Following up on last week’s tip about post-race blues, I figured I’d chat with you all about a proper Maintenance Phase.
“But Coach Coach Laura Henry! I don’t know what a Maintenance Phase is!”
….and THAT, my friends, is why we’re going to talk about it. SO many athletes who I interact with don’t know what a Maintenance Phase is or how to properly structure one. A Maintenance Phase (also known as a Transition Phase) is a block of time (we call those macrocycles) that is used between races or at the end of a season.
The best thing about a Maintenance Phase is that you can still do things! But, they don’t have to be all.about.the.sport. This time period is great for going on vacations, getting in some active recovery, participating in other sports, focusing on strength training to recover muscular strength, focus blocks, and for weight gain to recover pounds lost during the season.
I KNOW what SO many of you are thinking right now. “Coach Coach Laura Henry?!?! You want me to GAIN weight?” And the answer - for most of you - is YES. It is not healthy to stay at race weight all year long, nor is it actually sustainable (though you may desperately wish that it is).
Even professional athletes gain 5-8 pounds during a Maintenance Phase. I was talking to Tim O’Donnell about this very thing a couple of years ago - he ASSURED me that he and Rinny keep six pints of Ben & Jerry’s in their freezer on the regular. (I always knew I liked them. ;) ) But seriously - putting a few pounds back on during Maintenance Phase is actually healthy in the long-term. In a well-structured, periodized training plan, weight fluctuations are healthy and expected.
As a good rule of thumb, all disciplines that athletes are working on in a Maintenance Phase should be structured so that overall training stress is low: this can be accomplished by having a focus on skills, lower volume, and lighter intervals. During Maintenance Phase, you can participate in some other sports that may need to go on the back burner during race season. You can try new ones! Incorporating strength training to work on rebuilding muscular strength is also a great use of this time period.
My favorite thing to do is have athletes scheduled for focus blocks, where we pick something specific to work on and focus on that for a mesocycle (that’s what we call the smaller blocks of time within a macrocycle). Head’s up - the things we’re normally working on are the things they like least. Generally, athletes dislike the things they need to work on most. A good coach will help you work on your weaker areas so that they can become your strengths the following season. Don’t run away from what you dislike or struggle with - face the dragon and attack it head on!
This phase is one of reflection and dreaming, and it’s when I meet with a lot of the athletes who I’m working for to really hash out what our game plan is moving forward. Together, we figure out what is best for them so they can reach their goals. Teamwork really does make the dream work, my friends. Embracing Maintenance Phase is a key piece of this; it may not be the most "sexy" time in a training season, but it's incredibly important in that it sets the foundation and tone of the season to come.
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.