A behind the scenes look into how to make the most of the time in-between seasons. OCR World Champion Lindsay Webster takes us through each step to master the offseason training.
Whether you’re a professional hockey player, OCR racer, or weight lifter, every athlete requires an off season. Contrary to wishful belief, the words “off-season” do not mean “time to slack off,” but it’s the time of year to have lots of fun with your training! Off-season training is an opportunity to build your base. Typically training during this time of year involves a lot less structure. To sum it up, you want to be building your ability to take on the workload you’ll be undergoing during the race season, while still maintaining a fresh mind and body.
Take the time to really rest
Maintaining a fresh mind, for me, is the most important part. We undergo so much racing, traveling, and super stringent training during the race season, that typically I’m a little mentally burned out by the time it’s over. The off-season is time to spend at home or wherever you enjoy most, and just enjoy going out to do some exercise. I always start the off-season with time off from training. Every professional athlete does this, so even though you may be afraid of losing fitness, you don’t need to be scared of this period! It will benefit you in the long run, and reboot your mind and body for next season.
Typically, you want to take two weeks to a month to rest your body. I used to take only two weeks, but as my training and racing regimen has become more vigorous, I found that this year I required a full month. You’ll know it’s time to start training again when you’re excited to get back into your exercise routine, and your body is feeling rested and antsy to move. I always take the first week of my rest period as complete rest. By the time week two rolls around, I start to feel like I need to get my blood moving a little bit, so I’ll go for hikes or easy bike rides under one hour. If you feel like you want to move, don’t hold yourself back, but refrain from doing any high intensity exercise where you’re really getting your heart rate above 130bpm.
Build your base
Now it’s time to get back into real, daily training, and building your base! In the case of OCR, base building refers to building your cardio endurance base. We do this with lots of long runs, bike rides, cross-country skis, snowshoes, hikes, you name it. Essentially, you want to be doing lots of long, slow training days. While the race season is the time for a training plan with structure, dictating double training days and intensity days, I see the off-season as the time to play.
After my month of rest around home, I’m usually ready for some travel again, so I head to the mountains a lot. Training around home can become mundane since you’re so used to the scenery, and I find heading to new places keeps it fresh. All of a sudden, putting in a 3-plus hour training day become easy, because you’re exploring new places. This year, my husband and I spent two months traveling through Norway, Sweden, and New Zealand. I realize we’re quite lucky and that most people don’t have the luxury of taking two months off work, but I also spend a lot of weekends making the 5-hour drive to the Adirondack mountains in New York. Explore Google Maps for what adventures are near to you.
Let you body dictate your training schedule
I should elaborate: make sure you don’t over-train during the off-season! Taking one rest day or active recovery day (short hikes or rock climbing) per week is essential for letting your body recover from the load you’re putting on it. (No matter the workout, BeetElite is a must. 30 minutes prior!)
Let’s also talk hours a little bit. You want to be putting in one really long training day every two weeks, and one long-ish training day per week. For me, a really long training day would be a 5-hour run, and a long-ish training day would be a 2.5 hour run. However, I’ve spent about four years ever-so-slowly building my cardio endurance base to handle those numbers. For others, a long training day might be a 1-1.5-hour jog. Do what your body can handle. You don’t want to over-train or become injured! Usually, I’ll plan to take a rest day after those really long training days, so that my body can recover.
Two months into your off-season you can slowly start incorporating some intensity back in your training regimen. Your body and mind should be feeling rested enough by this point that they can handle some structure.
Two days per week of faster, harder cardio, where you’re elevating your heart rate, is plenty.
Strength training, refine the flaws
Finally, let’s talk a bit about strength training. While in other sports, the off-season involves lots of heavy lifting and strength training, OCR is unique. We do so much strength training during our race season, both in completing obstacles during our races, and in our training regimen so that we can complete the obstacles, that we handle strength in the off-season a bit differently. Just like with off-season cardio, we’re building our body’s ability to take on the workload it will be undergoing during race season. In off-season, I do lots of core strength, indoor rock climbing and bouldering to help build grip strength, and physio-based exercises to prevent race season injuries.
Here’s a few exercises that are good to do:
- Mountain climbers
- Chin-ups and 90-degree arm locks
- Thera-band exercises
- Exercises to get your glutes firing, such as lateral hops with a Thera-band around your ankles
Once we make the transition to race season, start doing more sport-specific strength, such as sandbag and bucket carries.
Every year, you’ll find that during the off-season you’ll be able to accomplish a little bit more during your long training days. You may start with a 1-hour endurance day, then next season you’ll be able to handle two hours.
Enjoy the amazing places your feet can carry you when you, and the adventures you’ll have when you can travel these long distances.
Long days can be tough while you’re pushing through them, when you’re halfway through and starting to feel tired, but I think that the memories created are the best part of the whole year. If you don’t know what I mean already, then you’ll see!
Follow Lindsay on Instagram as she documents the life of a professional endurance athlete!