Managing Your Off-Season For A More Successful Upcoming Fitness Year
With the fitness season closing many bodybuilders, fitness competitors and body athletes find themselves in their “off season”. I find the “Off-season” is one of the most difficult times for competitors. When not regimented on a diet or a show many fitness athletes are just plain lost.
“What do I do with my body?” They ask themselves
“Do I get leaner?” “Do I bulk up?” “How do I balance normal life now?” These are all questions that a lot of competitors have in their off season. Today I want to try and shed some like on how to handle an offseason and how to make it work for future competitions.
What Type of Competitor Are You, Type A or Type B?
One of the first things someone who competes in fitness shows has to ask themselves is “What type of competitor am I?” Once the person asks themselves this and can give themselves an honest answer it will make things a lot easier on themselves. While a lot of people compete, not everyone lives a competitor’s lifestyle year round. With that being said, what type of competitor are you?
If you are a Type A competitor you understand competition and what truly needs to go into it. Type A competitors understand that to compete, not everyone is gonna win, not everyone deserves to win, they rarely complain about the weights they have to lift, the the repetitive meals they have to eat, or the amount of cardio they may have to do. Type A’s also understand there is no “off season” what they do is their lifestyle so little changes for them in the “off season”.
If you are a Type B competitor you understand competition and enjoy it but are less likely to make certain sacrifices in the pursuit of fitness competition. For the Type B competitor, off season can also be more difficult as staying regimented. They tend to struggle with training and diet a lot more when there is not a show to prepare for.
If you are a Type B, one of the best things you can do in the off season is to take a “This fitness thing is my lifestyle now…” approach to things. For the Type B, understand the more you allow yourself to get out of shape in the off season, the less likely you will be able to come in the same shape or better for an upcoming show. If you start at a point but move backwards three or more steps, you will have to apply more effort to get back to your starting point. The whole two steps back one step forward approach will eventually make it impossible to progress the way they should.
A Time of Creation
What all types should do is use their off seasons as a time of creation. The off season is the time to improve and develop. If you want to get better as a competitor, you have to approach the off season as if there is no off season. Look at your off season as a different phase of your training. This is the best time to add more muscle and bring up lagging body parts. During contest prep an individual is limited to the amount of muscle they can build based on caloric restriction and the rigors of cardio and prep. During off season there are no such restrictions so individuals can eat more, train harder, and have more energy. Don’t use this time to slack off but as a time to grow. If you are really focused on getting better from show season to show season don’t take more than a couple weeks off. Use your off season to focus on your training, nutrition, and balancing social life.
A few off season guidelines would be:
Training intensity and volume should be higher during an off season. Calorie restrictions should be a lot less during the off season, so there should be more energy for heavier muscle building training. Focus on more muscle building and a lot less cardio during off season. I do recommend continuing to do some cardio off season just for conditioning and heart health. Your training intensity and strength will have a direct relation to your off season nutrition.
Nutrition is a very tricky one with a lot of competitors during off season. They either try to eat too much or don’t pay close enough attention to what they eat. These two things I find are the biggest nutritional problems during the off-season. First and foremost, if you are a competitor or want to call yourself a competitor you need to pay attention to your diet and what you’re consuming. Occasional treats are okay but you should not be consuming massive amounts of foods that you would not eat during your contest prep. Think of yourself as a sports car, you wouldn’t put premium fuel in your engine half the year and then corn oil in your tank the other half of the year. Try to limit occasional treat to once a week or once every two weeks. The more you consume crappy food, the more the body will crave it and the further you will knock yourself away from future competition prep. Eating processed or sugary foods for just a couple of weeks can trigger negative insulin responses and put the pounds on competitors pretty quickly. Stick to a diet that is still based mostly on lean meats, lots of veggies, and complex carbs.
This is also a tricky one because during off season a lot of times competitors have to deal more often with intertwining their lives with the lives of non-competing friends and family. This is especially true during the winter holidays. It is a lot easier to be negatively influenced when there are no shows to prep for. One of the biggest culprits to wreck a competitor’s off season is alcohol. While it’s probably better not to drink at all, I would recommend keeping alcohol consumption to once a month. Alcohol consumption puts a lot of stress on the body and some alcohols are loaded with sugars that will stress a competitor’s liver and mess with their hormone and insulin levels in a negative way. Even if you find yourself consuming alcohol for the winter holidays you could break it up for once a month. All three of the big winter holidays fall in separate months. November would be Thanksgiving, December would be Christmas, and January would be New Year’s. You could consume alcohol once for each holiday and still end up keeping to your once a month. It comes down to learning how to carefully balance “normal” life and competitor life.
Moderation Is Key
Moderation and balance are the keys to successfully getting thru and off season. This should be a mantra in the off season for all types. One of the biggest downfalls of all types of competitors is not understanding, a moderate approach to things. Learning how to balance what you are doing in the off season compared to what you are doing during competition season. While some things would and should change there should not be extreme variances between your competition lifestyle and off season lifestyle.