Optimizing your endurance and building adaptability during your “off season”

Winter is a great time to build up your endurance and… your grit. For many a consistent and more reliable life schedule sets in, which, if optimized can only foster and help stick to a good training program.

Whether you are just beginning to think about a winter training program or took a break after a big season, the tips below have helped me have fun while building my endurance, enjoy the outdoors and feel more grounded during this season.

Start with success by starting small

Instead of building out an elaborate training program and going out the gates with a ton of energy, rev up both your physical and emotional engine slowly. When I set goals, I often get really excited and put too much on my plate, especially if it is something that has to do with being physical. In the past, I always hit all my training goals for the first one or two weeks, but then eventually I would miss a training because of sickness, work or injury and I would get really down on myself. While this is still a constant lesson for me, I am getting better. For example starting out with three set training days instead of 6 days has helped me feel good about hitting my goals and if I have time to fit in any extra, they feel like bonuses!

Making it a habit

If you struggle with getting out the door, especially if you live somewhere where it is cold and dark (like AK where I grew up!), try setting a simple goal to get outside everyday around the same time. Some days it may look like a thirty minute walk around the neighborhood and other days it may be an hour run. For many of us the absolute hardest thing is getting out the door. I saw it with myself when I was pregnant (when I could have easily laid on the couch all day!) and I see it with my five year old every morning while getting ready for Forest School. With in seconds of leaving the door my son is happy to be outside and actually thanks me for getting him going where minutes before we were all in tears. When I was pregnant, It felt like climbing a mountain to even tie my shoes, but then the minute I was walking or running away from my house I was so happy and grateful for my will power and deep need to be outside moving. What helps me get out the door is laying out my clothes, workout snacks (Spring Energy of course!) and water the night before. Once the workout clothes are on and the Spring energy is going down the hatch, my body gets excited and I am on my way.

Build in time for stretching, physical therapy and strength work

Building endurance does not mean only run/ bike/ paddle/ etc. Adding in time for stretching, physical therapy, and strength work is key for helping to stay injury free. I tell athletes and remind myself to think of it as a package. When I am planning to run or bike, I make sure to add in my physical therapy and stretching time to my time for that activity. If I don’t (which happens sometimes) I find myself saying “oh, I’ll do it later”… but we all know that it never happens. Instead I get wrapped up in to playing with my kids or working. For strength training, I set aside a different time in the day to do it that is either on a day I am not doing cardio or is a few hours before or after my cardio work. My strength work is mostly body weight and simple exercises I can do anywhere, this makes it easier for me to commit too.

Recovery is key

For many athletes recovery is an after thought or happens when it is forced on them (like an overuse injury). However, when we add in intentional rest days, especially during an endurance training block, we get stronger. During an active rest day where we drink a ton of water, stretch, go on a light walk and pay attention to our stress levels, our muscles, our emotions and our minds all get a little break which in turn gives us that space to build muscle and excitement to hit our next training day with more energy and stoke. My favorite recovery activities include getting acupuncture, if you live in Bend, go see Dr. Brooke at Aqua Terra Health. She is amazing and loves working on athletes. As far as tools, I love my Marc Pro (use BendRacing for a discount), Air Relax boots and my Sunlighten Infrared Sauna. I use these tools on a daily basis. They are simple to use and work super well.

Make it fun, add in something different

Building endurance can be boring at times. During our “building phase or off season” we always give ourselves a “treat” activity. For us it is usually something that is physical but it doesn’t always have to be. I usually head back to the climbing gym and start skate skiing and backcountry skiing. Both of these also get added into my training program, but they also give me so much joy and are different from what I do during my peak season. Mixing up my training keeps things fresh, inspires me to keep learning new skills and ultimately keeps over use injuries at bay.

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