“Hey, Coach, should I do an off-season or keep training at full speed?”

Coaches are often confronted with this question at the end of the season. Pauses in the season are as much a part of training as, for example, the taper phase before a competition. Marc Pschebizin “Mister Inferno” and triple “Coach of the Year” of the Trier region explains why body and mind need a longer recovery period in order to reach new performance levels at full speed afterwards.

Author: Marc Pschebizin

All year round, the focus is on how athletes bring their bodies into ideal top form. As an athlete I try to exercise in a sophisticated and targeted way, to eat optimally, to get enough sleep … You all know the drill. At some point you reach the moment where you would like to let yourself loose. To train in a completely unstructured way and also to push yourself a bit too far. Exactly then you are ready for the “off-season”.

Off-season does not mean doing nothing

I advise my athletes to keep the amount of training to a minimum, especially during this time. The off-season is also great for experimenting with new sports or stimuli. An important focus in this phase, apart from the “training at your whim” principle, is to make new plans for the sporting future. Of course it is important to let sport be sport. But you will certainly notice it within yourselves: after two or maybe three weeks of the “Dolce Vita”, the passion for the next season will spark in you again. The thoughts for your sport come automatically. The Dalai Lama, of whom I am a great fan, sees motivation as the root of every positive and negative human action, and you will feel it more strongly. I have put together a short programme of measures so that you can draw more from your inner (intrinsic) motivation.

Goals clarify the way

Every beginning requires a goal. Therefore it is also the most important condition for our motivation. Because:

No wind blows in favour of a ship without directon.

Philosoph Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C.– 65 A.C.) about the need to set goals in life.

Your goal should be positive. That means it should be realistic, challenging and measurable. In the off-season as a transition period, I as a coach sit down with my athlete and ask her/him to tell me the goals for the coming year with the mission statement: “In which direction do I want to develop? By what means do I want to reach my vision? Where do I see myself in the foreseeable future, in other words, what is my future target condition?” Here, visualisation has always been very helpful to me personally, as has writing all down. AZUM is my wonderful helper for recording the goals and making them tangible for the athletes in their training plans, thereby boosting their motivation (you can find out how to do this here or by talking to the AZUM pros). Writing down has another advantage: I personally stick a note with the goal, for example, on my mirror so that I can see it over and over again (but more about this in my next blog here on AZUM).

Success becomes more tangible with incremental steps

Many start out highly motivated, but simply do not complete. After a short time they lose the desire and motivation to continue. To prevent this, high, strongly challenging goals should always be broken down into sub-goals. Not only does it become more realistic to reach the main goal. The small successes of the incremental goal are also a motivation boost for you. In a survey of Olympic and world champions, it was not those who were exclusively focused on the main goal and or actually counted the prize money before winning who were particularly successful. Rather, those who were successful were those for whom the road to victory was the real goal. That’s why I always develop procedural objectives with my athletes. They guide the focus on the present moment and the task demanded in the here and now. This increases concentration and attention to the essential. With this strategy they remain motivated over a long period of time, which paves the way to the main goal and hence to success.

Plausible annual periodisation clearly structures

These procedural objectives are then also reflected in the training planning. For this reason, sit down with your coach and create an annual periodisation. A training plan that is overloaded, has no common link and shows no progress, is frustrating. Therefore, the questions should be answered, which goals and sub-goals I want to achieve when and with what means. Exact dates support and oblige in equal measure. In this way, a training plan is created that is plausible and makes sense for athletes, which in turn motivates them.

Positive people provide energy

From psychology we are familiar with the concept of peer group research, which says among other things that the better my team is, the better I am. With this finding in mind, we should try to build a positive network. This means winning supporters and friends who help us to achieve our goals and give us the positive energy. We can use the latter in a targeted way, because in doing so we become highly energetic ourselves. As an example I always like to take the motivating training group, the coach, or even the family. All of them can serve as important companions during the training from time to time. This is where the goals come into play again: If you share your long-term goal with your friends and acquaintances, it will help you achieve it since it avoids excuses.

Mutual understanding between coach & athlete creates trust and encourages

As is generally recognised, self-perception and the perception of others can often diverge widely. Working together with a coach or mentor creates a feeling of security for almost every athlete and is an incentive. As a coach I have to ask myself if it is hard to motivate people. A good coach always focuses on the realistic goal and meets the athletes where they currently find themselves. The coach should therefore always ask how the athlete is feeling at the moment and check, either in conversation or by means of the monitoring functionality of AZUM for instance, whether incremental goals have been achieved. This enables coaches to slow down or motivate at the right instant. How is this done? They always give the athletes a feeling of appreciation and involvement in their projects or goals, which has a strengthening and empowering effect!

Obstacles become opportunities with self-discipline and willpower

As we have already discussed, the focus on the moment is important. In this way we can avoid external interference, or say we can avoid it more easily. Problems and obstacles will always arise. But it makes a decisive difference what importance I attribute to them.

“If you see failure as only a small diversion, you never lose sight of your goal.”

Martin Luther

Small defeats or obstacles can also be seen as an opportunity and challenge. Failure is absolutely no shame, Jan Frodeno remarked in an interview.

Yes, I can do it!

It is essential to complete objectives and then to tackle new ones. If I am self-effective, then I will also be successful. Mantras like “I can definitely do this!” can release a lot of energy in the race and help to accomplish goals. Personally, it has helped me to 10 victories in the Inferno Triathlon, as you have to mentally outwit your tired body sometimes 😉

Finally, I would like to share with you a quote from one of the greatest athletes and role models in terms of motivation. It has become my personal motto in life:

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

Muhammad Ali

I wish you all a good off-season, stay motivated and above all healthy.

Yours sincerely, Marc.

Marc Pschebizin – Mister Inferno
Marc’s sporting achievements are impressive: he has been engaged in competitive sports since he was 12 years old. Marc started in athletics in mid- and long-distance running before he toured the world for 20 years as a triathlon and duathlon professional. During his professional career, he has won prestigious trophies: he has 10 victories in the Inferno Triathlon, is a duathlon and XTERRA world champion, as well as Ironman and Gigathlon winner. Today, Marc is very successful in bringing athletes to top performances, including Jens Roth (5 -time German Champion Cross-Triathlon, German Champion Cross-Duathlon, Vice European Champion Cross-Triathlon). He is also head coach of the triathlon Bundesliga team PSD Bank Tri Post Trier. Since 2019 AZUM supports him in planning training programmes and in monitoring and analysing the progress of his athletes. His service at the athletes’ side is excellent: For three years in a row, from 2017 to 2019, he was recognised as “Coach of the Year” of the Trier region.