By: Mike Fecik
As the triathlon season starts to slow down, don’t think that the off-season means getting fat and hibernating until Spring! Of course, take time to do nothing and find a way to “miss” your usual training plan. I suggest 2-4 weeks if you can (and if your significant other/friends can stand you for that long!). Hike. Ski. Drink some good beer. Find something that makes you happy outside of triathlon! Just like your body, your brain needs a break. Give it the time it needs. You won’t lose your competitive edge, and you wont lose so much cardio that it won’t bounce back quickly. Allow yourself to REST! After the rest, it's time to get back to work. Below are ways that will ensure that you successfully utilize your off-season, come out stronger, and make larger gains in your next season.
Set three to five goals that you want to achieve through the next season. These goals should not be placement goals, like first place or first in age group. Make goals based on finishing times, power output or power to weight ratio, and paces for specific sports. Base these goals off of where you currently are and where you want to be next season. Doing this right after your season ends will ensure that the goals made will keep you motivated to reach them. Write the goals down somewhere you will see them everyday and discuss them with your coach so that you both know what is expected. Making a few goals that are easily achievable and some that are a little further reaching will give you different milestones to hit and check off throughout the year.
Get in the gym! Take a class, learn a new movement, and get strong. Many triathletes swim, bike, and run because they love being outside. Unfortunately, in most of the U.S. during the winter months, this usually isn’t possible. Use this time that your “stuck inside” to lift 3-4x/week. Lifting can sub out for cardio in many cases. This time allows you to work on other energy systems. Don’t neglect maintaining your cardio conditioning, but spend less intensive time in the zones higher than aerobic output.
One way to keep things fresh and new is to make sure you or your coach keep the lifting sessions short and to the point. Get in the more specific work right away in a lift session, like squats, deadlifts, benches and rows, and then move to auxiliary and unilateral work that will help support the main lifts, swimming, biking, and running. I look for clients to hit lifts that will help gain muscle endurance and power as well as maximum effort output. If structured correctly, lifting can make a huge impact on in-season training. This really should not be optional!
Drill, Form Work, Rehab
Along the lines of lifting, focusing a big block of your time on drills, perfect form, and rehabilitation while inside is massively important. The more time you devote to specific drill and form work, the better and faster you will get! This is the one time of the year where you can slow down and take time to pick apart problematic form in order to rebuild proper form. Get video analysis of your running, pedal efficiency, and swim stroke. Dissect, slow down, drill proper form, and build efficiency. You will reap the benefits of it when you start to speed back up.
If you have had nagging pains in-season, make sure to get them checked out and address them right away. Putting these aches and pains off can exacerbate underlying problems. Taking the time to get problems worked out will keep you less injury prone in-season. Learning and utilizing mobility techniques like myofascial release, stretching, and yoga will help loosen up tight muscles that have been worked hard and need the added focus to relax and repair. This shouldn't take a ton of time each day, but adding it in 15 to 20 minutes daily will make a huge difference.
Finally make sure you wean yourself off of endurance foods and supplements like gels and bars. Spend some time without them. Stick to more solid, non-supplement food. This is not a free pass to binge for two months. Remember that calories in needs to be sufficient for the work put out. This time of year is filled with holiday parties, delicious comfort food, and cookies. Eat and enjoy them, but in moderation. If you have been trying to make a weight or body composition change, this might actually be the best time to do it. Going into a season at race weight and not needing to worry about dropping weight when training volume picks up can mean more unrestricted calories to burn while training and more energy in the tank.
Making sure you set yourself up for a great off-season can really make the difference once the new season starts. If you need help, reach out to our coaching staff and we can create a plan for you!