By Coach Mark SortinoTeamMPI.com
If you're a triathlete that competed in your first triathlon this season, you may be wondering what to do next. Chances are you loved the challenge, the community and the new found body you’ve created. So as we head into the winter months that are notoriously void of any triathlons but that we affectionately call the “off-season,” what do you do now? Your focus may be on one or two goals: first, you may want to remain active and get faster at the distance you already raced; or second, you want to raise the stakes a bit and try a triathlon that is a longer distance. Below is a list to help guide you on how to do that.
Think about what types of races you want to do in the upcoming season. Maybe they are the same distance triathlons at the same venues from this season or maybe at new venues. Maybe they are new triathlons that are longer in distance. Either way put them on a calendar. If it’s a Sprint, give yourself at least 3 months time to train for that first race. If it’s an Olympic, make it 4, and if it’s a Half-Iron distance, make it 5-6 months. Many race directors are updating their races during this time so you can start looking for races with BT's race finder though realize that races will be updated with new dates all of the way through spring. Check back often!
Based on the races you selected and the designated time-to-train, from this point back to today is your “off-season.”
This can be a bit tricky. Ask yourself the following questions:
If yes, then you should be able to start a regular training plan. If no, then I recommend you take a few more weeks of “unstructured” training - that is, training that’s easy and based on how you feel. If you want to sleep in and skip training, do it! If you want to just ride easy with some friends, do it. If you want to participate in another activity, go for it! It is essential for a successful upcoming season that you start your training physically rested and emotionally eager and excited. For this reason most seasoned athletes will have a period where their training volume and frequency drops significantly.
Determine what it is and commit to focusing more on that sport. If it’s the swim, get a coach to look at your stroke and film you. Consider joining a Masters Swim Program. If it’s the bike, spend more time on specific cadence and skill drills. If weather is an issue, look at getting a bike trainer or computrainer. And if it’s the run, join a running group and start focusing on form and technique. In ALL cases, take a 3-5 week period and increase your frequency in that discipline that needs the most work. Choose some single-sport races to participate in like a 5K, a bike road race, or an Open Water event. These will be fun and create great training and fitness opportunities.
Let me answer for you, YES! Here’s a secret I want you to know: Aerobic Training is the fundamental building block for the endurance athlete. In other words, no matter how hard you train, without EASY sessions, you’ll never reach your true potential. You want to train your heart and metabolic system to be as efficient as possible. This process takes a long time. As a new endurance athlete, it is beneficial for you to spend much of your “off-season” training in this aerobic zone. While you may hear of other methods that claim to get you faster quicker by skipping this type of training, their results produce only short-term gains. So if your “off-season” is a few months, spend a couple of months training with an effort level of EASY. The only exception is the swim. Because swimming is so technique and feel based and is a non-impact activity, I recommend you continue your regular swim training. Swimming consistently and frequently under constant or periodic guidance by a coach is essential for improvement from season to season.
As you complete your first season of triathlon, think about what you want to do for the next season, set your date to begin earnest, race-specific training and then set your “off-season”. Understand that NOW is the time to recover and refuel your body and mind with rest. Know that if you’re a bit weaker in one discipline than all the others, NOW is the time to focus more on that area and improve. And above all else, NOW is the time to give your body an opportunity to develop its aerobic capacity by filling your weekly training sessions with mostly EASY sessions. Subscribe to these methods and you’ll set yourself up for improved performances in the upcoming season!
Coach Mark Sortino is a USA Triathlon Level II Coach and Head Coach for Team USA Paratriathlon in 2012 and 2013. Mark is also co-founder and owner of Team MPI (Multisport Performance Institute) that provides a diverse spectrum of services uniquely structured for both novice and experienced multisport athletes. For more information, check out www.TeamMPI.com
MPI services include coaching, single & multi-day tri camps, clinics, swim video analysis, tri swim programs, bike fitting & more!