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The 2 Essential Things to Focus on During Winter to Make Your Next Race Season a Success

Failing to plan, is planning to fail.

Nowhere is that more evident in a triathlete’s life than with their off season conditioning.

Notice I used the word ‘conditioning.’ Let’s not concern ourselves with preparing to race, or even what distance of race we want to be ready for in June.

Your goal today should be to be in the best condition of your life by spring – but not in race shape. (How do we do that?)

If you ask most triathletes what their ‘goals’ are for the off season, you will often here, ‘well, I want to get faster at this, or faster at that.’
Of course you do! The biggest challenge is that getting faster is HARD. Especially if you are an athlete who has some experience under your belt.

Do you know what is not hard?

Endurance.

Developing endurance and understanding what it takes to build endurance, is not that hard. Getting faster – that is where the challenge comes in.    

So here I my recommendation to you – when the weather is cold, and you are far from race season, why don’t you work on what is ‘hard and challenging?’ Go to work immediately on boosting speed, and save the endurance stuff for when the weather is nicer and you are getting a bit closer to race season.

This thought process can be referred to as going from general to specific, or maybe it might be called ‘reverse periodization.’

So how are you going to go about boosting your speed and power over the winter?

With triathlon training, we always have a balancing act between the three disciplines, and a personal life schedule.

The first piece of off season advice I would give you – we want to work hard on our weakness, without forgetting about our strengths. Use this time of years as an opportunity to bolster your weakness, but also working on your strengths as well.

Don’t set aside a discipline that might be a strength to you – as an athlete, you will become very frustrated and insecure if your strength discipline deteriorates.

Often times your strength discipline is something that is a genetic blessing to you. By continuing to work hard on a strength discipline that comes naturally to you – you can bolster that strength.  

Our real focus over the winter is to perform 1-2 higher intensity swim sessions per week along with a combined 2 total higher intensity bike and run sessions. These higher intensity sessions should be performed at lactate threshold and above intensities. This is a focus on high zone 4 through zone 6.

Why the reason for 2 swim sessions and a combined 2 on the other disciplines? First, the swim presents the greatest challenges in improvement. Therefore, more frequency. But also for an athlete with decent fitness under their belt, the swim can be recovered from the quickest as well. It doesn’t require near the recovery resources of the bike and run.

Before getting into how a week’s worth of training might look, let’s go over the other types of workouts you should be completing when not focusing on higher intensity sessions.  

There are two types of sessions I would recommend.

One is skill based workouts. The wintertime is also a great time for focus on skills. Skill is another area of our sport that can take significant amounts of time to develop.  Skill based workouts are workouts that include a set or two of drills that will improve your efficiency in that discipline. Starting in wintertime is the perfect time to take this focus.

The other type of workout is a brainless one – just go for a bike ride, or just go for a run. I often refer to this as ‘padding the frequency.’ Frequency is a very important element of developing yourself in any of the three disciplines. Frequency is needed to improve your neuromuscular abilities, and this is crucial for development.

Here is what a sample week might look like for an athlete who has no glaring weakness in any of the three disciplines. And a reminder – we are saving the ‘long workouts’ for later as we approach race season:

  1. Monday  – Swim with intensity, ~2000 yards
  2. Tuesday –  Bike with intensity, 45 to 60 minutes/Short easy transition run with cadence work
  3. Wednesday – Off Day
  4. Thursday – Run with intensity, 40 to 50 minutes
  5. Friday – Easy bike ride, 1 hour/Short easy transition run
  6. Saturday – Swim with intensity, ~2000  yards + easy bike ride with high cadence spin drills, 30 to 75 minutes.
  7. Sunday – Easy run with strides, 20 to 60 minutes

Here is what a sample week might look like for a strong runner who has a cycling weakness:

  1. Monday – Swim with intensity, ~2000 yards
  2. Tuesday –  Bike with intensity, 45 to 60 minutes/Short easy transition run with cadence work
  3. Wednesday – Off Day
  4. Thursday – Run with strides, 40 to 50 minutes
  5. Friday – Bike with intensity, 45 to 60 minutes/Short easy transition run with cadence work
  6. Saturday – Swim with intensity, ~2000  yards + easy bike ride with high cadence spin drills, 30 to 75 minutes.
  7. Sunday – Easy run with strides, 20 to 60 minutes

With the higher intensity nature, recovery should be put at a premium.

The lower volume nature of a plan like this will assist in not wearing yourself out.

Every third week, eliminate the intensity sessions and do only easy/skill based workouts.

Also in these recovery weeks, reduce the volume even further.

Focus on great sleep habits, great nutrition, and you will find yourself coming out of the winter fitter and stronger than ever.

As race season approaches, you can replace the intensity with longer endurance sessions, and interval sessions focusing on efforts around lactate threshold (Zones 3 and low Zone 4).

By | 2018-11-23T13:59:56+00:00 November 23rd, 2018|Running, Triathlon|0 Comments

About the Author:

Ryan Ross
Ryan Ross is the owner of Coast To Coast Triathlon in Olathe, KS. Ryan is a USA Triathlon Level 2 Certified Coach. Ryan is a graduate of USA Triathlon Elite Mentorship program and has also held coaching certification with USA Cycling. Ryan has worked with athletes for 12 years from beginners to Kona Qualifiers to Olympians. He can be reached at ryan@coasttocoasttriathlon.com.

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