Does off-season mean we hibernate and curl up in a comatose state on the couch with a bag of chips? Maybe not.Off-season provides an invaluable opportunity to give yourself a mental and physical hall pass from single sport focus structure. It is the time to step back and enjoy the opportunity of mental and physical variety. I like to think of it as, waking up and doing what sounds fun vs feeling obligated to a structured run or ride.
Take a Fall Hike
But in my experience as an athlete and coach, I have realized that off-season provides a valuable opportunity to improve endurance-related metabolism and movement. It is the time of year to prioritize improving the body’s ability to efficiently tap in to existing energy stores (ie fats). It is also the ideal time of year to capitalize on improving our functional movement and strength, so with this foundation in place we ride and run with more unthinking fluid, efficiency and power.
Metabolic Efficiency Testing to capture the individual’s optimal fat burning zone
Off season is the optimal time to couple endurance base training with a more carb restrictive diet to extend our body’s ability to more efficiently metabolize existing fat stores, and train this metabolic efficiency at higher intensities. Replacing calories expended during endurance pursuits with calories in, is not a realistic, but we can train our body to better utilize its infinite existing energy stores (fat). This is applicable for every endurance athlete, of every distance and discipline.
Movement Prep to activate the nervous system
We can also capitalize on the off-season to improve our ability to better control and coordinate our movements as well as boost functional strength. This change of mental focus from single sport specific structure to a more activation-mobility-stability and strength focus, provides invaluable mental and physical variety. But it’s not variety for the sake of variety. In my experience this off-season focus and investment is the secret weapon to in-season performance.
Activation exercises held statically at the end of range
The first-step in developing improved movement and functional strength is improving the brain to muscle communication. This is achieved with a series of research derived and lab tested activation exercises. I need to be able to feel the muscles, before I can strengthen and recruit the muscles in a movement. These exercises are focused on kicking the under-utilized glute muscles, in to action. If I can get the most powerful muscles in the body generating power – that will result in a significant performance gain. Improving glute-recruitment is also a key to injury prevention, as properly firing glutes (and a functionally stable trunk) dictate the hip-knee-toe alignment.
Stretching consistently included in stability-strength circuits
During off-season we can prioritize improving global mobility (not fixating on the single troublesome body part, ie tight hamstring) to move our body as a harmonious unit. Mobility provides appropriate sensory feedback, and biomechanical alignment. For example, most of us due to sedentary lifestyles sitting in cars and at computers are in a constant state of flexion, resulting in tight adductors and internal rotators, which internally rotate the leg, contributing to mal-aligned hip, knee and toe. Counter this constant flexion with a global, consistent mobility practice.
Learn to move well
Improved mobility for improved alignment is just one piece, we also need to ensure proper recruitment and strength from the stabilizers. By investing time in the off-season with an effective stability-focused program, you will develop muscles that create the foundational, stable platform for the prime movers to direct the force and power in the intended direction.
So what’s the point? We have the tools to help you capitalize and maximize your off-season. It is attention to theseoff-season details that will set your functional foundation in place, and you will reap in-season rewards of injury prevention and improved performance.