As your race calendar starts to thin out, coaching editor Phil Mosley explains how to utilise the off season to make sure you’re in the best possible shape for next year. Words: Phil Mosley Images: CastleTriathlonSeries
Well, here we are already. It’s the end of the 2015 triathlon season and winter is gradually creeping up on us. It’s getting too cold to race in the UK and yet it seems too soon to start training hard for the 2016 season.
So what are you going to do with yourself now? Put your feet up, scoff Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and let all your hard training go to waste?
Of course not. There are plenty of things you can do to improve your results next year and for once they don’t involve heading outside in your tri-shorts.
In fact, this is the ideal time to prepare for 2016. That’s because once you launch back into full training, the chances are you’ll be too tired and busy to properly plan your season to the best of your ability.
Entering races, reflecting on last season, fine tuning your gear and equipment – all these things take a back seat once you’re back in the swing of regular training.
At the end of the triathlon season it’s important to take some downtime. Here’s how to enjoy eight weeks of semi-leisure without losing your fitness.
Training Volume and Intensity
During an end-of-season break, the idea is to recover while staying fit. Take at least two days off per week but keep training.
To help your body recover, perform most of you workouts at a comfortable low intensity and make them slightly shorter than normal. Take advantage of this period by having a sociable run with someone who might normally be too slow for you or by cycling to a coffee shop and back.
Once or twice a week, throw in a few bursts of higher intensity just to remind your body that you’re an athlete, so it doesn’t de-train too much. This is the perfect opportunity to bring some balance back into your life by investing a little more time in your friends, family and career.
You have all winter to train hard, so take advantage of this relatively short recovery period.
Strength, Core and Flexibility
Many triathletes take advantage of this lull in training to get stuck into some strength, core and flexibility work. It’s a good idea providing you can maintain it throughout the winter and into the race season.
There’s no point in doing four weeks of regular core stability training if you then stop completely for six months. The key is consistency, which can be hard to achieve once you’re back into full swim, bike and run training.
The best solution is to set a realistic target, rather than an overambitious one.
For example, one yoga class per week will gradually improve your flexibility, while a weekly Pilates class will provide you with some quality core stability training. Make this a long term commitment, rather than an end of season fad.
Off season swimming
There’s a big technical element to swimming, so it’s important to keep it up during the off season. Elite swimmers refer to this as “feel for the water” and they have a saying that goes: “Every day missed in the pool takes two to catch up”.
As a triathlete it’s not normally feasible to swim every day, but you’ll still need to swim a minimum of two or three times a week to maintain or improve your performances.
For this reason it’s worth prioritising regular swimming over cycling and running during this end of season period. Try this recovery swim session for size:
All at an easy pace:
- 600 FC, rest 30 secs,
- 500 PULL BUOY, rest 30,
- 400 as (25 choice drill, 75 FC) rest 30,
- 300 as (25 BACK or BREAST, 75FC) rest 20,
- 200 KICK with FLOAT, rest 15
- 100 FC
Recovery Period Cycling
One or two bike rides per week are enough in the off season. There are two types of workouts you might try. The first is a 90 minute to two hour ride at the weekend.
Ride mainly at a steady pace that requires some focus but also allows you to maintain a conversation. Ride with friends or just head out to a coffee shop, stop for a cake and head back home again.
The other workout should be a shorter, harder mid-week ride. A static bike or turbo trainer would be ideal for this or you could even do a spinning class.
Structure the session as you wish, but the idea is to include 20 to 30 minutes of hard cycling into a 45-60 minute ride. Here’s a session for you to try:
- Warm Up: 10 mins easy, 5 mins as (10 secs sprint, 50 secs easy).
- Main Set: 7x3mins hard, at your approximate 20 minute race pace, with 90 secs rests.
- Warm Down: 10 mins easy
As with cycling, one or two runs each week are enough during the off season. The first session should be an easy or steady 35 to 45 minute run.
During this workout, if you can’t breathe just through your nose, you’re going too fast. The other session to try is a steady run with a few short efforts thrown in. It’s not supposed to be a super hard workout, but it’s enough to stop you losing your fitness. Try this:
- Warm Up: 15 mins easy/steady
- Main Set: 15 mins as (2 mins hard at approx 5k race pace, 60 secs jog)
- Warm Down: 5mins very easy jog