Off-Season Triathlon Training Questions

author : mikericci
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Here are our most popular questions for training during the off season. Everything from treadmills to heart rate monitors to core strength.

The following are live chat excerpts with our Performance Members that are conducted monthly.

View the calendar of upcoming chats to get all of your training questions answered.


Here are our most common 'off season' type of questions answered by Coach AJ and Coach Mike Ricci.

Swimming 3000 yards for a sprint distance triathlon...overtraining?
If swimming is your weakness, a swim block can do a lot of good. Mix in technique with base, strength and speed sessions and you will get strong. I race IM, and although the swim is 4k, I swim up to 8k at a session. For the swimming, 3k isn't overdoing it, even if it is 4x's the distance. You can do 3k and not be trashed at the end.

Do you make a training plan where the amount of time spent training each event is roughly the same ratio as the time spent competing each event of the race?
Not necessarily. If you have a glaring weakness in 1 sport, you may want to focus on that. I also like to do focus blocks where an athlete puts more time in either the bike, or the run and swim. Since there are more hours that can be put in on the bike w/o injury, you can do big miles. Then, big mile run weeks are shorter in time then biking, so you can add more swimming. I also pay attention to the course for an athletes A race. If it's hilly, I do more hill work, etc.

Need to jump into the middle of a training plan plan, but where?
That's a tough call. You have to decide at what level you are at now and start up. So, if on the weekend you have a 90' ride, and that has been a distance you have covered, start the training plan around there. You don't want to start with a 2 hour ride if your longest has been 60. I always suggest starting on the conservative side.  Treat the run and swim the same too.

Importance of core strength?

Start your core work NOW!! It really does help with your fitness and makes you more efficient in all 3 sports. Just remember, it's more than crunches. Abs are NOT core, if you can see it, it's not a core muscle. Small movements using the muscles under the abs, transverse abdominus for 1, are the keys. Things like Plank, ball twists and leg lifts in the Roman chair come to mind. 


Core Strength Links:  Core#1  Core#2  Core #3  Core#4  Core#5  Core #6


All 6 Core programs can be used for a set interchangeably as new ones have been added after the first three.  One set is about 7-10 minutes – and I would say a couple of weeks of 1 set is ok, but at all levels the athlete should try to add 2-3 sets per week by the end of a 12 week period. I would say core 2x a week minimum, but in reality it should be done 4x per week. 
# of core sets: 1 set for the first 2 weeks, then 2 for the next 3-5, then 2-3 for weeks 6 through the end of a program.


For example, as you progress to 2 core sets per session 4x per week, you can setup your core workouts like this:


Monday: Core1/2
Tuesday: Core 2/3
Thursday: Core 3 /4
Saturday: Core 4/5


*Core workout days are not set in stone, move them around as needed.


Treadmill running to outside running
First thing I would do is when you start to run outside, try to find a soft surface to run on: track, trail, grass (gold course, park etc). Then I would cut the time to about 75% of what you do on the treadmill, and then cut the effort back by about 10 beats per minute. It WILL be tougher outside, but once you get used to it, you'll be able to run the same time/effort within a week or two.  Your legs will probably be a little sore from the impact -it's going to be tougher on the legs than the treadmill.

Under hydrating and fueling for long workouts

More than hydration, my concern would be about recovery - which dehydration will limit. Being hydrated and fully loaded for a 90-120' workout will decrease your recovery time. You could probably do most workouts under 2:00 on an empty stomach. Think about this way - when you are fueling during a workout, you are fueling for the next workout, not the current one. Try to stay ahead of the nutrition/recovery game.


How important is it to work with a heart rate monitor at the beginning of training?
I think the best part of HR monitors is that it will tell you when you are going TOO hard. Too many athletes go too hard on easy days and not hard enough on hard days. Use your HRM to ensure that you are hitting each workout in the zone you want to train. Don't just go out and try to go as hard as you can. Easy days are just as important, if not more, than the hard days.  --> Lactate Threshold Heart-Rate Zone Testing Protocol

Do you use your HRM to race?

Yes and no. I have it on and I occasionally glance at it, but race day is race day. Remember, I am going as hard as I can w/ the goal of a podium. If your goal is to finish strong, or if you don't have much experience at the longer races, I would stick in zone 2 for most of the day for an IM. That is the zone where you can still digest calories fairly well, the key to a good IM. Numbers can be valuable, or detrimental. In training I want to make sure I am where I want to be on that day. On race day, I don't care about tomorrow!


How essential are bike trainers?

Bike trainers are a must! I live in CO so I log plenty of miles on the trainer. You can really be productive on the trainer and I think 2 hours is plenty of time. I use mine all year round, especially for LT work. With the bike over the winter, just try to keep your current level of fitness. Plus, you can work on 1 legged pedaling to make your pedal stroke nice and smooth. In 1 hour you can warm up, do some high cadence work, some pedaling drills and a short cool down.  The BT Silver/Gold plans incorporate Isolated leg drills.  --> Indoor Trainer Workouts

Spin class versus the bike trainer?

It's hard to say since spin classes vary from session to session. I like to be in control of my own workout, but I think most athletes get pushed when in a spin class. Just don't feel like you have to make huge aerobic gains in the off season. I would mix it up, if you like the spin classes, just watch out for the intensity. There is no reason to do a lot of LT work in the winter.


Mountain biking in the winter?

Mountain biking is great for the off season, and even year round. It will certainly maintain your fitness and it works a slightly different group of leg muscles. It also changes things up a bit and gets you out on some great trails. Mountain. biking is a great power workout since you are doing a lot of uphills, and have to do short bursts over logs, etc.


Are power meters important?

Absolutely. I have been using a PowerTap for 3 years and the investment paid off long ago. Watts are absolute, so 300 watts doing 30 MPH is equal to 300 watts uphill at 15 MPH. HR can fluctuate due to caffeine, sleep, diet, etc. All of the power meters do HR as well, so you can see how the 2 relate. With a power meter, you basically do a test, set your zones, and off you go. You can really dial in your training and monitor your bike effort to enhance your run.

--> Powermeter Video Introduction


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date: February 4, 2009