Now that it's October, it's officially the off-season. This is a time where you are supposed to let your body recoup from all the hard work and reflect on how your season went before planning for the next one.
My case is slightly different. I had a very slow season to begin with so my body doesn't need time off (yet). I'd like to get in better shape and earn that time off, however. On the other hand, I don't want to overdo it and burn out in the future. So, I'm using this "off" season to put myself on an even playing field with all the other triathletes who had a vigorous season.
First off, I'm planning out my training schedule. The first thing you start to do is the Preparatory Phase. This gets your body used to working out again. Since I had taken a good 6 weeks off, I definitely need this. I'm in this phase now.
This is where you can have fun with your workouts and enjoy them. Avoid intense or hard workouts where you're pushing yourself too much. No stop watches or heart rate monitors. Just you and the great outdoors. A time to enjoy being in the present moment and play. This goes hand-in-hand with off-season goals. If you have other sports you enjoy: soccer, volleyball, basketball, tennis, cross-country skiing, roller-blading....this is the time to do them. I don't have snow or roller blades. I would love to play some B-ball but it's hard to find buddies to do that with. I really love biking, running, and swimming so I'm just playing around and making my workouts with those things fun.
In the gym, you can try the stair stepper or ellipitical to challenge your body in different ways. Take a new class like aerobics or dance. All these things are great way to maintain fitness and keep yourself fresh. I'm trying to do more Yoga to stretch all my tight muscles. And I'm weight-lifting pretty heavily; I have a lot to gain in this area since I'm a woman and can really benefit from muscle mass.
The key is to make it fun and keep it short. A little something every day. Keep the volume high, as you would for the training season but keep the duration of each workout short. I also make sure every week has 1 day off so I get some flexibility. I'm also throwing in R&R weeks every 4th week--where I cut the volume by 50% and do more relaxing things like taking walks, photograpy, painting, reading, etc. You can't go full blast all the time. Try it. You'll see how much more you improve when you budget in rest days.