Okay, I know it's not time for off-season training just yet but I've been inspired to write about it because I recently realized just how important it is.
It was last fall when I began training with my amazing coach - Laurie Bickart - and she got to see me at my best...right at the end of marathon training! YIKES! At the time I thought I was doing pretty well training on my own. Besides, I had been training on my own since 2002 so why would having a coach be any different? Well, I quickly found out just how different it was...and it was great!
After the marathon, I figured I was done for the triathlon season. I mean, the marathon wasn't even part of my tri plan so, in my mind, I was pretty much done before that. And, in Virginia just how many triathlons am I going to find in the middle of the winter? None. Nada! So, tri training was over.
What happened next threw me for a loop. I signed up for a CompuTrainer class over the winter. At first it wasn't fun for me because I was slower than EVERYONE on the bike. So, I was eating everyone's "virtual dust" all winter long. I went home every day a little bummed about how slow I was but during the workouts I would push it as hard as I possibly could...JUST TO KEEP UP with these speedy folks! I never got fast enough to "pass" them during the workouts but what I didn't realize was that with every workout I was getting stronger and stronger. Of course, my strength didn't show up until I was able to go outside to ride and climb hills that once were extremely hard for me and go distances I had never gone before. My average pace for 20 miles went from about 16 mph to about 19 mph and it all happened because I trained throughout the winter. If I had decided my training was over until the spring I would have been starting all over again and my pace probably would have been closer to 15 mph.
Running was my next big "ah ha" moment. I had always trained through the winter when I trained on my own but training with a coach was very different! Now, no matter what the temperature or weather, I was outside training and getting stronger moment by moment. I know all my improvement in running isn't just from off-season training but getting that extra "push" out the door was very beneficial. There were days it was so cold I could barely stand to be outside but my coach would always remind me that I was strong and this was just helping make me stronger. And, you know what? It did make me stronger. My previous 5k PR was 31:01 and this past July I ran a 5k in 29:08.
My swimming improved over the winter as well. I was able to drop my 100 yd swim time from 2:05 - 2:10 to 1:45 - 1:50. I KNOW my swim time would have suffered at the beginning of race season had I not trained throughout the winter. I notice a difference in my time if I don't swim for a week or two. I lose the endurance and the ability to breathe correctly! LOL
I don't say all of this to brag about my improvements because I surely have a long way to go but I mention this all to say how important I feel off-season training is. Ditch that name - it's "off-season RACING" I'm not racing during the winter but I sure am training. And, I feel by continuing on this path of training (when some athletes decide it's time to rest) puts me at a much bigger advantage for my next racing season!
This winter my focus is going to be about getting stronger. My coach leads some Crossfit/strength training classes and I need to push myself to be at every one of them. When I was routinely going to these classes I noticed a really good change happening to my body but, because my schedule has been conflicting with the classes recently I've had to miss many of them and my body sure does show it! So, Crossfit classes, Computrainer classes, swimming 2x/week like I have been, and running in the freezing cold weather will be on my agenda for this coming winter. And I'm hoping the improvements I make this year will be just as big as the ones I made last year because now I am "gently" being "guided" to never register in the Athena division again so Age Group here I come!!!