It's the off-season, well for most of us it is, so what to do now? If you are working with a coach, this is the time to review your past training and racing season and begin developing goals for the next. The optimal time to set your vision and determine your focus for the upcoming events you have targeted is before your season begins.
What is the best way to do this? All too often I see athletes fall into the "I just need to train harder" mode. If I only put in more time on the bike..... I need to do more long runs...... etc, etc. This type of focus dismisses all the other elements essential to progress. Placing almost all of the focus on ENDURANCE (i.e. volume, hours spent in the saddle, time on the feet) chucks recovery, nutrition and functional strength along the roadside. One of the athletes I coach recently asked me how to not become burned out with training as he is wrapping his brain around training for his first Ironman.
My advice it to work with your coach to construct a roadmap for your success that is BALANCED and PROGRESSIVE. The goal of training sessions should be specifically planned to impose enough stress to elicit a physiological adaptation in the form of strength, power and fitness. A balanced approach which includes variation and recovery will facilitate the development of each of these elements. For instance, ignoring muscle mass and strength endurance development will translate to reduced power which can effect your race time. And, quite honestly, causing you to feel like absolute crap in the process. Finding the right recipe will take time so exercise some patience. The goal is to stay healthy, motivated and injury-free. Placing your sole focus on "training harder" is a sure way to set yourself up for fatigue, burnout and/or injury. Seek to create a balanced, specific approach to training while taking time for fellowship and fun along the way. Because really, if you're not having fun, why bother!