As late season triathlons are wrapping up, it’s time to start planning for next season! The adage
“champions are made in the offseason” can be true, if you plan strategically. Here are some
keys to setting yourself up for success next year:
❏ Take a break
After months and months of intense training, your body needs time to regroup. It takes a
lot of energy and resources for your body to recover from endurance exercise. Even with
proper recovery days and weeks built in, it can become a grind for your body to
constantly repair and rebuild. What this “break” looks like will vary from athlete to athlete,
but it should be relaxed enough to leave you refreshed and maybe even a little stir-
crazy. Take somewhere between two and four weeks for reduced intensity and duration
exercise. For most of us, that means keeping workouts an hour or less and in lower
heart rate zones. You can also take the opportunity to do other forms of exercise, such
as rock climbing, hiking, stand up paddleboarding, yoga, etc. However, be cautious to
avoid anything that is overly taxing and/or requires recovery -- this is not the time to try
Crossfit or go to high intensity fitness classes! If you had a particularly intense season,
you may need to take time off completely from all activity, and that is okay! In fact, most
professional athletes take several weeks off from all training at the end of their season.
❏ Visit your health care “team”
As mentioned above, a long season can leave its mark on your body. Now is the time to
get ahead of any orthopedic and/or health issues that could affect the season ahead. A
visit to your physical therapist, massage therapist, chiropractor, etc. can help identify
problem areas, treat any injuries accrued over the past year and give you a focus for the
offseason. Dedicating time to improve weaknesses and address deficits in mobility can
pay big dividends as you begin to ramp up toward your next goals.
This also is a good time for a wellness exam with your primary care doctor, no matter
your age. Bloodwork and other biomarkers can identify how well your body handled the
stress of training and if any diet tweaks are needed to avoid nutritional deficiencies. If
you work with a nutritionist, an end-of-season debrief on what worked and what didn’t
might be in order as well.
❏ Strength train
While it is possible and beneficial to maintain a strength training routine during the
season, it is easier to devote more time and energy to building a good strength base
when the endurance workouts are shorter and less intense. The off season also allows
for more intense strength training without sore muscles getting in the way of key training
sessions. There is a decent body of research to suggest that a challenging strength
training program not only prevents injuries but can also improve performance! 1,2 Starting
off the season with stronger muscles just might mean more power on the bike, faster
running speeds and a stronger swim pull.
❏ Pick a focus
Triathlon training can feel like a balancing act: trying to squeeze in swim, bike and run workouts around a busy work and family life can cause one of the disciplines to fall by the wayside. It can be difficult to make leaps in performance in any one of the three sports due to this divided effort. Whether your limiting factor is swim, bike or run, the offseason can provide ample time to make a breakthrough in your weakest sport that can carry over to the next training block. Even just a three or four week focus on a single sport can pay off. Make the focus fun and motivating: sign up for a running race that is out of your comfort zone, such as a 5K or a 10K. Join a Masters swim club. Try more challenging bike trainer workouts.
❏ Get a bike fit
A common misconception is that a bike only needs to be fit once, right after purchase.
Our bodies are constantly changing from a flexibility and strength standpoint; a bike
position that used to work may not anymore. A new bike fit is especially important if you
were injured at any point during the season, or if you had any discomfort on the bike
while racing or training. Make sure your bike is dialed in yearly to get the most out of
your bike training and prevent injury.
❏ Ramp up slowly
Gently remind yourself that you cannot pick up your training from where you left off last
season. Be methodical, particularly if you focused on only one or two sports (or none!)
during the offseason. Keep track of your total training hours, and avoid significant jumps
in volume. You’ll be back and beyond your abilities from last season before you know it!
Wishing you a restful and recharging offseason!
Keep going: you’ve got this!
Kacy Seynders PT, DPT
1 (Ferrauti, 2010) Effects of Concurrent Strength and Endurance Training on Running
Performance and Running Economy in Recreational Marathon Runners
2 (Mikkola, 2011) Effect of resistance training regimens on treadmill running and neuromuscular
performance in recreational endurance runners