINING: Once recovered try to keep as much of that hard earned conditioning and resistance to injury, aim for at least 5 hours training per week and preferably more split between your sports.
BUILD: This is a good time to work on strength and conditioning, including core work (but not endless crunches) stretching, and building resistance to injury. In particular this is a good time to work on all parts of the body and not just those directly involved in your sport.
FOCUS ON DIFFERENT GOAL: Late autumn and early winter is a good time to work on different goals like 10k or stand alone Half Marathon PB etc.
SPEND TIME with family friends and those that have supported you through all the hours spent training and the new come back and smash your goals for next year!