I love the “off season” – the break that comes following months of regimented training and racing, and before initiating another round of structured workouts with disciplined rest and eating habits. But not everyone shares this excitement; for some, taking time off can be challenging.

  • Fear starts to creep in. I don’t want to lose all the fitness I worked so hard on, so I’d better keep going.
  • Boredom may settle in. I don’t know what to do with this extra time on my hands.
  • The high and excitement from last race is still high. I finished my season on such a strong note; I just want to keep going.

I get that; I’ve been there. But take note: I’m not saying that you should cease working out altogether. Quite the opposite! Instead, I’m suggesting you adjust your mindset for a few weeks or even months, and give both your body and mind a bit of a vacation. Here’s a few suggestions.

Working out should be a sense of “I want” and not “I need” or “I ought to”. Any exercise at this point should be about having fun and being carefree. It should not be done because of a sense of obligation. Reconnect with our inner child and do what you crave.

Explore new types of activities. Always wanted to try indoor rock climbing? Belly dancing? Hockey? Now is the time to do it. Don’t worry about losing fitness. As long as you are doing something active, and no morphing into a couch potato, your body will maintain enough fitness to carry you thru until next season.

 Break away from the gadgets. Challenge yourself and leave your watch, your garmin, your heart rate etc. at home. Just go out and run, bike, swim etc. and simply tune in to what you are experiencing. It’s so easy to be consumed by our gadgets that we forget what exercising should feel like and we lose our ability to self-monitor.

Reconnect with family and friends. Your less-athletic friends and family may have forgotten what you look like. Take advantage of the extra time you have right now, and re-connect with them, share some laughs, and catch up on their lives. Make them the priority.

Give your body some extra TLC. It’s not uncommon for you to experience some form of injury right now, despite your lighter training mode. Think of it this way: our body was in “combat mode” during the high season, but now that you’re done, your body has let down its guard and defenses. Your body is saying “ok, I got you thru to the end of the season, and now I’m giving in. Time to take care of me”. Even if you are not experiencing some form of nagging injury, be proactive and treat yourself to a massage, spend some extra time stretching those tight muscles and catch up on some sleep. Your body will thank you for it.

Avoid the snap. Think of your body like an elastic band. If you are constantly training, the band is constantly stretched and loses its elasticity. Over time, the band gets stretched to the point where it snaps. Prevent this snapping by relieving the tension from time to time.

Conserve your energy. If you’re super motivated to get started again, bottle it up and save it for a few weeks. Avoid the tendency of wanting to jump back into things right away. Although you may think that you are ready, the risk of burnout either mentally or physically is still there. Plus it’s easy for there to be a disconnect between your body and mind – for instance, your high level of motivation can easily mask any lingering fatigue from last season. Instead, direct this energy to somewhere else. Trust that saving this motivation for the upcoming winter months – especially when it’s cold and dark outside – will come in handy!

And let’s face it, who doesn’t love a vacation from time to time?