Are You Doing This to Get Over Your Season-End Blues?

The end of triathlon season.  The worst part of the year for a triathlete.  The time when the air starts to get crisp, darkness sets in before supper time, and the wind becomes frigid.  The time when the lakes begin to freeze over, the trails are covered in leaves, and snow begins to dust the highways.  The beginnings of the off season.  The end of structured, multi daily workouts and the start of way too much free time.  Every triathlete knows the struggle of not having a grueling workout to look forward to during the day.  

It is critical to take a break after the race season to heal physically and mentally.  It enables your body to recover and prevent injuries.  All of the repetitive miles logged on your bike and feet takes a toll on your musculoskeletal system.  As well, sticking to a consistent workout schedule is taxing on the brain, as it requires a lot of discipline and self motivation.  Your brain deserves a break too.  

But as all of us triathletes can attest to, a complete break from activity is almost impossible to adhere to.  We just love training to much.  

So why not try something new and exciting!  There are so many fun activities that can be completed in the fall.  Hiking, mountain biking, cross country running.  These activities appease the triathlete’s type A personality and addiction to exercise while being fun and heart pumping.  You can complete these activities for fun with no performance goals, or if you have the uncontrollable urge to race, compete in local competitions.  I am currently spending my triathlon off season competing in cross country.  Here are my favourite things about cross country running.

trail in Hong Kong running hiking.jpg
  1. Exploring new trails 

Cross country involves running on a variety of trails. You can explore windy single tracks, larger grassy ski trails and rocky hills.  Trails can be located in forests with creek crossings and around valleys with sharp drops.  The best part is that most trails have numerous off shoots so it is almost impossible to run the same route twice.  The variety is refreshing and exciting.  

Runner warming up and doing dynamic stretching

2. Building strength

Running up and down hills is exhausting.  Going up requires quad and glute strength.  What people don’t realize is that running downhill also requires eccentric strength.  Eccentric muscle contractions are actually stronger than concentric contractions and require less energy (double bonus).  As well, the rough terrain requires strong foot muscles.  You also have to constantly be focused on maintaining balance - great for your core! 

3. Making New Friends

The best way to discover new trails is to join a running group.  Whether you want to join a competitive group such as a college team or a recreational group is up to you.  Veterans will know all of the good trails and it is always fun suffering up a hill with friends.  

4. Exploring Rural Alberta

There are tons of local cross country races throughout Alberta.  The ACAC Grand Prix series has taken me to Edmonton, Calgary, Grand Prairie, Vermilion, and Camrose.  For the metropolitan areas I was introduced to trails I had never known existed.  For the rural areas, I was able to see communities that I normally would never bother visiting.    

5. Pace Work

Triathlon races are normally pretty comparable.  While the bike courses can vary in their degree of difficulty, most run courses are flat and on pavement.  This allows you to maintain a consistent pace.  Cross country races on grass with twists, turns and fluctuating elevation make keeping a constant pace impossible.  Rather, you have to run based on effort.  It takes skill to determine what pace is needed in order to survive the hills and have a strong finish.  Racing smart and adapting to a variety of race courses builds mental stamina - essential for excelling at any sport.