Somehow it is already almost December, and all your big races are complete for the year (unless you are getting ready for some very late season race) and you, hopefully, are preparing to settle into some holiday relaxation and festivities.
This time of the year is a transitional period as athletes move from the hard and very disciplined work of training for their A races and into a less formal, more relaxed time of the year so their bodies and minds can recover from all that hard work. It can make an athlete crazy to have to back off training, but it is this rest period and an actual planned loss of fitness that will allow endurance athletes to build back up and become even stronger next year. So don’t be tempted to train hard, but rather go do all the fun stuff you have not had time for as you were training for your A race/s. Take a month off dedicated endurance training and just go play with your friends- hell, maybe you could even go out without your Garmin! Try something different- mountain bike instead of road bike, go indoor climbing, take off for a hike in the woods, or a paddle on the intracoastal- PLAY!
And after a little time off, think about which athletic accomplishment/s you are most proud of this year: a PR, a first time at a new distance, a higher FTP, staying positive and focused as you recovered from an injury, and/or beating your demons in the pool, bike or run?
Next, think about what you learned this season: did you figure out a new way to train that was more effective? Were you able to stay more positive during a race by incorporating the mental skill training you had practiced? Did you realize that your nutritional strategy was undermining your training or supporting it? Fill in the blank here for something you learned.
Lastly, as you look back at your training logs and race results, do they give you some insight into what needs work and more focus for next year? What do you think your strengths and weaknesses are as they apply to your target races for 2016? If you were working with a coach this year, what did you find helpful? What were you not so keen on? Communicate with your coach and let them know how you think you both could be more effective (ideally, you will have been doing this all season!). Did you give you coach all the pertinent info (as workout files only gives us one part of the story)?
As you look ahead to next year, chose races that allow you to utilize your strengths and give you motivation to work on your weaknesses so that you become a more well rounded and satisfied athlete. Make sure you figure holidays and work stress/load into your planning so that you can train the way you want to without becoming frustrated. Training and racing do not exist in a vacuum and we need to take into account all else we have going on in our lives (especially if we don’t want to totally fry our loved ones) so that we can train smart, stay healthy and race happy and strong.
Have a super holiday season,