i think the off season is a huge benefit to an athlete. yes, you have to let your aerobic fitness go and yes your swim splits may not be as fast. all of us who do swim, bike, run day in and day out need both a physical and mental break from the sport.
our bodies respond to less structure, less volume, less quality in a positive way. the break from our routines allow for other types of exercise: yoga, weight lifting, hiking, group classes, etc. we will maintain some fitness but mostly you are letting your body recover. all of the nagging little injuries subside. the shorts tan line, aka sun damage, fades. the smell of chlorine does not take over 24-7. you get to regain muscular strength you may have let go in the height of the racing season.
mentally a break from triathlon is huge! it let's your mind get out of the 'i need to do this now to get more fit' and allows you to reflect on what you did do in the past season. pick out the positives- what worked for the season: did you learn about what nutrition works? did you learn how to even split the bike course? look at the things that did not work and how to change them. look up new races or new goals for next season. write everything down so that when you get in the middle of next season you can look back and say 'oh thats what i need to do/to change.'
the extra hours you gain in the week from not swimbikerunning is also a big deal! yard work,chores, family time, trips, photo albums, other sports, art projects, volunteering, other hobbies... all of the things we put to the side in the season come out full force with a break. you are not riding 4 hours this weekend- you have extra time to put other things as a priority on the 'to do' list. its amazing to step back and see how much time workouts usually take. take the time for others to volunteer or give back. maybe go to a local run race and be on the other side and help those who helped at all of your races.
most importantly the balance in your triathlon life comes full circle here. its time to enjoy going out late with friends, maybe have a little too much wine and letting the hard work from the 9 months of constant training pay off. your fitness will come back! the base of aerobic work from the previous season and your experience in racing will allow you to come back stronger physically. you will also be mentally refreshed and focused when the new season rolls around making you stronger mentally.
cheers to your off season! mine is just around the corner!
to your health,