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Is it “normal” to feel an off-season funk?

Angela Naeth: The short answer is yes, and it’s totally fine.

It’s that time of the year — the time where many athletes, especially those living in colder climates, find themselves in the midst of a funk. You’ve had some time off following your main race, and now you’re trying to find a groove, but you miss your routine and feeling fit.

Take one of our “IRACELIKEAGIRL” athletes who I was talking to the other day. She shared that since finishing her season and taking some time off, she’s had a really hard time getting back into the swing of things.

Angela Naeth racing at the 2018 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

“Getting up at 5:00 AM to workout used to be no problem, now getting out of bed at any time is exhausting,” she shared. “My body feels like crap, and I have almost no motivation to do anything… starting every workout is a struggle.”

The off-season funk: Feeling unmotivated to train, yet craving routine and the strength of being fit again. Putting on the stretchy pants you have in your closet and wanting your bed more than the 5:00 AM alarm, all are symptoms of an off-season funk.

5 AM alarms aren’t as appealing as they once were.

So, is it “normal” to be feeling this way? The short answer is yes, and it’s totally fine.

Taking time off

Let’s talk about the off-season. Typically, taking a standard 1-3 weeks to let your body heal up and rest is taken following your last race of a season. If you haven’t done this, consider taking 1-2 weeks of nothing. It’s a time to recharge, in all aspects. This may be difficult for some, but once you hit that reset button, it gets easier.

Related: Ten tips for your offseason

While time off is necessary, there’s one little issue it can cause for athletes, and that’s a loss of momentum. As they say, an object in motion stays in motion. Once at a stop, we sit like rocks. It’s very hard to find the momentum to start going again. This is where the off-season funk can start. Of course, the cold weather, shorter days and busier schedules don’t help. Motivation is hard to come by even on a good day.

Doing some other activities in the winter can help you recharge and gain motivation.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many athletes find they feel more tired and sluggish during the winter. The lack of sun and shorter days can disrupt your sleep and cause you to feel lethargic, low-energy, or just all-in-all drained.

Don’t force it

So, how do we break it? The short answer is we don’t. Let the energy and motivation come back naturally. Forcing yourself to do workouts is not the way to get that energy and vitality back. If anything, it could leave you worse off.

The better option is to create an environment that is less structured and find a balance until you start to find your spark again. This “away time” from the standard training sessions provides you with a mental recharge and takes the pressure off. Instead of getting angry or thinking negatively about yourself because you lack motivation, be ok with skipping a planned workout or cutting it short during this time of year.

Related: Six activities for the offseason

I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure it’s in our DNA to want to hibernate and fatten up. The rest of the land mammals on this planet put on that extra layer.

What you can do

Be ok with gaining a few pounds. Focus on strength. With the extra weight and less time working out, my focus turns to strength. Triathlon is a strength sport just as much as it is an endurance one. The offseason is the best time to build on this.

Adding some strength training into your winter routine will help your performance next year.

Related: The strength training you should be doing

Most importantly, let your physical, mental and emotional energy come back to you naturally. You’ll be fighting a losing battle if you keep trying to force it. Your fitness will come. Afraid it won’t? Why? The answer to that question might be your golden ticket in determining what’s really creating part of this off-season funk.

Be kind to yourself this holiday season. Trust the process. You’ll enjoy it way more.

Angela Naeth is a Canadian professional triathlete with multiple sub-9-hour Ironman performances and 30+ podiums at the 70.3 and Ironman distances. Recently, Naeth finished eighth at the 2018 Ironman Worl Championship. She has also created a women’s triathlon/cycling community in 2017, IRACELIKEAGIRL. Growing in numbers, IRACELIKEAGIRL gives Naeth the ability to support others in the sport of triathlon.