Navigating the Endurance Off-Season
Winter is fast approaching and that means the endurance calendar is starting to look a little empty. Is an optimal time to start to set yourself up for any races over spring/summer.
I have many clients come to me 4 weeks out from a race freaking out because they are looking for a quick fix. I want to outline why we need to nail our offseasons to optimise peak training times as well as taking your race to that next level.
Preventing burnout and injury
When the event season ends, I know the feeling of “now I have all of this time on my hands to relax” – which is great. But, a reduction in load/exercise is crucial, but stopping all together won’t pay any dividends.
What I often see with many of my new clients, is they finish a season, then take 6 months of doing nothing, then suddenly realise their first race is only 3 months away. They go from 0 to 100, then wonder why they are always fatigued, picking up niggles and constantly have a scratchy throat.
De-load does not mean zero load, it is an opportunity to recover and keep your body up to speed. Try something different (like a strength and stability program to help your running) but it is also an optimal time to dial in your nutrition and recovery strategies, so you can come back the next year in a better space.
Understanding sustainable weight and fat loss
This is the most common thing that I see; we want to lose weight at the same time as increasing performance. It could happen in the early stages of your ‘career’ (ie 1st or 2nd year of competing) but trying to lose weight and optimise performance at the same time is like leaving the handbrake on when you are driving.
I get you may be thinking you are competing in your next marathon as a goal to lose weight, and that is great. But if you want to maximise performance, you need to ensure that you are allocating enough time to your weight loss to ensure there is minimal crossover.
How long is enough time? Based on a 2200-2500 cal/d needs, it will take ~64-72 days of dialling in your nutrition to achieve 3kg of fat loss (based on some number crunching). But let's be realistic, you won't be dialled in every single day.
Sure, you could lose ‘weight’ faster, but I can tell you, you are probably not going to be much of a functioning human being. Bottom line. Please don’t expect to lose 3kg in your peak month, because the stress that it will put on your body will only cause you to burn out and fall apart.
How much time do I need to invest?
We need to change the way we think about this space. Nutrition is not about crunching numbers and sending you away with a food plan. It is about trial and error to optimize the strategy that works best for you.
To start, performance for an event is number 1, and sure you will get some of your greatest gains here. We could write you the perfect race plan, but to optimize this we need to trial it during training. Some people can meet the recommendations straight away, but it is highly advised that we adjust this to suit your personal needs (based on trialling during training).
Secondly, to optimize nutrition for training this is separate from race nutrition as we are focusing on adaptation. Training nutrition is also trying to prevent injury and illness rather than going out and being the best every single training run. Yes, you could do it within the three months where you are trailing your race-day nutrition however that is a lot to learn in a very short amount of time. This is would also be the time that we can potentially pick up any clinical issues, which include (but not limited to) low iron or IBS.
Lastly, as discussed before we also need to allow ourselves time if we are looking to lose weight. This is not advised to do during your heavy training loads or when we are trialling race nutrition. This needs to be addressed much earlier in the piece.
See the picture below to see how long we recommend you will need to nail these three sections for off/in season - of course, this is just a starting point and you may be quicker, or longer.
Your off-season is the perfect time to set new habits. It can take anywhere between 18-254 days (1) to form a habit. They do not form overnight so, use this time to solidify your nutrition understanding – not just what you should be doing, but what works best for you.
That is the key to long term success
If you are after nutrition support, please get in touch via email or connect on our socials.
1. Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C. H., Potts, H. W., & Wardle, J. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European journal of social psychology. 2010; 40(6): 998-1009.