by Kris Pitcher
Recently I was asked, "What is an off season?" While it was a question from someone prepping for their first competition, I thought it was something worth thinking about. It's certainly a topic people think about in a lot of different ways.
For some, it simply means they are not dieting and training for a contest. They aren't specifically doing anything structured, and may even be off the rails elbow deep in chocolate martinis and tapas three nights a week.
For others, off season is a very opportunistic time to make changes in their physique. It's opportunistic because following your dieting and competitive phase, your body is primed to make gains. I've blogged about the chemistry of that.
People are comfortable with different levels of structure during their off season, and depending on the level at which you compete...that may be fine. I've never understood the person who starts working out at the 16 week point when they begin dieting for a contest. I don't get that? Why aren't you lifting all year?
Anyway, my off season is VERY structured. I want to take full advantage of the opportunity to make gains. And making gains takes time. That's why you can't compete month after month, provided you want to look any different. If you just want to look the same, go for it, although your metabolic systems may not be in great shape. That's another story.
I follow a structured diet seven days a week. My diet allows for a cheat meal. This season, we'll play with my macros a bit more than we've done in the past to see how my body reacts. It's a project. A fun project.
Our goal is to put some muscle on me. I've already said goodbye to my competition body. I've been too lean, for too long. I know that's gone. Bye-bye. No abs will be showing. Gone. Adios.
You need to be able to get your head straight during your off season. Adjusting your focus and your goals is critical. I'm fully aware I don't get to keep that contest ready body, and eat more. That would be crazy think.
It will take a solid year to make the changes we want to make in my physique. It. Takes. Time. Then I'll diet down and pick a contest. That's so far out, it's out of my head right now. My job is to rest, eat, and lift, and work, and clean, and cook...oh tangent...
But you get the idea. I need to focus on my off season. I need to put in the work to make my goals happen. Keeping my head straight as the competitors around me are getting all cut and lean, getting up on stage and bringing home the hardware will be my job. That's not where I am. I am in a different place. (A place where no skin will be showing, and where my cheeks will be full.)
You can think of time as a big circle. You may be prepping for a contest, you may be in off season, or you may be taking a short break from all of it where you aren't concerned about anything. But you can't be dieting all the time. You need to take time off, an off season, to make progress. It's when you give your systems a break.
You and your coach, if you have one, should be thinking about your off season BEFORE you hit the stage for your contest. If you don't have a plan for the days following your show, and the weeks after leading into your off season, I'd say you need a new coach - or you need to get a coach.
Knowing what you'll do right after your show will mean the difference between a horrible rebound, and taking advantage of your opportunity to make gains. It's all up to you how you utilize your off season. And what you bring to the stage next season will show all of us just what you decided.