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How to improve your triathlon fitness during the off season

Information provided on the blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or offer treatment plans.

You’re done with a long season of swimming, biking, and running. Now what? How do you keep in shape over the winter? What should you focus on the most?

The goal for the off season is to focus on your weaknesses and try to make them strengths for the next season of racing. Let’s break it down by sport.

Swimming

The off season is the time to focus on your technique and your kicking. There are lots of inexpensive tools available to help you improve your swimming technique and build strength at the same time. Check out www.swimsmooth.com for some good drills to do to address form and posture in the water. Some of the tools mentioned above are listed below:

  • Fins: improve your buoyancy and kick sequence and power
  • Paddles: improve your arm strength and pull
  • Snorkel: helps you breath more efficiently without compromising form and posture
  • Wetronome: improves swim stroke length and cadence
  • Pull buoy: relaxes the legs to focus on the swim stroke

Biking

The off season is the perfect time to work on cycling. You will most likely spend a great deal of time on a trainer or exercise bike at the gym. It is worth every penny to invest in a trainer for your road or triathlon bike.

Most bikes at the gym do not simulate the aero position well; so a trainer is the best option to ride indoors like you ride outdoors. There are many brands of bike trainers out there, but I think CycleOps, who offers lifetime warranties on all their parts, is one of the best.

Here are some basic tips for indoor cycling on a bike trainer:

  • Buy a riser for your front tire with your trainer. I spent years using an old book, and it is not. The. Same.
  • Put down a sweat mat or blanket as you will be dripping sweat by the end of your session.
  • Use an old tire or a trainer tire as your trainer will wear it down faster than riding your bike outdoors.
  • There are many good videos to use for training on your trainer indoors. Some common ones include: Spinervals, Suffer Fest, and Train Right. These videos vary from recovery workouts to intense long, hard rides or hill climbing on your trainer. Most are available on Amazon, Nashbar, or performancebike.com.
  • Don’t forget about running off the bike. Most triathletes don’t run off the bike again after the end of the season until the next spring. This puts you behind the curve at your first race in the spring. Run a minimum of 2 miles off the bike a minimum of 1x/month so your legs don’t forget how to do it.

Running

  • If you are not planning on racing during the off season, I would suggest you run about 3 days/wk to maintain your running base, and you should do one of those runs with the Pacesetters Run Group.
  • Focus a bit on some slower, longer base runs to build endurance and strength.
  • Occasionally do a tempo run or some fast strides after a longer run to keep your leg turnover up.
  • Don’t forget about running off the bike!

Weights

  • The off season is the time to hit the weight room as a triathlete.
  • Focus on sport-specific movements and CORE strength. Lunges, squats, and balance exercises are the best. A swiss ball and BOSU ball are good for simulating swimming movements. The single-leg stance position is a good position to work on running strength. CORE strength is defined as strength in your deep abdominal muscles, hip muscles, and low back muscles. All of these muscles work together to keep your back and pelvis stable and strong. They also help to propel you forward in running and swimming, and keep you upright when biking.
  • There are tons of demo exercises for strengthening the CORE on coreperformance.com
  • Allow 2-3 days/wk for this type of training.

Transitions

The off season is also a good time to work on improving your transitions and practicing indoors. Type in triathlon transitions on Youtube, and you will get lots of tips on how to get faster. Some quick changes include: practice putting on your helmet, get speed laces, practice getting on/off your bike with your shoes already in your pedals, practice putting on a race belt.

Bottom line: Get to work. There is lots of fine-tuning to do this winter if you want to make your weaknesses strengths.

If you get injured along the way, contact us for a free injury screen through our RunRight program.

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Jon Gallas, DPT

Jon Gallas is a doctor of physical therapy for OrthoIllinois. He's also an avid runner and biker, who likes to work with endurance athletes to stay healthy and perform better.


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