Turning Off Season to On Season

triathletes running in the snow
August 2, 2008

Mike Ricci



Off season is usually approached by two kinds of triathletes. The sit and wait until the snow melts to begin training types, or the embrace the cold and take a leap forward in fitness types athlete. This transitional period is your key to the upcoming season and how well you will enter it. What can you do to improve your chances of getting faster this winter? Cross training has been around for generations of athletes. If you live in colder climates that get a lot of snow in the winter months, it is wise to embrace those conditions after a brief break from heavy training.

Some options are: Nordic skiing, aqua jogging spin classes, snowshoeing, ice skating to name a few. Sure some of these are indoor activities, but there are advantages to even indoor activities. Spin classes can help deter the boredom of riding by yourself all winter. Using a treadmill, though boring by most athlete?s opinions I have encountered, can teach pacing evenly very well. Nordic skiing is about the best all-around activity you can use in the off season, working upper, lower and core. Ice skating is great for the upper leg, which will translates into some improved strength on the bike.

For additional cross training, use Pilates or yoga for added flexibility and stability. I suggest basketball, volleyball, dodge ball and other side-to-side activities which require changing direction?unlike the linear methods used in running, biking and swimming. The ligaments will be stronger around the knees/ankles and prepare you for the upcoming season by balancing out weaknesses that are not often worked on in triathlon?which happens to be the side-to-side recruitment of muscles. The off season shouldn't be a time to wind down, but a time to explore and enhance. Treat the off season as the start of the season to give you a new perspective and adding incentive to ?get a leg up on competition.?

Rollerblading is another great way of improving cardiovascular system and strength. I have come out of winter starting with personal bests at the start of the season, from rollerblading all winter. The crouched tuck used while blading creates a deep and low push that mimics a mini-squat. Repeatedly, this over time can be every bit as beneficial as being in the weight room to develop raw power. What about wall climbing/rock climbing? If there is a local ?wall? and you have ever been interested in doing it, wall climbing requires enormous amounts of upper body strength. If you ever were curious about different activities, the off season is the best way to discover those, or re-introduce yourself to the once-lost activities you used to enjoy.

If it is physical, and different, it is bound to translate into some benefit for triathlon in one way or another. Cross training not only gives you the physical break you need, but the mental break as well. The results can be a fresh mindset upon returning to the monotony of treadmills, pool laps, or bike trainers. Get out there with a partner to share in your experience, especially if you need a little motivation to take that first step. It can only help you, and you may end up finding a new sport you can share and meet others while doing. Best of all, you may meet people with common interests away from sporting activity, or introduce them to the sport of triathlon. Best of luck, and see you at the races!

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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