FUEL: Knowing The Importance Of The Off Season


Darren Ho is one of our guest contributors for our sports series, FUEL. He is a triathlete who experienced a transformational weight loss from a peak of 150kg. Since then, he has participated in various triathlons – including the renowned Ironman. Darren has also shared about his experience with ADHD and autism in hopes of ending the stigma attached to mental illness. 

The off season, for me, is probably something I treasure the most. One of the mistakes I made during my tennis days was playing the whole year round – mostly because of the lack of proper advice and also because I didn’t see the need for structured rest.

When it came to triathlons and endurance races, I made the same mistake of training hard for an entire year. This caused quite a few issues for my next season (which just passed in 2017).

While I’ll be speaking more about the importance of rest in one of my next articles, I cannot emphasise how important rest and recovery is for any type of sport.

To be honest, the 2017 season reached a point where I was just glad it was over, and I promised myself never to make the same mistake again.

But the essence of this article is in staying reasonably fit during the off season, and definitely staying motivated to keep competing. Because it is the off season, it would be reckless to head out there and bang out the same mileage or the same intensity of the sessions and risk a burn out.

In fact, I found that enjoying a proper time off has rekindled my passion for the sport – more importantly, in maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle, and to truly enjoy the process.

I always believe that triathletes are a little bit crazier than most and it worries us when we miss a session or in some cases, an entire week without pushing our limits.

That’s in our blood and I can understand the driving force behind it all.

But then again, we are all human and off seasons have become the most important part of my actual race season.

Here’s why.

1. Time To Work On Those Weaknesses

The off season provides us the best opportunity to work on our weaknesses.

Something wrong with your swim technique? Get a coach and work on those kinks. Could be a better runner or cyclist? Time to hit the gym and work on the muscle groups that will improve your resistance to fatigue – without having to worry about a race.

Essentially, the off season allows the athlete to be quite specific about what needs to be improved. A lot of athletes improve the most when utilising their off season properly.

2. Let Go A Little – It’s The Off Season

This means that with no impending races upon us, we can live life a little. Spend time with family (more on this later), enjoy that “cheat” meal and do everything else you love!

For me, I play a lot more tennis during the off season because it reminds me that staying healthy is more than just swimming, biking and running. Hang out with friends and live life!

3. Try Something New

The off season is the best time to try something new!

Never done a mountain bike race in your life? Now’s the time to do it. How about those rollerblading lessons you had to put off because of the endless training sessions during race season? Perfect time to get started!

In short, use the off season to explore new interests that are in line with your healthy lifestyle and break the monotony of training. Your body will thank you for it.

4. Able To Exercise Without Data And Technology

This one is a bit subjective – but for me, the off season is a time when I go out for a run with naked wrists. No GPS tracker or smart watch for data collection and even if I do, I make it a point never to look at the watch during my sessions.

Just being able to move freely – without having to continuously bother about data, pace and timing – is rather liberating.

Most of my workouts during off season are never on Strava and there is a lot less pressure to keep up with a previous personal best (PB) or timing.

Go out and enjoy the scenery during the run, stop for that coffee or small snack on the way back if you want to. It’s the off season!

5. Cherish Your Loved Ones 

Remember those days when you either had to cancel, postpone or cut short an appointment with your family, friends and other loved ones because you were preparing for a race and had to train?

Now would be a good time to repay their kindness and understanding by spending time with them and giving them your attention, because they gave you the space when you needed it most. I spend a lot of time during my off season just being with my wife, parents and friends because it is the right thing to do.

We can’t race forever but certain relationships definitely can stand the test of time. So be there for them just like how they were there for you. Everyone comes out a winner.

One of the most upsetting things for me is seeing athletes take insufficient rest only to get injured or lose motivation halfway through their competitive seasons.

Our bodies are amazing machines and we can cope with an incredible amount of fatigue before throwing in the towel. The issue with this – and with athletes – is that our minds are so tuned to performance and doing well every single day.

Most of us are able to tune out the pain and fatigue until it becomes too late and we burn out completely. When this happens, it usually takes months and in some cases, years before we are able to resume any sort of activity again.

I would know.

It happened to me when I was 24 and took me almost 8 years before I could even bring myself to go out for a jog again. By that time, I was already obese and fought multiple battles on so many fronts.

Give yourself a break during the off season. Your body will thank you for it.