As the year wraps up and the calendar is filled with holiday parties rather than races, it’s a great time to remind ourselves of the importance of the offseason for athletes. As an athlete, I’ll admit, the offseason can be…strange bordering on stressful. If it feels weird not to have a high training load and you’re itching to train a lot during the offseason, read on.
There are several compelling reasons to dial back and give yourself time off, even if you have the ability to train year-round. Here are 4 reasons to love (okay, tolerate) the offseason for athletes.
Even if you love training and use it to destress, your body still perceives training as a stressor. Exercise stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which activates adrenaline, epinephrine, and cortisol among other things. Elevated cortisol levels can be hard on your body and even hinder recovery. Therefore a lower training load or even a few weeks of no training can do a body good by allowing cortisol levels to drop.
It seems very weird to not do anything, so in the offseason explore new modalities of taking care of your body. Spend more time stretching (which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system AKA rest and relax state), try a yoga video or class, or a new class at your local gym.
At Athlete Blood Test we see a fair amount of elevated cortisol levels with higher training loads, so do your body a favor and take a break to let your body relax.
Build up nutrient stores
With a high training load, you are constantly drawing on nutrient stores. Over a season it’s common to see nutrient levels drop, sometimes even with supplementation. Take iron, for example, you use iron to carry oxygen to your muscles so every time you train or race, there goes iron! It’s hard to keep up with demands, much less build up nutrient stores.
During the offseason for athletes, your body doesn’t have the drain of training on nutrient stores so you can get levels up into the optimal range and start next season well equipped. Nutrient levels will help determine proper supplementation dosage and frequency along with food suggestions to help you achieve your best.
Let niggling injuries heal
It’s rare to find an athlete who doesn’t have something going on, even if it’s minor. Ample off time can allow tissue, especially tendons and ligaments to properly heal without constant irritation of training. The offseason is also a time when you can try a new activity that uses your body in a different way so as to allow repetitive injuries to heal. You’re a runner? Take a cycling class? Triathlete? Try that yoga class you’ve never had time for. Cyclist? Jump in the pool for some swim time.
Reconnect with people & other things in life
Being an athlete has many perks, but ample free time is not one of them. It’s time-consuming and that means taking time away from friends and family or other hobbies. Use the offseason to reconnect with people you haven’t made time for, they’ll appreciate it.
Get your baseline blood testing during the offseason.
So you are ready to get back to full beast mode. Hold on one second. Before going into 100-mile weeks, get your blood tested to see where your levels are when you are rested. You can key off these levels and make adjustments during your training cycle. Monitor your changes by checking your blood levels about 3 or 4 months into your training phase. Check out more about blood testing in the offseason here.
I hope you can find the joy in the offseason. The truth is, it’s what you make it. It can be stressful because you aren’t training and don’t know what to do with yourself, or it can be a great time to relax, reconnect, heal and prepare for a great next season.
Dr. A’nna, Chief Research Scienctist at Athlete Blood Test
Dr. A’nna strives to inspire people to optimally fuel their bodies to achieve their best and have a positive impact on the world. She is the only combined Ph.D./RD specializing in sports performance nutrition in the world with all Ivy League degrees and the Chief Research Officer at AthleteBloodTest.
Dr. A’nna aims to cultivate a world of healthy athletes who understand nutrition and know how to leverage their physiology to get the best results in sports and life. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Instagram @drannaroby.