It’s that time of year! The time where many athletes, especially those living in colder climates where snow is looming (or already on the ground) and where it’s dark by 4:00 pm, find themselves in the midst of a funk. You had some time off already following your main race (at least I hope you did!) and you’re trying to find a groove. But you miss your routine and feeling fit!
Take one of our IRACELIKEAGIRL athletes who I was talking to the other day. She shared that since finishing her season and taking some time off, she’s had really a hard time getting back into the swing of things.
“Getting up at 5:00 am to work out used to be no problem, now getting out of bed at any time is exhausting,” she shared. “My body feels like crap and I have almost no motivation to do anything… starting every work out is a struggle.”
The off-season funk: Feeling unmotivated to train yet craving the routine and the strength of being fit again. Putting on the stretchy pants you had in your closet. Wanting your bed more than the 5:00 am alarm.
So… is it “normal” to be feeling an off-season funk? The short answer: yes, and it’s totally fine.
Let’s talk about the off-season. Typically taking a standard 1-3 weeks to let your body heal up, rest and enjoy not moving is taken following your last race of a season. If you haven’t done this, consider taking 1-2 weeks of nothing. It’s a recharge time, in all aspects. It’s difficult for some, but once you hit that reset button it gets easier.
While time off is necessary, there’s one little issue it can cause for athletes. And that’s lost momentum. As they say, an object in motion, stays in motion. Once at a stop, well… we sit like rocks. It’s very hard to find the momentum to start going again. THAT’S where the off-season funk can start. Of course, this time of year doesn’t help! The cold weather, the shorter days, the busier schedules… motivation is hard to come by even on a good day!
So just know this: You’re not alone. Many athletes find they feel more tired and sluggish during the winter. The lack of sun and shorter days can disrupt your sleep and cause you to feel lethargic, low-energy, or just all-in- all drained.
So how do we break it? The short answer is this: we don’t! Let the energy and motivation come back naturally. Forcing yourself to do workouts and do something you hate in the moment is simply not the way to get that energy and vitality back. If anything, it could leave you worse off.
The better option is to create an environment that is less structured and find a balance until you start to find your spark again. This “away time” from the standard swim/bike/run provides you a mental recharge and takes the pressure off. Instead of getting angry at yourself or thinking negatively about yourself because you lack motivation, be OK with skipping a planned workout or cutting it short during this time of year.
I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty damn sure it’s in our DNA to want hibernate, fat up and rest. The rest of the land mammals on this planet put on that extra layer.
Be okay with gaining a few pounds. Focus on strength. With the extra weight, less time working out, my focus turns to strength. Triathlon is a strength sport just as much as it is an endurance one. The off season is the best time to build on this. Hit the weights more frequently!
Most importantly, let your energy physical, mental and emotional, come back to you naturally. You’ll be fighting a losing battle if you keep trying to force it. It will come. Afraid it won’t? Why? The answer to that question might be your golden ticket in determining what’s really creating part of this off-season funk.
Be kind to yourself this holiday season. Trust the process. You’ll enjoy it way more!
Professional Triathlete and Founder of RACE LIKE A GIRL