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Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Offseason Triathlon Strategies

As the race calendar winds down many of us are considering the off season and what to do. Here are some strategies to maximize your time and financial investments this winter.

Do....

1. Think like a runner, swimmer or cyclist. Triathlons best athletes come from a strong single sport background, mostly running or swimming. Instead of trying to cram in swimming, cycling and running base miles think like a single sport athlete for a couple of months. The best strategy is to pick your weak link. The increased volume and emphasis will lead to great improvements and a few weeks of reduced volume in the other sports will not hurt you in the long run. For most triathletes their weak link is the swim. Join a masters swim team or find a coach to help your with your stroke technique. For those in cold climates much more can be gained in the pool swimming five days a week than trying to convince yourself you can ride another hour on the bike trainer.

2. Become a better mover. Excuses like my bike seat was 1 cm off and that caused my hamstring injury just do not fly. If you have quality movement skills things like that don’t happen. This is the perfect time to start improving your movement skills. A strength and conditioning coach or physical therapist with endurance sports knowledge is a great place to start. Before starting to swing the kettlebells or throw the medicine balls around any professional worth their salt should evaluate your movement patterns. There is a reason why that IT band is always tight and why that shoulder acts up every year, so figure out the underlying reasons why and correct the problem. Instead of making that questionable equipment purchase this winter invest in yourself!

3. Get a quality bike fit. A good bike fit person exists in every city and find that guy. Your local bike shop or triathlon club should be able to send you in the right direction. The off season is the time to tinker around with the bike and make changes in your position. Way too often I see triathletes on nice bikes with horrible fits. At the same time as mentioned in point number two your bike fit is not an orthotic so do not expect it to solve all of your injury issues. A bike fit is a very individual thing and the position should be the most dynamic one for you. That perfect aero position might not be the ticket if you do not have the hip mobility and thoracic extension to support it.

4. Think strategically and do sweat the small stuff. This can lead to major time gains. If you always waste 45 seconds trying to get out of your wetsuit figure out a faster way. Here in AZ many of our local races are in the pool and I am shocked at the number of triathletes that loose 30+ seconds on their swim leg because they do not know how to do a flip turn yet jump on a $5,000 bike. An hour swim lesson teaching flip turns that costs around $30 is a pretty good investment in my opinion.

5. Find a coach or at least have a coach assess your training plan from the last year. The insight and unbiased opinion is extremely valuable. Often I get asked about what one should look for when selecting a coach. I could write pages on this point but here are a few key concepts. First you have to decide if you are more comfortable with your coaching living nearby or in a remote location. Do you need a group environment or would you rather train alone and just meet some friends for an easy run once or twice a week. It does not make much sense to have the perfect remote coach if you know you are not a self starter and need to have some teammates around. This part is a completely individual decision. The second part is looking at the coaches offerings. Often you will see coaches offer a gold, sliver and bronze plan at different price levels. Things like underwater video tape, phone calls and in person sessions are offered a la cart. Do you really want the coaches “worst coaching” or a coach that has all the information he/she needs to coach some athletes but is flying blind with others. As I coach I want to offer all my athletes my best coaching so I offer only one package and do not dilute things down at different price levels. I do not want my hands tied by a menu of offerings.

Don’t....

1. ....go out and get a lactic threshold or V02 test. Lactic threshold tests are only valuable if used on a consistent basis so unless you are at the Olympic Training Center getting your finger poked during every workout the numbers do not mean a whole lot. People pushing these tests as a one time deal during the off season are only in it for the extra income. For swimming and running, collecting times from time trials and races will give you all the information you need to assess you current fitness. Data collection is a bit more complex on the bike, but long term data analysis is more revealing than an annual or biannual lab test.

2. ...buy a toy just because everyone else in the local triathlon scene is getting it. We all have a financial budget for our triathlon activities. Maximize your investments and get what you really need. Swim lessons might not be as cool as a new wetsuit on the market but if your wetsuit is only two years old you will gain much more time out of the swim lessons.

3. You cannot always be training your best or racing at your 100%. To get faster you have to regress a little at certain points in the year. So don’t get sucked into hammering a ride or running an extra 3 miles on your long run by your training buddies. If you have a group environment enjoy it but don’t leave your best races out on the road in December. Seems like common sense but it happens at the spur of the moment way too often. Be the smart guy out there and you will leave others in your dust come May.

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