It’s that time of year when triathletes are finishing their season and transitioning to the off season. If you havent looked into structuring your off season, you should. If your off season consists of 3 months of no training and over 10lbs of weight gain, you are doing it wrong and putting yourself at major risk. Having a successful off season is critical for a number of reasons; injury prevention, mental health, and athlete longevity.
Each year I have new athletes that are afraid to hang up their bikes or swim trunks for a couple months because they feel they will lose everything they’ve worked for, this is completely untrue. Trust me, I’m an experienced coach. If you keep pushing 12 months each year you will start to experience never ending overuse injuries, waves of low motivation, and lack of enjoyment for the sport you love. When you experience all of these symptoms, how can you expect to train at a level that will promote improvement? They wont. With a poor mentality you will fall into a poor training routine which will lead to a plateau of fitness. Doesn’t sound like much fun.
Step 1: Take 1-2 weeks of minimal training. For my athletes, I call them “Free Days and Weeks”. These days consist of 30’ of swim, bike, run, or off day. There is no structure to the training. It gives them the freedom to relax.
Step 2: Identify your weak link. Is it swimming? Is it running? October through December is meant for addressing your weakness. This is when you turn yourself into a single sport athlete. You are swimming 1-2x a week at 50% of your typical swim volume. You are also cycling 1-2x a week with minimal intensity or no cycling at all. The best Fall riding is to the bakery with friends.
I was coaching our Triathlon Swim Class on Monday and one our swimmers is signed up for Ironman Wisconsin 2019. Looking at his stroke we identified that he lacked the ability to change speeds. We did multiple 50s at different speeds, but there wasn’t much of a difference between the three speeds. If an athlete wants to see improvement but cannot sprint, their ceiling of improvement is limited. For the upcoming months this swimmer will be focusing on sprinting in the pool with a lot of rest. Think of this work like lifting weights in a gym. If you constantly are doing the leg press machine at 100lbs for 12 repetitions but never increase the load of your exercise, your muscle recruitment will never be challenged. We will be doing the equivalent of 5 repetitions of 140lbs. The goal of doing fast 25s and 50s with equal rest is that it allows the athlete to produce more power than they ever have. Here is an Ironman athlete learning how to sprint to improve their Ironman swim 12 months away. Doing long repeats at a slow pace in September won’t do you any good.
Also, I have never met a triathlete who didn’t want to improve their running performance. The Fall is the best time to become a better runner. When I talk with my athletes about Fall training we always discuss going “All In” with the running. This means we are doing more run drills, more plyometrics, more bounding, and more running volume. We turn into runners. We throw on the short shorts. We sign up for local 5k running events. We run! Athletes love this approach because they can focus on one sport instead of trying to balance two other sports at the same level.
Coach Steven Brandes
USAT High Performance Coach
USAT Level 2 Coach