I follow three building blocks to stay fit during off season: rest, healthy eating, and strength training.
First and foremost, after a full season of hard work, my body has earned several weeks of rest. If I’m injury free at the end of the season, I take two to four weeks off to give my muscles a chance to recover. If I have an injury, I leave it up to my doctor to determine when it is okay to start a training regimen again.
Second, but just as important, is my diet. More often than not, I hear of athletes gaining significant amounts of weight, primarily body fat, during off season due to inactivity and over indulging. When their season rolls around, those athletes will put their bodies through unnecessary stress trying to not only reduce their weight, but also maintaining the amount of energy needed to train. This way of thinking has never made any sense to me. How can you perform to the best of your ability when you have to restrict your calorie intake and weight loss is a concern? This is why I follow a diet that helps me stay in shape during off season. I avoid fast and processed food all together. By eating whole, I can pay attention to my metabolic time clock to tell me when I’m hungry. I can’t say the same about eating fast and processed food due to the lack of fiber and fullness factor. For example, a popular fun size candy bar weighs a bit over half an ounce, but has 80 calories. Compare this to the 8.3 ounces of broccoli I can have for the same amount of calories. The broccoli is obviously going to give me a greater sense of satiety and will help ensure that I don’t overeat throughout the day. I eat my meals every two to three hours during the day, which helps keep my metabolism working. I also like to use food timing. With food timing, I eat my simple carbohydrates (sugar, honey, fruit) and starchy, complex carbohydrates (rice, pasta, oatmeal) early in the day and eat my fibrous, complex carbohydrates (most vegetables) closer to bed.
Third and final, I incorporate a strength training program during off season. Strength is needed to excel in any sport. As a triathlete in the handcycle division, I rely solely on my upper body strength, especially when climbing hills. My strength training program consists of a three-day split. On Monday, I work my chest and triceps. On Wednesday, I focus on my back, biceps, and forearms. On Friday, I work on my shoulders and trapezius muscles. I include swimming, handcycling, and time in my racing wheelchair at a low to moderate intensity level on the days in between and focus more on technique. I prefer to save my high intensity workouts for pre-season and in season training.
Incorporating much needed rest during off season, staying disciplined with my diet, and remaining active without taxing my body helps ensure that I have a successful season when the time comes.