Getting Over the Winter Funk

By James Owen

While the northern hemisphere basks in the summer sun and revels in return of sporting events, the battlers in the south are heading into the darker depths of winter. Seasonal changes make the thought of long runs and rides outdoors far less appealing, and in some cases, downright dangerous.

As I write this in my tiny house on Canterbury, New Zealand, I am watching the first snowfall for the season out the window. It is not settling, but it is a white sign that winter is only just getting started here. I want to be out there. I want to be running the roads and hitting the hills on my bike. I have a trainer in the garage that I can jump on, but I just cannot seem to overcome the slump that I find myself in! I am generally good at nailing down an answer to a quandary, but when it comes to my own training, I’m drawing a blank.

Yes, we all know that the ‘offseason’ is that time to knuckle down and get stuck into the nitty gritty stuff like strength and conditioning, technique, prehab and so on. But I for one am really finding it hard to break out of the funk. What is going on?

In seasons past I have been a big advocate for ‘getting it done’ while others hibernate and await warmer weather. I would take pride in getting out there on a rainy day and dropping big sessions, coming home, and feeling good about overcoming the urge to stay inside. I liked this part of my identity and the more that people looked at me funny for being a ‘madman’, the more it fuelled my determination and commitment to my work. As a coach I would coerce my athletes into blocks of training to keep them interested and focused while the temperatures plummeted, and the rain tumbled.

Two things come to mind.

I might need a coach. I might be coaching, but I am not being coached. I know what works for me, and I know what buttons to push to draw nice graphs on Training Peaks. But in the absence of someone looking over my shoulder I find it difficult to self-motivate. This seems a little counterintuitive coming from someone that makes a living by drumming up enthusiasm and providing motivation to athletes as a coach. Sometimes the coach needs coaching, too.

I might be burnt out. I have loaded myself up too much. I work full time, I am a triathlon coach, I am studying, I have a family, I have responsibilities that I need to attend to in other areas of life.

We are all busy people, and that is part of the triathlon journey. When the pieces of the puzzle come together it is immensely satisfying. Being able to train effectively while balancing a busy life is challenging and requires constant tweaking and compromise in all areas. But sometimes the hardest thing for the busy triathlete to do is recognise that they might be overdoing it. Looking at myself objectively, perhaps I have put myself in this category right now.

So, what do I make of this? What can be done to break out of the funk that I find myself in? Some of us will splash out on new gear to make ourselves feel good about getting out there. Perhaps I can try to slow down a bit and go with the seasons; readjust my expectations to align with what is possible, not what a theoretical training plan says is possible.

It is also a chance to declutter over winter and clear out all the life admin that slows down training progress. A ‘life audit’ might make things a little clearer. Getting in touch with a coach might help, having a bit of external motivation filtered my way?

As I watch the white snowy blanket fall outside, I acknowledge the metaphor that is happening right in front of me; don’t be a snowflake and fall on the ground in a watery mess. Just get out there, and get something done.

James Owen is an MX Endurance Race Team ambassador.

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