In the off season

My bad tan lines have faded (my burn line is still there), my black toenail has fallen off, and my pants are mighty snug.

It has been eight weeks since Ironman Canada and I think I’ve mastered the recovery period…maybe a little too well.

I took a week completely off exercise, other than a little walking and fun activities. I took two weeks off running. I travelled a little. I indulged a lot.


Classic Beignet from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans

Overall it has been fantastic.

Don’t get me wrong: I feel a constant yearning for long training weekends, exhausted legs, and a full Garmin Connect calendar. (Dramatic, yes, but also true!)

But after a physically and mentally taxing few months a recovery period is important.

Here are my top four recovery/off-season tips:

Give yourself a break. Take time totally off of training, be it a week or two. Catch up with family and friends you have most likely neglected. Take care of the yard work you’ve ignored. Sleep in!

I read after Mirinda Carfrae’s first Kona win she took two weeks completely off, another two weeks easy, then eased into training. If pros take time off, shouldn’t every day athletes afford their bodies the same respect?

Mix it up. Once you’ve enjoyed some time off, challenge yourself. I don’t mean challenge yourself in the same activities you normally do. Try something different and try an unstructured training plan.


I love to mix it up in the off-season. I cyclo-cross and/or mountain bike, cross-country ski, snowshoe, and even tried rock climbing last year. It’s fun and it makes those runs and bikes much more enjoyable when you’ve had some time away.


Get stronger. Hit the weights (without a fear of bulking up). Run and ride short and fast to boost your lactate threshold and power output.

I’m trying out increased strength training and some speed. I hope to reap the benefits come spring!

Don’t worry. If you gain a few pounds, you’ll lose it. If you feel like you’ll never be where you were before, you’ll get it back.

Don’t let fear get the better of you and try to maintain peak fitness into spring. By summer your body will be begging for a break. I’ve been there and it isn’t fun to feel trashed when you should be in top form!

How do you do with recovery and off-season? Do you take one?

50 responses to “In the off season

  1. Glad you’re enjoying your recovery!! Sounds like just what you needed!

  2. Recovery sounds wonderful and ugh, that beignet.. don’t even get me started! I don’t have an off season…but that’s also because I don’t train as hard as you 😀 Maybe one day. I think you have the “balance” down in terms of training and relaxing.. I feel like there are so many people out there who never really master that and are so caught up in their routine – wahoo!

  3. Great post Abby! I think many people could benefit from rest and recovery time, and realise that it actually helps you out in the long run.
    I’ve never been intense enough in my running to take an off-season until this year. After 10 races, (the last one in November), I plan to take a week off of running completely. We’ll hopefully get out to do some downhill skiing this winter, and are already planning a ski trip to the Italian Alps in April. My friends are trying to get me to do body combat with them, maybe I’ll give it a go.

    • Ten races is a pretty amazing year! Do they have good skiing in Scotland, or do you always go elsewhere?

      • Scotland usually has quite poor ski conditions: icy patches (which are actually considered good here!), and snow thick like sand. This past winter, however, we’ve had an unusual amount of snow, and conditions were compared to the alps! Generally, people will ski here too loosen up the legs and get ready for a big ski trip somewhere in the Alps or North America. The ski areas here (wouldn’t even go so far to call them ‘resorts’), are more beginner to intermediate, and much smaller than anything I’ve skied in the Rockies.

  4. Agreed! I think taking a break afterwards is so important, but unfortunately too many of my friends do not and I can tell it hurts them down the road – either their race performance, or by injury. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Love this! Such great advice! I’m looking forward to some serious R&R after the Richmond Marathon. Planning to take some time completely off, work on strength (I couldn’t do a pull-up to save my life right now), and mix it up with some cross-training. Maybe I’ll get my bike fixed so I can watch movies on the trainer. I also have plans to treat myself to a 90-minute full body massage. Can’t wait!!

  6. Excellent post! I’ve been in recovery mode for almost 2 weeks now… and I think you just convinced me that the remaining time can be quite beneficial for me. Thank you! Your words were much needed 🙂

  7. Sophie @ life's philosophie

    I needed to read this! I’m already a bit panicked about taking time off post- MCM marathon… but I’m seriously looking forward to getting strong again! Where did my abs go?? My plan right now is to take off 2 weeks from running…we will see how successful I am with that.

  8. I only run half marathons (pennies compared to your races) but I TRY to take a few days, if not a week off after I complete a race. I wasn’t successful with that this time though, I did run a few days after, but only 3 miles! HA! I am trying to find other activities to spice up my life!

    • Make no mistake, half marathons and the training leading up to it are still hard on your body! Didn’t you fall in love with spin last winter? Maybe that can be one of your other activities!

  9. I’m with you–I do a lot of fun things to stay fit but don’t work with a schedule. I include the inside stuff I don’t do in the summer: spin, boot camp, yoga. Enjoy the off season! 🙂

    • That’s awesome! Do you generally take yoga class, or do it at home? Enjoy your off season, too!

      • I do a little at home–but I actually prefer to do a class because then I’m intense and focused for that hour or so. I don’t do it as often as I used to so it’s a real treat, (I’ve been practicing for gulp–17 years!) I’m headed to the yoga mecca of Costa Rica in a few weeks (Nosara) so I may end up with a daily dose quite soon! 🙂

      • Have a fantastic trip! I hope you write about it, or at least post a few pictures!

  10. So glad that not only are you taking time off but also enjoying it and trying new things! I love your off season tips. Since I rarely officially train for anything, I just try to listen to my body – when I start to feel really burnt out with everything, I take a little break.

  11. Your recovery sounds great. I can’t wait to hear what your next plans are!!
    I feel like this has been a pretty good recovery season. Yes I have been running—because I wanted to work on running(because it is my weakness). Not swimming or biking much. I am eager to get into some sort of structure because I feel lazy. I do love sleeping in!! That is my favorite thing about the off season.

    • I am SO up in the air about my next plans! Is your focus going to be Whistler?
      Ha ha- I love that your recovery season has included many races AND a marathon AND that you feel lazy!

      • OHHH we are thinking about doing the Victoria 1/2IM in June…maybe you should think about it!!?? 🙂
        Yes Whistler and then NYC marathon will be my 2 focus’ next year.

      • Tempting, but I’m retired from tris for a few years at least!! I miss running, and want to get into trail races!
        That sounds like a really exciting year! I’m so jealous you’re doing NYC!
        Did you book a room yet for Whistler?

      • What?! No tris for a couple of years????? 🙂 I keep saying I need a year off and then someone talks me into something!! 🙂
        Yes! We booked a place right in the village. So excited to be close to all the action!!!

      • I know! I’m trying really hard to stand my ground this year and not sign up for one 🙂
        That’s awesome you got a place in the village. It’s so close to everything!

  12. I am a big fan of doing recovery like this! I think we all need a little deconditioning at the end of the season in order to really get back our drive and to get back to top shape again. Good for you for taking the time–it will pay off next spring/summer.

  13. Thank you for this! I woke up today and felt a little lost without a run scheduled. I need to remind myself to take it easy on the running for the next few weeks.

  14. I definitely think R&R is so important and I’m glad you are taking plenty after the crazy year you’ve had! I’m coming off nearly 6 months of downtime and now it’s time for me to ramp up my training (just in time for winter…)!

    • It’s hard to believe it’s almost been six months for you! I guess it doesn’t seem like that since you stayed so active!
      I’ve been looking for pilates classes around here to try out since you speak so highly of them. Good luck with your ramped up training; I think track dates sound fun!

  15. Its so hard to take time off and recover after a race, but I know it is so important! I try to take a week off from running after a marathon–instead I take a ton of long walks!

  16. I need to show this to Justin! He has his LAST Ironman of 2013 this weekend in Wilmington, NC. I’m hoping he takes the entire winter off! Our bodies weren’t designed for too much stress!

  17. I’m all about R&R and I think you got the science down to a Tee. Enjoy. 🙂

  18. I need to read this out loud to my hubby. It sounds like you’ve perfected the off season recovery!

  19. I just took a month off to do whatever I want, it was great, but it’s back at it starting this weekend for Ironman Los Cabos and I feel rested and ready =)

  20. I heart the off season! And your amazing positive attitude and tips! I am using the off season to get stronger and working with a trainer to really tone up and lose a few extra lb’s.

  21. I am SO with you on this. Lots of rest + indulgence and my pants are a little snugger post IM Canada 🙂 While the downtime has been nice, I’ve really struggled with it, too. Forget taper crazies… the post-race crazies are even worse!

    Great tips for the off-season! I constantly need to remind myself of them 🙂

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