Do you plan your off-season triathlon training?
So, what happens once the high of the racing season is behind you? You have hung up your medals collected over the season. The camaraderie of your club mates / your triathlon friends racing together and pushing each other in to entering race after race, perhaps the ‘A’ race was a long time coming, lots of hard work, sacrifice and now it has gone. What next? Where do you go from here?
It is tempting to look for road races, duathlons, cross country leagues, off-road races, the list goes on to try to hold on to that wonderful feeling. But where does it end? Can your body really take racing after racing all year round? These days, it seems that the triathlete’s race season has stretched, it’s getting longer and longer, starting earlier and finishing later, sometimes not finishing at all.
As much as it is exciting to race as frequently as you want, or can afford, your body does need a rest. You may find that illness or (God forbid), injury, hits you during the autumn or winter or that your motivation is less, having not rested after a long period of racing or training. These may all be signs that your body needs a rest. It is very important to give your body the break that it deserves so that it will repay you when it counts, during race season.
At the end of a gruelling season, your body may have been pushed to race several times or just one longer race, such as a half or full Ironman distance. You may have experienced exhilarating times bettering yourself each time. But it is important to know when to stop, rest and then you are more likely to be able to move forward rather than plateau, or even worse, dip.
Why is recovery so important?
During a race season, your body and mind can be pushed to their limits, like an elastic band being stretched to a point where, if you push it any further, you may break. Recovery allows your muscles, cellular and immune system time to heal, repair and even strengthen. It is just as important to have a psychological break as well as a physiological one. By stepping away from the structure, the regimented diet plans and the training plans, gives you time to enjoy doing something different. I encourage my athletes to socialise more, meet up with family and friends be spontaneous with the chosen activities and enjoy being unstructured for a while!
The off season is an excellent time to review what went well and what could be improved next year. I like to have a discussion with my athletes following their self-evaluation. This helps me as a coach, to reflect and see what worked well and what didn’t work so well. By the end of the active rest period, you want to be more motivated than ever, so now is the time to be writing down new goals, which races do you want to enter? What will your target races be? What are your main aims for the next season? Put the races into a calendar, you don’t have to enter them just yet, but sorting them in a calendar can help organise your season, your budget and your family holidays!
What does having ‘time out’ mean?
Week 1 – now is a great time to start planning your off season triathlon training
Rest – you may want to take the first week off completely, a week off will not reduce your fitness. This will give your body time to recover, repair and strengthen from the arduous training or racing that it has faced throughout the season. Rest the mind, have time out to just be in the moment, appreciate your surroundings and let time stand still for a while.
Reflect– on your own or with a triathlon friend or coach. Discuss what went well in your training and racing and what and how you would improve next time.
Enjoy – During this time, you may want to meet with friends and family, go on holiday, go for a night out, something you may have been dreaming of for a while! You may want to keep active during this week, it should be low impact and low intensity to help the body recover.
Now, a continued rest period will make you feel lethargic and lazy, so you will have to keep active from now on. You won’t want to lose too much fitness as getting back to it might be more of a challenge. Maintain a degree of fitness through doing other sports; hiking, in-line skating, cross trainer, mountain biking, surfing, the list goes on. Find something that you enjoy, it may be learning a new skill. Whatever you decide to do make sure that it is keeps the heartrate low for long periods of time. This is the period I love to work with my athletes, reviewing the year, identifying improvements, setting goals and start thinking about the season to come.
I like to get my athletes focussing on building strength in the gym and getting into good practice for when the other sports of triathlon are introduced. All other sports during this period and early base should be about keeping the heartrate low. I think now is also a good time to focus attention on technique, in the pool, on the bike and when running.
During this ‘off’ time, you will have more time as you are not training as much. So, spend that time planning and making the future less busy. Focus your attention to your diet. If you can work out a plan for the week ahead and get organised; buying food, freezing meals, plan to feed the whole family and get into the habit of doing this, when you re-introduce your training, it will slot in nicely and you will be more time efficient.
Technique is so important but can get forgotten about amongst the racing season. Around this time, I like to catch up with each of my athletes on a one-to-one basis. We do a full swim and run analysis and tweak the bike settings if needed, in order to maximise power. Get a swim analysis session booked in with a local swim coach (TriRoxTraining.co.uk works locally to North Wales and is competitively priced, get in touch at www.triroxtraining.co.uk ). Depending on how many sessions you need, you will be given drills to practice and tips to maintain form when practising on your own, then you can have follow up sessions to make sure you aren’t slipping into bad habits! This will stand you in good stead for when you start back to full training, it’ll give you an advantage over your competitors if you are more efficient in the water without any extra effort! The same goes for cycling or running; if you know that is the weakest element of your tri racing; now is a good time to focus your attention on the technique, so that you are training using the best posture or position to maximise your performance. Most tri coaches will offer run analysis and will give you drills to work on. If cycling is your downfall, why not have a coach look at your riding position, or cadence when riding up hills, or even help you work on your bike handling skills. We at TriRox Training can help with both run and cycle analysis to help you maximise your performance.
Strength and conditioning is important all year round, particularly for women and the more mature man, who don’t maintain muscle as easily as the younger man. However, getting into good habits now, will help you persevere with a strength and conditioning program throughout
your training year. So, join a class or get a strength-based triathlon specific program that can prepare your body now, for when you start back training properly. I like to plan with my athletes a S&C program to see them through winter and set them up for the coming year.
Prepare the mind
Goal setting helps to motivate and prepare the mind for what you want the body to do. You can search the races that suit your goals, you decide which distance you want to race, plan your racing season now, so that you don’t over-do it or miss the entry date for that important race. You don’t have to enter now, just get it in your calendar. Plan what you would like to do and how you are going to get there, to help you get the most out of your training and racing.
Get a coach
This is an excellent time of year to look for a coach. Do a bit of research if you haven’t already been recommended one. Check out their credentials, are they qualified to coach triathlon? There are a lot of coaches out there, not all necessarily qualified to coach triathlon. (TriRoxTraining.co.uk qualified and insured!) You can then discuss your goals (short and long term) and the right coach will be able to map out how you are going to achieve your goals, and whether they are realistic. They can point out if you are intending on racing too much or not enough. This is an investment in something that you spend a lot of time doing. This investment will save you time, give you confidence and reassurance in your training, accountability and the structured progression that you need to achieve your goals.