Coach Kevin Anderletriplethreattough.comSo winter must be here, because we don’t have to drag ourselves out of bed in the dark to make it to swim practice for the next month. But does that mean that it is time to chill? (OK, bad joke.) Winter is an opportunity for triathletes to not only allow their body to recover; it is also a time to regroup, reflect and get organized for next season.
Here are some thoughts about what you should be doing to position yourself for a successful 2011 season:
The off season is a great time to perform maintenance and make adjustments to your bike. Standard maintenance items include such things as checking your chain, chain rings, cables, cassette and tires for wear and replace worn components. For those parts not replaced you should perform thorough cleaning, especially the drive train, and lube all moving parts.
Winter is the perfect time to make upgrades to components you have been thinking about purchasing. Along with upgrading components, you can make small “tweaks” to your bike fit (if necessary). You should make a small adjustment and then put in a couple weeks of riding to allow you to get comfortable with the changes. What you do not want to do is make a lot of changes all at once. You also should not make a change, ride the bike once and then adjust again. Give yourself time to get used to the changes you’ve made before making another change.
As an example, I just changed my aerobars to “R” bends. When I first got on the bike, I was very uncomfortable. After riding for a week, however, I started to get used to the new bars. After getting used to them, I then started making small changes to the angle of the bars related to the base bar. If I were doing this during the race season, I would have disrupted my schedule, or worse: messed up a race. Now I’m going to go into next year with a more aero position and—most importantly—confidence in my feel for the bike.
If you are in a climate that is warmer all-year round like Texas, winter is also the time to build a big base if your training goals call for that. Get out and ride long rides when you can. We’re lucky here in North Texas that we can ride through the winter. Most importantly, be consistent with building your base. I also like to change things up a bit and ride long rides on my mountain bike. This helps me build my base but also is a great change of pace.
During the season, there is only so much time we can spend training. Consequently, we end up trying to get the most bang for the buck with our workouts. For swimming with Triple Threat Tough coaching, this is especially true. Our only long continuous swims are on Sundays. So winter is a great time to get in the pool and go long.
And while you’re going long you should be thinking technique. Technique is more important in swimming than any other discipline in triathlon. However, it’s almost impossible to try to hold your form together while doing intervals with a coach on deck pushing you. Something I see in a lot of triathletes is a short stroke and glide. This only gets worse when the athlete starts pushing. Muscle fatigue combined with oxygen deprivation kicks in and technique suffers. The good news is going long can be combined easily with a strong pull and glide focus.
So winter is the time to go long and concentrate on form. You should even consider getting an underwater video and coaching assessment to focus on specific improvements to your stroke. You’ll come out of the winter more efficient and faster with your new technique committed to muscle memory.
Not to be redundant but going long in the winter can provide big benefits during the season more so in running than in other disciplines. Having a big base is the key component to build on for the season with the run. Running intervals without a big base can be ineffective. Conversely, you should see huge dividends after building a big base with interval training during the season. The catch is, it takes time to build a big base and winter is the perfect time to do so.
Winter is also a good time to try new shoes. During the season, I advise against switching shoes as the last thing you want is to risk knee or muscle injury with a race looming in the near future. In the off season, however, we have time to ease into the shoes. While you are building your base, you can try a new racing flat or training shoe. During your training runs, start or end the last 25 percent of your distance in the new shoe. Continue to do so over several weeks’ time and slowly increase the distance in the new shoe.
The winter break is definitely a time that you should take to let your body repair. It’s a bad idea to try to keep your body in top racing fitness despite the fact that it is so tempting to do after working so hard to get your body there. Our bodies, however, need a break. Do some things for your body that will help you next season.
In my experience, very few of us stretch enough. Get yourself into a habit of performing a regular stretching routine. By doing so, you will prevent injuries in the 2011 season.
Winter is also a great opportunity to strengthen our weaker muscles. Our stability muscles do not get as much of a workout as our major muscle groups receive in our typical training regimes. To address this, you should incorporate unbalanced strength training. BOSU Ball exercises are a great way to do so.
Winter is also a time to assess last year’s successes and failures related to your performance and injuries. Was your training plan appropriate for the races you entered? Did you injure yourself due to overtraining? Was your body fatigued due to the timing of your races? Did you do too many races? Did work get in the way and not enough training was accomplished? Did your kid’s summer schedule prevent you from peaking for your A race?
Go through the obstacles you had to overcome and see if you can prevent them by planning better next year. Or, if there were no obstacles, how can you recreate this past race season?
Plans & Goals
Finally, you can never start your 2011 plan and goals too soon. After all, you are preparing for the 2011 season with everything we’ve talked about here. Now that you have assessed your successes and areas of improvement, you can make the best plan possible for 2011.
Decide which races (or, even better, which race) is important to you. Make a training plan for the whole season around the important race. Plan your training so you can peak at the right time for your focus race.
Decide how you are going to assess success. Do you simply want to finish a race or are you looking for a podium finish? I personally base my year’s success on my standing with USAT. Give some thought on focusing on an event. I think it is difficult to make a training plan that is good for both short races and long races. In fact, I think it is impossible. So, for me, it makes sense to commit to a specific distance. (I race Olympic distance only and my training is planned for that distance racing.)
Make some goals for each discipline—especially a stretch goal for your weakest event! Consider getting outside help. A different set of “eyes” on your training, equipment, plans and goals is always beneficial.
AND FINALLY, HAVE FUN! We’re all lucky to have the opportunity to participate in such a fantastic sport with a great community of athletes. Coach Kevin Anderletriplethreattough.com