Monday, February 1, 2016

How to Maintain Your Strengths this Winter

by Gina Kehr

The beginning of a new year always brings about different questions. The number one question I ask myself at the end/start of every year is what went well and what may need improvement. The critical athlete in me usually ends up very confident that my strengths went well and my never ending weakness needs improvements. While developing a plan to improve your weakness, you should incorporate a plan to maintain your strength.

While I was a swimmer at Cal Poly one of the assistant coaches was doing his senior project on determining what an athlete needs to do in order to maintain a certain amount of fitness (I am generalizing here as it has been at least 20 years). A group of us were selected to be part of his study. One group continued to work out five days a week, one group continued to work out three days a week and one group did not work out at all. It was determined that to maintain, three days a week was enough. The group that worked out five days did not have too much more fitness than those that worked out three days, however the group that stopped working out saw a significant drop off after a few weeks.

I do not remember all the details and I may be off a bit but I do know I was part of the group that did not work out and learned at that time that three days a week will keep you ready for when you need to start “training” again. This information is not knew to anyone and when it comes to personal strengths, my experience shows that you can even get away with two days a week.

The next question may be, if I back off frequency to only a few days, what should I do in those sessions? I find it beneficial to add in the component of methodically working on my technique as well as working all the zones. For all disciplines, technique work in the pool, on the bike, on the run are areas where we typically do not spend much time, especially in the heavy part of training. Mix up the workouts, start with a warm up, add some drills, then some heart rate work, with more technique. Here is a sample workout for someone who has swimming as their strength.

Warm Up
200 swim, 200 kick, 200 pull
500 every 4th lap backstroke
8x50 - Odds: streamline dolphin kick 3-4 times off each wall, Evens: 25 right kick on your side / 25 left kick on your side

Main Set
5x100 pull - Odds +0s, Evens +5s
50 easy
4x50 - 25 right shark drill / 25 left shark drill (Google the drill if you are unfamiliar)
50 easy
3x100 swim - +0s, -5s, +0s
50 easy
4x50 - 6-8 beat switch drill
50 easy
2x100 - -5s

Warm down: 300
Total: 3000

As you can see, the workout has only 1k of work but it is intended to be fast and purposeful. Mixing in the technique will slow you down and have you thinking about your stroke, but you’ll have to turn around and swim fast again often. This combo will keep your stroke feeling good and your mind feeling confident and have you ready for when you are starting to build back your strength.


Gina Kehr was a professional athlete for 15 years, competing in events ranging from Olympic Trials to Ironman World Championships, where she achieved five Top 10 finishes in her career. She coaches athletes of all levels and all distances. Her experience comes from her journey as a novice age-group triathlete who quickly worked her way to becoming an established professional triathlete. Gina also works with the Stanford Tri team, is a coach with Stanford Masters and leads a squad of short and long course athletes. You can read more about Gina at AffinityMultisport.com.
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