Weight Management After the Winter

During the course of a training cycle or in between cycles many of us non-professional athletes gain weight.  My racing season typically is from April – September.  I feel comfortable racing during this time and training in the beautiful southern California sun.  This leaves winter as my “off season.”  Off season for many means alternative sports or more down time.  This year my off season was marathon eating.  November and December saw my weight jump from my yearly average of 173.3 lbs to 193 lbs.

The gain in weight corresponded not only to “off season” but also to law school finals.  Luckily, I eased back into training habits and am almost back to my yearly average (which I hope to be under for racing in April); but here are a few strategies I used to allow the weight gain not get depressed about it.

  • Let your body heal
Many of us just don’t know how to take a hint.  Pushing our bodies to the brink of injury and when injured all we can think about is doing it to ourselves over and over again.  I DNF’d (link) at the Headlands 100 this year at Tennessee Valley Aid Station (mile 54).  I felt a snap in my ankle and immediately went into panic about my fitness future.  What if my achilles is gone?  What if its broken?  Why did I not let it heal when it first flared up?
You see I knew I had an ankle issue; for months my tendon knots made a nice little silver dollar size clump.  My runs building to Headlands included a “warm-up” not for prudence but to allow my ankle to get full range of motion once it warmed up.  The result, a completely avoidable injury.  Luckily the snap was only the knot finally loosening up; it only took 10,000 ft of elevation gain/loss in the Marin Headlands to do it !

  • Invest in the things you divested during the season
Personally, I have a hard time “zoning out.”  I just cannot do it to save my life.  But, what I can do is gain a trance like focus when exercising.  Because most of the season is spent training the “focus” I achieve is at the detriment of those closest to me.  I start spending less time with friends and family.  The relationships stress are “incidental costs” of endurance sports.   
Even though they are not out there with us and are happy for our accomplishments they miss us.  For example, my mother read “Born to Run” in spanish during my first Headlands 100 (blog) because she was so worried that she did it to understand what the heck goes through my head during a 100 miler.  Invest the off season in making them feel appreciated for all the things they do during the season that keep us on our bikes and in our shoes.

  • Truly make it an off season
For reals.  Just take time off for yourself.  “Off season” does not mean that you go and hike everest of that you suddenly do triathlons instead of ultra marathons.  All of us have that friend who PR’s every distance, qualified for Boston, etc, etc…then burned out.  Don’t lose the love for the sport or the active lifestyle just because you fail at moderation.  
Endurance sports are tough enough and never knowing when to relax really dulls the purpose of them.  I am a non-professional endurance athlete because I hope to have a healthy future and live longer and stronger because of it, but if I never teach myself how to ease off the gas mine will be the same fate of poorly run NASCAR teams.  They run an engine until it gives everything and there is nothing left for the return trip.

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