The days are getting shorter and in the “off season,” you look forward to sleeping in, not smelling like chlorine and enjoying a weekend that doesn’t include a four-hour brick workout that leaves you napping on the couch and skipping out on social engagements. You hang out with your “non-triathlete” friends, you have coffee AND read the paper. You did though put your bike on the brand new trainer, you swore in July you would put to good use but still haven’t taken it on its maiden voyage. Come on you have plenty of time, you have looked at next season and are eyeing a few races but they are 6 months away. Plenty of time. Right? Yes and No.
I agree winter is not only a time to let your body recover physically but also to recover mentally. But it is also a time to look back at this past race season a see where there is room for improvement.
Here are some things to think about moving into next year.
If you lack the ability to resist fatigue then you need to work on your endurance. If you’re unable to surge past another athlete in a race then you need to work on your speed skills and if climbing hills either on the bike or in the run is your weakness then you need to work on your force or your strength. Those three things; Endurance, Speed skills, and Force are the foundation for any triathlon training program and the offseason is the best time to work on these specific areas without the stress of an upcoming race. Now each discipline of triathlon brings a unique set of skills and although you might be fast on the run, as you know, that doesn’t make you able to surge past another competitor in the swim.
So what should you specifically be working on you can click here and take this test to find out.
For a more broad answer here are some ways to use this offseason to make next season your best
I can say for certain most triathletes need to hit the gym! This is extra important for triathletes over the age of 30, you begin to lose muscle mass and function, a condition known as age-related sarcopenia which you can lose as much as 3% to 5% of your muscle mass per decade after age 30. Lifting weights 2-3 times a week doing basic exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, seated rows and the like will maintain your current muscle density and help increase your strength for next year. Increased muscle mass benefits you not only on the race course, the more muscle you have the more oxygen your body can deliver to those muscles, but also the more muscle you have the more calories you burn sleeping so if keeping off those unwanted pounds around the holidays is a problem then strength work in then gym is part of the solution.
The Swim! Yes, the swim! I find so many triathletes year after year who continue to swim lap after lap with poor form but never get a coach to look at their swim stroke. They keep hoping that lap after lap the perfect swim stroke will just magically happen. Some athletes know they have work to do on their swim technique but use the excuse that any work they apply to a better swim will only result in a few minutes on the race clock. Ok fair enough but looking back at this years 70.3 world championships women’s 45-49 age group, less than 3 minutes separated the top ten women out of the water, of those the top five finishers are less than 3min apart at the finish line. What is that you say? Your not looking to podium just quit yet ,you just don’t want to drown in the swim? Swimming is the discipline where technique is KING so learning to swim better is the key, not swimming more often and doing it badly. Get someone to look at your swim stroke. Period.
The Bike! Now I know fat tire bikes are all the rage but not only do you likely not have enough room in your garage for yet another bike but you would rather spend that money on a race entry or two. Like I said before gains in strength will happen in the gym and those gains will carry over to the bike, stronger legs= faster legs, but taking advantage of indoor riding sessions and sweating it out with your friends while the snow is falling outside is the one sure-fire way to increasing your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) on the bike.
Some of you are already signed up for either a Computrainer or Kickr sessions but some of you have purchased your own home trainer. Make sure you use them! Apps like Wahoo, Trainer Road, and Zwift work with your Kickr. Computrainer has its own software called Racermate. There are other bike training programs like Best Bike Split and WkO4. No matter what you do this offseason focus on your weakness on the bike, if it is hills then intervals of 2-3 minutes in zone 4 with a one-minute recovery is what you need. If speed on a flatter course is where you need the help then speed intervals are the way to go. Riding at in lighter gear for 4 minutes with a high cadence of 100-115 RPM’s that you can control in Zone 2 and a recovery of one-minute will help.
The run! It goes without saying, but I am going to say it any way you need to be a solid runner to do well in the sport of triathlon. Unfortunately, triathletes can’t devote the same amount run training a runner can due to the demands needed for the bike. Quite often to make up miles a triathlete will throw in junk miles instead of working on speed drills. I have a secret if you want to run faster all you have to do is……you ready for it?
Ok, I know you are rolling your eyes but it is true! No that doesn’t mean every run you have to try to accomplish in an all out sprint but incorporating Fartlek runs, track work, negative splits and hill work all have a positive impact on your ability to run faster.
Then there are those nagging injuries, using the offseason to correct imbalances in your body will not only help you run, swim and bike faster but also address some of those nagging injuries that got in the way of this year’s training. Taking a Yoga class once or twice a week, meeting with a physical therapist for nagging injuries that have prevented your progress this past season or focusing on a core strengthing program over winter months will help you make the gains that escaped you this past season or take you to that next level in the upcoming season. So while you sit in front of the fireplace sipping your PSL (pumpkin spice latte) DUH, know that you did your best this past season and look forward to not just working harder in the offseason but smarter!