Monday, November 9, 2009

Off Season = Play Season

It's about that time for many of us. The end of the season is here or is right around the corner. In Austin, the end of the season never seems "finite" as it is not marked by the start of ski season as it was in Colorado. Here, many people take the "off-season" to train running or even to focus on a marathon. It's a great shift of focus, but not quite the same as truly taking some downtime and maintaining fitness by getting away from the swimming, cycling and running routine. That being said, I think it is so important to do something different during the off-season. Break from the routine. Explore some other activities. Back in 2006, when we moved to Austin, I got into climbing. Derick bought me some climbing shoes, a harness and all the basics that I needed. I got a local gym membership and for a month, I spent my evenings scrambling around the rocks, looking for the biggest holds and feeling pretty cool (until I realized there were 'real' climbers there who actually knew what they were doing). I finally got outside on real rock with our friend John a few months later, and boy did I suck. I recall getting to one spot and just standing there, trying to reach up for another hold with my leg quivering. To my credit, it was wet and very slippery so maybe I did not suck that bad, but it was pretty humbling. I guess the gym fooled me into believing I actually knew what I was doing. I was also doing some Bikram Yoga at the time, and I simply noticed that my body felt different (read: lean, dehydrated, water-loss- lighter). But, it was kind of cool to take a month or two in the winter here to explore some other activities. I was still running, cycling and swimming but much less and really just enough to make me feel good. You know, sane amounts of exercise.

Last winter, Derick and I got into mountain biking. Well, I got into mountain biking. Kind of. We ventured over to Jack and Adams, and they helped set me up with a beautiful, fancy and very bouncy Felt Virtue (2? 3?) full-suspension mountain bike. We took it out to Reimers Ranch a few times, about 45 minutes west of Austin, and we cruised around the endless trails. The terrain was perfect for a beginner like me (not like Intemann Trail in Colorado Springs that Derick took me on my first time on a mountain bike, when we were both carrying them the first 10 minutes because it was so technical, and I popped over my handlebars soon after, which yes, resulted in me... crying...) and we even went back a few times throughout the winter. Enough to get use out of my expensive bike? Of course not; but that is what THIS off-season is for!

Another thing I am going to explore in the coming weeks is Pilates, as in full on pilates classes with an instuctor and the 'machines'. I have done a handful of mat classes (to any Austin-ites out there, RAMSAY at PURE AUSTIN kicks ass for basic mat classes) but with my scoliosis, I tend to have frequent upper back pain which feels better upon doing solid regular core work. Pilates seems to go far beyond 'core work' in that it engages very deep muscles and seems to work entirely around posture and alignment.

So, you ask yourself, what can I DO in the off season? If you are blessed to have mountains within driving distance, SKI! Downhill, cross-country, whatever suites you most. Be careful, but realize that if you plan to be a triathlete for the next 10-20 years like many of us do, do you really want to never experience alpine skiing for fear of an injury? Not me. Again, just be smart, know your limits. If you happen to be in a mountain-less state as we are in Austin, get creative. Thus far I have experimented with climbing (albeit in a gym), Bikram Yoga classes, mountain biking and soon to come, Pilates. But remember, you do not have to completely ignore the basic 3 sports. I did train for my first ever marathon in the winter of 2007-2008, and as long as you can stay healthy in the off-season, this can be a nice change of pace while allowing you to maintain incredible fitness (or rather improve your fitness) while also training significantly less (time-wise).

Whatever you do, get away from your regular routine, relax a bit more and realize that when you do kick off your training for a goal event, the season is long. So even during the season, allow yourself some slack sometimes. Consistency is the key to improving but balance is the key to living!