Given the year-round athletic lifestyle of the average triathlete, moving from a summer of racing to a winter full of running or skiing, there comes a time of the season where things go south. You might have some flavor of overuse injury, you might be burned out, or maybe you are overtrained.
Whatever the cause, you're not training right now and it's the middle of the season you have been focusing on for so long. If your hands are getting cold and sweaty just reading this, then you know what I am talking about—the dreaded mid-season slump.
Symptoms and Solutions
While there is no one single indicator of a slump, here are a few signs you can use to recognize and treat it.
Level One: Mental Fatigue
You feel fine when working out; it's just that you really aren't that into it. You are sleeping in and missing otherwise regular training sessions. You are blowing off your training partners and cutting workouts short. You have stopped logging your sessions or tracking any data?it's as if your heart's just not into it.
The Solution: You need time away from working out with goals. Triathlon is a lifestyle, but you don't have to be a slave to it. Find some fun things to do that involve fitness but have minimal requirements. Try inviting friends or joining them in their endeavors. Perhaps a solid work block, where you focus on your office / professional responsibilities, will help you get realigned. Whatever it is, you'll know you're ready to return when you start looking forward to that next session.
More: How to Avoid Burnout
Level Two: Physical Fatigue
Even if you aren't really training right now, you're sleeping as if you are in a peak week. Your resting heart rate is elevated and most of your workouts are more "out" than "work." You aren't getting close to your target numbers, numbers you easily hit earlier this year. Your perceived exertion is off; even the easiest rides feels like an interval session.
The Solution: You need to stand down and recover; this general malaise is the precursor to a real problem, and there is no "work" that will help your rest more than actual rest. Initial steps would be to give yourself a week away from structured training, with maybe some fun sessions in there to help you stay sane. If after seven days things still don't feel right, take two weeks. If that's still not enough, you'll need to revisit your overall plan and try to address any larger underlying issues that are preventing you from recovering.