Triathlon Training to get Faster in the Off Season

a triathlete pulling a tire in a track running drill
January 30, 2017

Mike Ricci



Each month in our newsletter we list some of the improvements of our athletes. This doesn't happen by magic or some special pill, but most of it is from what we do in the off-season. This time of year, right now, is when you get fast for next summer.

The following protocol only pertains to athletes who are time limited, have been training for at least three seasons without injury, and have a sufficient aerobic base. Not to get too technical but if you are an experienced triathlete with a few seasons under your belt and take a month off from triathlon training, I am going to make a huge assumption that you have a sufficient aerobic base. Actually, my assumption isn't too huge.

Within each week, we do have our athletes execute swim drills, bike peddling drills, and running drills. This is important in the off-season. So is the easy long swim, the easy long bike and the easy long run. The definition of "long" can be argued but for our purposes at D3 I like to define a long swim as somewhere around an hour. A long bike may be 90 minutes and the long run somewhere between 75 and 90 minutes.

With those two pieces of training out of the way, we get into the "no fluff" side of training. There are no two ways about it. We hit it hard. Very. Hard. VO2 hard. In the pool, on the bike, on the run (treadmill or outside, weather permitting) and in the weight room.

Dr. Max Testa is considered one of the best cycling coaches in the world. I had the pleasure of listening to him present at my USAT Level III Coaching Certification class in 2005. What I walked away with was that in the words of Dr. Testa."strength equals speed". The stronger you are, the faster you will race. The stronger you are, the more watts you can push on the bike, the faster you can run up a hill, and the faster you can swim. "Getting stronger" means doing more hard work than you are currently doing, and raising your lactate threshold or MLSS (Maximum Lactate Steady State). Note, I did not say work harder, but do more hard work. There is a big difference there.

Taking this point even further, I looked into what the strength coaches think about strength and endurance. Mike Boyle is the premier strength and conditioning coach in this country and maybe the world. Alwyn Cogrove is an Olympic level strength coach of triathletes, boxers, soccer players and others. It is always belief that that maximal strength levels should be achieved prior to endurance or energy system development. Quoting Alwyn, If we haven't built up appreciable levels of power, speed or strength, then what the hell are we trying to endure? A low level of power? A low level of speed? Conditioning coach Mike Boyle once pointed out that:

It is significantly easier to get an explosive athlete"in shape", than it is to make an "in shape" athlete explosive. The first will take weeks the second may take years.

Does that make any buzzers go off in your head? If you don't have speed and you go out to ride long, what are you learning to endure? Riding slow? Riding at a low level of power? Do you see how riding long, slow miles at 16mph is only going to make you good at "riding at 16mph? For example, wouldn't you rather build your base speeds up to 20+ mph in training, so that when you add in endurance you can do your long rides at 19-20mph? Even better yet, learning to push 400 watts in training will make pushing 200 watts MUCH easier. A 200 watt average at an ironman race like Arizona or Florida will net a 160 lb. triathlete a 5:15 bike split. Being stronger means going faster.

Next month I'll talk more about specific workouts. In the meantime, take a look at our 12 Week No Fluff Winter Plan.

It works. Trust me on this.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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