The Off Season

triathlete sitting on the edge of the water
January 30, 2017

Jim Hallberg



In the world of triathlon, there are three types of athletes. Some athletes may look at the off-season as the couch season and let his/her fitness go until race season is bearing down on them. The second type of athlete usually, asks ‚ÄúWhat off-season? There is no off-season.  I just race year round‚Äù. The intensity is frequent and improvement is most likely rare. The third athlete takes the off-season to make adjustments, regroup mentally, rebuild physically and to come back stronger and faster than the year before.The off-season is usually associated with a lack of race season. The important races are done and it‚Äôs time to give our bodies a break from the intense part of training. Even more importantly here is what should be happening in the off-season:

Throughout the year we tend to get more intense in our season and very focused on how fast and how far we train. We endure a lot of mental stress about how many seconds our intervals were from another; we are fixated on numbers, be it pace, miles, wattage, time, or Heart rate. We constantly strive for more and greater effort and improvement.

The off-season allows both our body and mind to recuperate from this type of stress and bring volume down to much lower levels as well as bringing down our intensity. We can mentally relax a little bit on how fast we should be running, swimming and cycling. During the off-season, we should be rebuilding our fitness; our mental stamina and fixing all those nagging injuries that caused us to miss training time. For example, at the end of the season you get to a point both mentally and physically where you can progress no more. Your speed and endurance are at their limits for that season. You have reached the tippy point of the pyramid. And hopefully you had a great race to prove it!

But now, imagine rebuilding that Pyramid.  It‚Äôs time to allow yourself to rebuild, to improve your aerobic base, to work on weaknesses and re-assess what you would like to do differently for the upcoming season.

Many people follow the same routine day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month and year after year. This is fine if you still find improvement in your training and racing. However, if improvement is rare, maybe a change in your routine is what’s needed and here’s where you can try new things, since you’re not supposed to do anything new in the triathlon season. Maybe it’s a new bike, a new bike fit, a new style of shoes, or even taking up trail running, or swimming more frequently. In addition, strength training might be on your ‘to-do’ list , or maybe just turn your normal routine upside down. Change something.

The off-season should be about exploring your boundaries and making changes.

Its also about paying your family back for all the training time you had, and now a little bump in your routine (Psst! Trying sleeping in?) could do you some good.

You shouldn’t be hitting it hard, yet occasional efforts are definitely good. The major emphasis is about building a strong foundation without the mental and physical stress of high intense effort. If you do intense efforts, make sure to spread these efforts out do so they don’t compromise the bulk of your training.

Building a Strong Pyramid takes time, and each year your pyramid of excellence should be a bit bigger, stronger and taller than the one before it. Whatever keeps your motivation rolling and your strength building and your endurance growing, is what you should be doing.

Lastly, I’d be remiss not to ask you “What can a coach do for you for in off season?” He or she can take you out of your comfort zone and rebuild that wonderful genetic engine you have. If you want your upcoming season to be phenomenal, beyond expectation and if you want to totally dominate then make that offseason really meaningful and productive. Best wishes to you on a strong, fast and powerful 2013 race season!

USAT Coach Jim Hallberg can be reached for consulting or one-on-one coaching at

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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