The Off-season can be a difficult time for triathletes, because it is a time to rest, refresh, plan and prepare for the next season and it is the first two that triathletes have the most problem with – REST & REFRESH!
REST & REFRESH
Rest is easier said than done with most triathletes but is really important for the repair of muscles and joints. It is during this time that the body repairs and adapts stronger to the training stress that has been put on it. Rest is not just for the Off-season, it should be apart of all training. If you push yourself hard and then rest you will gain in performance ability but if you push hard with no rest you may see a decline as you will be unable to work to your full potential during your hard workouts due to fatigue. Use the offseason to really focus on getting enough rest, especially if you have any niggling minor injuries, this is the time to give them time to properly heal. Adding in some dedicated foam rolling, mobility and flexibility can help accelerate the recovery process.
The Off-season is also a good time to mix things up with some cross training. Triathletes spend most of their time working in one plane (forwards), never working multidirectional. Working multidirectional will strengthen the body in all the different planes of movement making you stronger and at less risk of injury. Try things like indoor wall climbing, kettlebell workouts, mountain biking but challenge yourself to some singletrack where you can learn new skills of riding berms, this is a great way to learn to handle and corner your bike better, but do start with the green or blue trails first then move on to red once you feel confident and your skills have progressed. If you are already a confident mountain biker, how about some cyclecross, this is a great sport to do through the winter, but be warned, it is not an easy Z2 type workout, you’ll be hitting those threshold heart rates so make sure you allow recovery afterwards. Another great session to add during the Off-season is weight training, this can be done using dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands or bodyweight. Really this should be continued during the triathlon season as well in a maintenance type session. Strength training is more important than triathletes give it credit for as it really helps prevent injuries as well as providing muscle strength, power, functionality, mobility, balance and a strong core, to name a few of the benefits. Our strength is declining from the age of 30 so if you are not training it, you are losing it.
Functional strength is becoming more popular, this is using multiple muscles to do an exercise, think forward lunge with upper body twist, squat with overhead press, when we run, we are not just using our lower body, our upper body is working to help propel you forwards, so training more functionally and specifically to your sport, will have a really good crossover effect.
The Off-season is also a great time to start setting some goals for the upcoming season. This is great for creating motivation. Use your last season to reflect on how races went, how your training went and what you can improve, whether it is working to improve your swim, be more consistent with your training, sort out niggling injuries. Making these improvements can become part of your next season’s goals, but set objectives, like to improve your swim to maybe join a local technique coached session, triathlon club session or a masters swim group. To have consistent training, plan it into your diary each week as part of your day. To sort out niggling injuries either book in regular massages or diary in regular foam rolling/flexibility and add a strength workouts into your week, whether this is by joining a gym or local kettlebell class or doing the workouts from home, it is worth getting into a routine.
The other goal setting is your race calendar, looking at what races you would like to do in the next season but do also factor in race dates with any other commitments like work, holidays etc as you don’t want an important phase of your training to fall during a holiday. Also when doing more than one A race, is to allow enough time between them to be able to recover and build again.
Once you have rested and refreshed with some cross training the time then starts for some periodised training. Base training is the start of this and involves low intensity but consistent training that allows the body to build a cardiovascular and muscular fitness base prior to adding intensity and distance. Base training is focussed on swim, bike and run at low intensities it also includes strength training, mobility and flexibility as well. Getting into a routine of structured workouts during the base phase really helps mentally to carry on when training gets harder and more race specific through the build phases. This is also a really good time to learn more about using heart rate/RPE and even power (if you have a power meter) during your training, get to grips with the Z2 low intensity style workouts as these seem hard to start with but stick with it as they really do pay off in the end – we have to go slower to get faster and at the end of the process you will be swimming, biking and running faster at a lower heart rate.
What to do if you don’t know how to periodise your training?
There are a couple of options for this:
Find a coach: using a coach is probably the best way to help with your training as they will tailor your training to your lifestyle, specific goals and strengths and weaknesses. They know how to structure and progress your training, make the training specific to the distance of your A races, the profile of your A races and your goals, making sure you peak at the right time so you are on form and ready to race on race day. They can also help with things like nutrition, injury prevention, mental strength, motivation, transition strategies, race strategies and a lot more. They are someone you can talk through any worries or questions you might have.
Online training plans: if a coach is something you can’t afford then there are lots of generic training plans online that are not too expensive. These will not be specific to your strength and weaknesses but you can get them specific to your race distance and fitness level and they are progressive plans.
CHECK YOUR GEAR
Another good thing to do during the Off-season is checking your gear. You might have had annoying creaks/squeaks with your bike, this is a good time to get them sorted out before the bike becomes heavily used outside again. Getting some good winter puncture resistant tyres on for the winter cycling or if intend to do all your offseason cycling on the turbo then getting a proper turbo tyre or having a new chain and cassette ready for the new season (if using a direct drive turbo) and giving your bike a good clean before it’s mounted on the turbo for the offseason.
In conclusion, use the offseason to recover, try different sports/exercise types and prepare for the next season.