SO, off-season is approaching.
It’s time to start thinking about our winter training.
In this article we’ll cover what you might want to consider working on, and how to do it.
Generally, winter is used as a time to work on preparation for next season. But what exactly does this mean?
It means we don’t need to be in our best shape over winter, we might be improving, but mostly we are getting ourselves ready to be able to train hard and peak when it counts…when our races are!
So, how can we best prepare our bodies for next season?
- Spend time on our weaknesses
- Get stronger and more resilient
- Work on our mobility/flexibility
- Improve our base/aerobic fitness
We’ll go through these 4 things in a bit more detail…
WORKING ON WEAKNESSES.
The end of a season is a great time to sit and reflect on what you could improve on for next year.
(side note: don’t forget to also reflect on what you did great this year!)
So grab your favourite notepad and pen, and figure out where you think you need to improve.
(examples: swim, bike, run, strength, mobility, mindset, skills, consistency, food, endurance etc)
Step two, maybe take the thing you need to work on and add a bit more detail to what exactly you need to improve within that.
(examples: Specific swim technique points, certain strength focuses)
Triathlon can be a difficult juggling act when we are trying to manage three sports in the lead up to an event.
Winter can be a great opportunity to give one of them priority for a bit. This might mean spending a month or so working on something specific while letting other things tick-over in the background. Embrace your weaknesses and try to ‘level-up’ over the winter.
GETTING STRONGER AND MORE RESILIANT.
This can often be a tough thing to fit in during the season. But don’t underestimate the benefits of it.
Winter is the perfect time to get started on strength work. After a few weeks the DOMs will start to get less intense and you’ll find fitting it into your weekly schedule much easier. Get this done now, not when you have main events to train for. Build it up over the winter and then you only need to maintain it through your race phase.
Strength work doesn’t need to be complicated to start with, and there is certainly more than one way to ‘get strong’, here are a few:
- Gym or home strength training (example session)
- Running or cycling hills
- Off-road training or racing (cross county, cyclocross etc)
- Different sports (hiking or climbing for example)
- Big-gear work on the bike
Don’t over-complicate the gym or home strength sessions. Some simple movements working all the major muscle groups will do, and plenty of single leg work to even out any imbalances and improve allignment. Once you have the basics nailed you can start to add some plyometrics and maybe lift heavier later.
Running off-road is not only great for getting strong, but it also challanges our body in different ways. Subtle differences in the terrain you run on will help build ankle/leg stability and get you pushing off in different directions – something we do very little off during road running.
Mixing things up with other sports will not only be a nice change but also has many benefits. Hiking up a decent hill will probably put you in a training zone while also working on strength (a great alternative to high-impact long runs) and climbing uses very similar muscles to swimming while also working on coordination, mobility and balance.
MOBILITY / FLEXIBILITY.
We don’t need to say too much on this – we all know whether or not we are a bendy person!
Good mobility can make movements easier and help prevent injury.
While we don’t need to be super-flexible to swim, bike and run, there are certainly some areas it can make a big difference.
Here are a few things you could work on:
- Shoulder mobility (helps to make the recovery phase of freestyle more relaxed)
- Overhead reach (increase the length of your freestyle stroke)
- Ankle extension (this is why swimmers have such a good kick)
- Hip mobility/hamstring flexibility (useful for lots: running form, swim body position, and getting comfy/aero on the bike, to name a few!)
BASE / AEROBIC FITNESS.
Winter is traditionally a time to work on building a good aerobic base. But what does this even mean?!
Aerobic fitness is your body’s ability to transport and utilise oxygen. This happens mostly at the lower end of our intensity spectrum during training, but it plays a very large role in how well we can perform at any event lasting 3-5 minutes to Ironman/marathon distance and beyond.
The main way to work on improving our aerobic fitness is to include lots of controlled low-intensity training.
The best way (in our opinion) to make sure you are training easy enough at the start, is having a heart rate target. Its important to point out that this can be very different person-to-person, two athletes of the same age and ability might have very different aerobic heart rate targets.
There are lots of ways to set your intensity for aerobic sessions, here are a few of them:
- Use a run pace calculator like the one on our website
- Do an FTP test and work to a percentage of power
- Use how you feel (RPE) – you should be able to hold a comfortable conversation (full sentences!)
- Nose breathing – you should be able to do this intensity with your mouth closed
- Use Maffetone heart rate (good starting point but not very personalised)
- Figure out your Z2/Aerobic Heart Rate using a threshold or max heart rate test
- Get a lab test (OTT for most amtaeurs in our opinion)
- Have a coach who figures it for you (oh hi there!)
All of these generally are aiming to do the same thing – make sure you are working predominantly with your aerobic system. It can all sound a bit complicated to begin with, but so long as it feels easy, you can hold a conversation, and your heart rate isn’t drifting up at a steady pace, you are probably in the right place.
A good way to check if you are getting aerobic improvements over winter is to run 30-45 minutes at your figured heart rate, and record the pace. Then later on in the winter you can run the same route at the same heart rate and see if the pace is quicker.
A few extra notes.
- Don’t for get to take a break before starting your winter plans. It could be a full week off, it could be an unstructured month, just whatever you need to get you feeling recovered, refreshed, and re-motivated.
- Treat yourself to some decent winter gear, it can be a life-saver. If you are going to spend time out in all the weathers, be prepared (quality toe covers and gloves on the bike can make all the difference).
- Don’t be afraid to bail for the turbo. If you don’t enjoy riding in bad weather… don’t! A long easy turbo has just as much training value (possibly more!) than an outdoor ride. All it takes is one slip on some ice and your winter gains might be side-tracked by time off. This happens to someone in our squad EVERY year. Don’t be that person, be safe, embrace the turbo when needed.
- Give yourself some flexibility while you don’t have main events coming up. It really isn’t a big deal if you swap out your planned session for something slightly different with your friends. Likewise if the weather isn’t playing ball, move bits around more freely and don’t keep sessions set in stone like you might try to in peak phases.
Most of all, mix it up, and enjoy doing some different training to what you will be doing in the summer!