The Paratriathlete Diaries: The “Off Season”

This post is one of a series I call “The Paratriathlete Diaries” – in the series I hope to take a regular look at the random things that happen in my life as an athlete with challenges.  Any ideas, questions, or suggestions throw them my way. I would like to use this feature as a way to answer questions anyone might have about living with chronic conditions such as Charcot Marie Tooth disease and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, but with a light touch and a bit of humour. I’m all ears!

Typically at the end of the triathlon season, a triathlete enters what is called the “off-season”.  What is “off-season”?

Off season… Can you believe this is actually in the Oxford English Dictionary? I know! Everything is in the Oxford English Dictionary! Even “selfie” is in the Oxford English Dictionary, and it is the word of 2013!

Cue shameless selfie!

For many people (but not all) off-season involves taking 100% time off.  There is a school of thought that says that it is okay – even better – to just let yourself go completely, get unfit, gain weight, have a mental break.  And then from that, rebuild again from scratch, coming back stronger.

For other people, off-season means time off from structured training. So the strict training schedule and adherence to online training diaries (Training Peaks in my case) goes out the window, and instead we just do what we feel like.  For some people this means scaling back training.  For others this means doing yoga (the Bikram 30 day challenge is extremely popular for people in the off-season).  Some people use off-season to experiment with things – like trying Crossfit, or giving the Whole30 eating plan a go. The idea is to “have fun” again without a schedule.

And for some people (like me), many times the off-season is just the time to feel off. 

When I finish my triathlon season it is like my body goes into shutdown mode.  A physical response to a solid 8 or 9 months training – after the my last race is done and I begin to relax, I say hello to a stream of colds. I lose my mojo and wonder if I am ever going to feel the fire, the burning desire, to push my body.  If I will once again wake up dying to knock out a tough session on the turbo trainer.

For what it is worth – I did not even have my bike trainer set up from my last race until, well, yeah. Anyway. Gasp. Horror. Off-season.

And then, slowly, my body repairs itself. Sometimes it takes a visit to the doctor (like I did on Monday) to start to feel okay again.  Always it involves a visit to my nutritionist Vicki Edgson to check on things, to touch base on my general health not just my fitness. In seasons past I have used the off-seaon to line up physical therapy, to check on orthotics, to repair the niggles that are inevitable for an athlete with challenges.  I am a big believer in taking a break until I feel well – both mentally and physically healed.

Finally, the day comes.  I wake up to that familiar feeling. Like an ember in my heart. Yes. Yes I want to ride my bike again. And run. And swim. Yes I do.

I woke up this morning feeling ready. Three months after my last race, three colds and one course of antibiotics later. It feels like it is time. Time to turn off the off-season. Time to start thinking about 2014.

Now, where did I put my bike trainer wheel?!

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