Monday, November 18, 2013

Five Thoughts on Offseason Training

The offseason is in full swing, and it's been a good, long while since we've done anything about triathlon on the blog.  But I've personally been back training for a couple of weeks now, and that has me thinking about my goals, both for the offseason and for next year.

With that in mind, here are five thoughts on offseason training.

1.  It’s good to have an offseason.
Being a triathlete and staying engaged in the sport over time is as much an exercise in balance as is the actual training for the three disciplines.  Setting goals and pushing yourself is fine--that’s a major part of what being an athlete is about--but over time, no one can be a fulfilled, realized person without also putting in time with one’s family and friends.  
2.  Prioritize training in-season, prioritize your life in the offseason.
The triathlon season is grueling, and it demands a certain degree of separation from the other folks in our lives.  Use the offseason to reconnect.
3.  Rest is good.
Just as you need to rest and recover after a particularly grueling race, so to do you need to allow your body time to heal and recover fully after the grind of the season is over.
4.  The offseason is about regaining focus.
I usually feel burnt out at the end of triathlon season.  Like I’m ready to take a break and just get away from the grind.  Triathlon is a lifestyle; I don’t want it to become a second job as well.  
With that said, I also don’t want to put on twenty pounds over the course of a few totally undisciplined months, either.  So I stop, and I greatly reduce my training schedule, and I wait.  Once I start itching to get out there and add in more miles, I do so.  When I find myself looking at next year’s race calendar, dreaming of glory, that's when I know it’s time to start working hard again.
5.  Set goals for your offseason training.
For most triathletes, the season itself is an exercise in time management.  We have three disciplines to train, plus strength and/or flexibility training to worry about, and a diet to manage…  Balancing it all takes effort.  I always feel like I’m juggling, like if I just had a few more hours every week, I could do so much more.
The offseason isn't like that.  The pressure of racing isn’t immediate, and that gives us more time to focus on the stuff that’s nice to have but not an absolute necessity.  Put your emphasis there, and train the things for which you don’t normally make time.  Explore your fitness and get outside your comfort zone.  Go mountain biking, run on the track, lift weights, do speed work in the pool.  Whatever it is that you wish you could do more of during the season, make that your goal during the offseason.
Not sure how you want to focus your during your time off?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Lift weights to get stronger.  Why?  Because putting on muscle mass will make you look better, adding strength will set you up to train well when you start going longer, and because weight training strengthens joints and ligaments, which you’re gonna need big-time once the season rolls around.
  • Swim to get faster.  I generally/normally/always tell folks that as triathletes, they’re better off swimming comfortably over a long distance than they are trying to swim fast.  But that’s only because of time restrictions.  Swimming is the smallest part of triathlon, and in-season, there’s already too much to focus on.  During the offseason, however, you have time to do more, and this is one of the areas where you can and should.  Don’t swim to go long.  Swim hard and build speed.  Use the offseason to put in the kind of lung-busting interval work that you’d be insane to try when you’ve also got to put in long bike rides and runs.
  • If it’s not triathlon season, it must be marathon season.  Lots of triathletes come from a distance running background.  They do multisport when it’s warm, and they run like runners in the colder months.  I’m not a great runner, but this is the way that I personally like to spend my offseasons, too.  I set running goals during the late fall or early spring, and I quit worrying about balance, and that’s why I usually run well early during triathlon season and then find myself trying to hold that form as the season progresses.  This year, Sally and I have set a half-marathon in May as a goal race, and that’s why I’ve been back and trying to run three times per week this past month.
So.  Those are my thoughts on the offseason.  Anybody got anything to add?


  1. I didn't realize triathlon had an off season! My daughter is in triathlon club at her college and is heavy-duty training for her first Ironman race (New Zealand). She has a coach and all that. But she can't do a 5K walk (Turkey Trot) with her mom, because and I quote "I have to do a structured run with mile repeats on a track." If I had a dollar for every time I heard that one! So, no I didn't know that there was an off season! Go figure.

    1. In can't speak to the specifics of your daughter's program, but it's not uncommon for Ironman prep to take 18 months or so. After that, though, expect you'll see a more regular in-season/off-season schedule. If for no other reason than the reality that eventually the body needs a break. Iust give her some time.