3 Fresh Tips for Your Off-Season

Triathletes during a training run
September 28, 2021

Jim Hallberg



For many of us, the end of the triathlon race season is approaching. Depending on how long or how successful your race season has been, this may determine the state of mind you have going into your off-season.  The off-season in its simplest definition means that our A races have passed, and our opportunities to do another triathlon are done for this year and that it's time to adapt your training accordingly.

One overarching tip for this time of year is to make sure that you are not dictating your swim, bike and runs with an extreme focus on power or pace. This is a time of year to let perceived effort dictate your workouts and to keep things light and fun. Consistency is important but a little less specific structure is acceptable.

Following are three points of advice to take with you into your off-season:

  • NOT COLD TURKEY!  If you have had a full race calendar and a successful season, you may wish to structure your off-season with a reduced load.  That means vastly reduced intensity and continue training with short and fun swim, bike and run sessions. Maybe catching up on social rides and easy group runs. You may wish to take an additional day off per week and choose “not” to be on a specific schedule but more of a choose-your-own-adventure for swim, bike, run workouts based on the weather, how you feel, motivation, and training partners. Don't worry you're not stopping cold turkey and I don't recommend you do. You may catch up on chores around the house and other obligations.
  • FALL IS BEAUTIFUL!  The changing of the season and the vibrant colors are a treat. Maybe you pull out a mountain bike for some off-road riding through the leaves and cool fall air. Maybe you pull out the trail shoes and do some trail running. And consider getting into some fall FUN races.  I suggest trying cyclocross racing, or ramping up a little running to do a local 5k or 10k race.  Use swimming as your recovery tool and simply feel the water.  The priority is not triathlon.
  • FALL = FIX IT!  Maybe your season didn’t finish as you planned. Perhaps a canceled race or the select few races you could do just didn’t seem to end on a high note. And if that leaves you frustrated, you need to figure out why it didn’t go well, and how to fix it.   Maybe your personal routine needs tweaking. Maybe you need to get that nagging injury fixed. Maybe your 'little' weakness in a specific discipline is truly a 'glaring' weakness. 

These three tips share a common thread. They are about shedding the past and looking to the future. All the while staying present in the moment ... this moment.  We are not focused on next year, nor are we dwelling on our past season, we are right in this moment, right now.

In my opinion, the off-season brings a transition in our mental focus. Over time, I've realized that a successful aspect of training and racing is my mental approach to each individual workout and each individual interval. You see, in the fall it may appear haphazard, but I don't care about power or pace. I just have fun. If I feel like going hard, I’ll go hard. But what I won't do is go to my limit. Perceived effort rules my workouts. As my off-season rolls its way closer to triathlon race season (beginning in late winter/early spring) I will transition my intervals from RPE to a fairly loose-fitting power and pace. If I can be close to my power goal or close to my pace goal intervals, while using RPE as my secondary gauge of effort - this is good. Then into race season intervals, or at a time when race intervals really start to count, it's highly correlated to power or pace. 

What this allows me to do is not put so much mental stress and focus on numbers. We all look at our power meter and feel if we were 2 watts less than ideal, that workout sucked. Which of course, is NOT TRUE!  This is your time to take a short physical break, retool your schedule, and start fresh. Getting healthy, consistent, and spending a little focus on technique and form in your weak sport or physical weaknesses that have led to more downtime than necessary. 

Final recommendation:  don't bury yourself with intensity. Go have fun! Don't determine the success of your workout with your power meter or Garmin, just go have fun. Focus on technique or look around and observe the world you're passing by. Either way, be present and in the moment, and just have fun.

Coach Jim Hallberg notices that some athletes spend too much time focusing solely on their strengths or just on their weaknesses. As a coach, he believes you should work on both. Your strengths can give you a competitive edge in one or more of the disciplines but spend an inordinate amount of time on them and you can forgo progress in other areas. Not enough time and you’ll see them diminish. Same with your weaknesses.  Coach Jim works with you to build a plan to balance the two and make you the best overall athlete you can be!

Coach Jim is a 5X USA Triathlon National Champion, a USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach and USA Cycling Level II Certified Coach.

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