As a Rudy Project Pro triathlete, Olympian, and mom, Sarah Haskins knows the importance of taking recovery seriously in the off season. Sarah completed her first triathlon in 2003, and went on to become a professional triathlete less than a year later. Since then, her multisport journey has taken her to 37 professional wins, the Olympic Games, and even motherhood. In Sarah’s second article for Rudy Project, she stresses the importance of recovery and suggests fun ways to stay occupied during downtime:
It seems the triathlon race “season” can last all year long these days…if you want it to. With races happening all over the globe, you can compete from January through December. But just because you can race year round, doesn’t necessarily mean you should! I believe that a three month break from racing will ensure a more successful season the following year, as well as longevity in the sport. Most triathletes’ seasons end sometime between September through November, which is perfect timing to enjoy the holiday season and have time to shop for everyone on your Christmas list.
After a long season, it’s important to let your body rest and recover. Not only does racing push your body to its physical limits, but it also pushes you mentally. Racing stimulates your nervous system and taxes your adrenal gland, so a solid break allows your nervous system to recharge and prepare for another year.
Most people question how much time they should take off training. After months of a consistent regime, it can be tough to hang it up for a short time. During the first few days of recovery, the body goes through a training withdrawal, and I feel it’s a good idea to keep the body moving with walks or other forms of activity. Somewhere between one to two weeks without swimming, biking, and running is a good idea to mentally and physically recharge. Personally, I like to take a week off, and then ease back into some light workouts. At minimum, I usually spend another four to five weeks with fun, unstructured workouts that keep my body moving and help with the recovery process. The off season is a great time to participate in the sports you would never do during the race season, just don’t injure yourself in that Thanksgiving football game!
Often, athletes deal with a nagging injury during in the later part of the race season. The off season is a great time to let those injuries heal, but more importantly, get to the root of the problem and figure out why it occurred in the first place. Find a medical professional who can assess you and help you to develop a strength program to avoid those overuse injuries in the upcoming season. Yoga, Pilates, and the gym are great way to strengthen the body and build a solid foundation for the next season.
Nutritional needs also change during the off season. It’s time to put away the gels and PowerBars, as they are not needed with the absence of long and intense workouts. Focus on eating healthy and nutrient dense food; lean protein, fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Eating healthy will also help you to strengthen your immune system and ward off those viruses during cold and flu season. On the other hand, treating yourself during those holiday parties is okay too…everything in moderation is key!
Getting extra sleep, spending more time with those you love, and not stressing about fitting workouts in your schedule are all important aspects during the off season. I like to go out on runs with friends and family, and simply enjoy the process. When training resumes, remember to ease back into it! It’s a long year and no need to rush back to fitness because it will return faster than you expect!
Happy Holidays! -Sarah
To read about how Sarah manages training and racing with a toddler, click here.
About Sarah Haskins:
Professional Triathlete, Olympian and Mom.
Follow me: @sarahhaskinstri and www.sarahhaskins.com