For triathletes, off-season is typically a make-it or break-it indicator of their next year. I am of the opinion that the statement “triathletes are made in the off season” is very true. Of course, the term off-season is pretty misleading when it comes to triathlon. We go from 15-hour weeks to 10-hour weeks and consider it an “off-season”
In fact, the majority of growth – both mentally and physically – is done in the off-season. This is why it is important to make this time count by focusing on things that will immensely improve your coming year.
Here are some tips for a better off-season:
- Take a rest: You did some damage to your body during the season. Now is the time for recovery. Set your alarm for 5:15 as opposed to 5:00 and enjoy all that extra sleep and recovery! Training hard in October can potentially set you up for a burnout right before your “A” race. Intense training year round is also associated with greater risk of injury (NCAA, 2015)
- Reflect: Hindsight is 20/20 but it is need it to understand your body and plan your training for the next season. Debrief with yourself. Were your goals hit? What could you have done differently this past season? Think about what areas you’d like to improve. Did you want a nail a flying dismount? Shave 10 minutes off your bike or run? Now is the time to make a list of goals for the next season based on your previous one. We need to understand where we were to get to where we want to be. It’s imperative that you hold yourself accountable and police yourself. As much support as a coach can provide, they won’t slap your hand away before you hit the snooze button for the third time within a 7 minute period.
- Focus on Strength: You know you’re a real triathlete when the last piece of weight you picked up was your bike to carry it upstairs after a 100 mile ride. The winter months are the time to gain functional strength for triathlon. Become really good friends with kettlebells, barbells, core-work, rows and dumbbells. Your focus should be on functional strength for triathlon not bodybuilding. Focus on becoming a better triathlete, because you’ll never be a bodybuilder if your go-to exercise is a 70-mile ride followed by a 5 mile run.
- Cross Train or try a different sport: Been waiting to take up competitive thumb wrestling or competitive cheese-rolling (I’m not kidding, these are actual sports)? This is your chance. The off-season is a perfect time to expand your hobbies with some cross-training. Snowboarding, trail riding or skiing are just some suggestions that will build your cardiovascular system while keeping you engaged. Make sure to have fun this time of year. Keep in mind the off-season is the perfect time to focus on active hobbies.
- Boost Your Numbers: Use the amazing power of intervals to boost your numbers. Want to raise your FTP (Functional Threshold Power)? Intervals on the trainer. Want to swim faster? 10x100yard sprints followed by 20x50yard sprints. Remember, if you don’t want to vomit at the end of your interval workout you didn’t go hard enough (that was a joke, please don’t vomit). Disregard this advice for running and follow the next bullet point unless you already have an ample aerobic base.
- Build Your Running Base: If you neglected to build an aerobic running base in previous years, shift focus to longer slower miles. Building an aerobic base is critical to increasing speed in the long term. Keep your heartrate in the aerobic zone for your long slow miles and you’ll see drastic improvements in your races.
- Race Every Weekend: The struggle is real with post-season blues but don’t overcompensate with a weekly half marathon or duathlon. Pick your winter races in a way which will complement your training schedule and set you up for success when triathlon season begins. You won’t help yourself in June by attempting to set a PR with a January marathon.
- Become Stickler to a Schedule: It’s OK to miss a workout every once in a while. 99% of us aren’t pros and will never come near that level. Spend time with your family, friends and on hobbies. Relationships are built and broken in the off-season. Plus, why anger your family or significant other this early? They’ll be upset enough with your 4:30AM alarms come April.
- Continue Eating like You’re Training for a 140.6: Sure, eating 4,000 kcal a day is perfect for your peak weeks but the winter isn’t the time to pack on the freshman 30. Small fluxes in weight (5-10%) are normal and expected but you shouldn’t neglect diet like you’re training for a hotdog eating contest. Being mindful of what you put into your body during the off-season will pay off in dividends once you begin racing.