Monday, February 1, 2016

So Now What?

by Justin Daerr

In my last article I covered what to do when you take an offseason. Assuming you took a break from the swim, bike, run world, the next question is: So now what? The answer, as with many things is: “It depends.”

First off, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere and just starting to train again, you are going to be confronted by winter. Even when winter doesn’t pose a major weather problem (Florida, Texas, Arizona, etc), it still creates problems with less daylight. You can be highly motivated to throw down some big training, but it becomes a problem when all the sessions before and after work have to be done in the dark. Nevertheless, pacing your season with the length of the days can provide a nice, natural progression. Volume grows as daylight grows.

Given the shorter days and less overall training volume, the next question becomes how to maximize the time that you have. Some popular answers include:

  1. Run a winter marathon. When I first started triathlon, this statement was less metaphorical. What I mean by that is: people would actually set aside a period of time to train for a winter marathon. Today, I take this idea to be more of a metaphor for a swim, bike, or run-specific focus in their training: that is, possibly setting aside a couple of the sports to focus on one. I think this satisfies the notion of trying to get something productive done with the limited time you have. I can understand and respect that, but I generally disagree with it as well. There are cases where an athlete has an unbalanced background (and can afford to set one sport aside), but generally speaking, I believe most triathletes should stay balanced in their approach and continue to train “normally,” albeit with less volume.

  2. Hit the weights. Strength training is also a popular activity to include in the winter/early season. Over the last couple years I started to hit the gym more and you can hear my reasons why on a podcast I did with IM Talk last January. With lower overall aerobic volume, you can make strength gains much more easily and effectively. That becomes much more difficult as swim, bike and run volume rises. If you do partake in strength training, consult with a trainer that really understand the movements you want to include. Many of us lifted weights in high school or in our younger years and believe we “know what to do.” That might very well be true, but get a professional to confirm it. Perfecting the technique of movements is not only important for safety, but also for becoming stronger.

  3. Work on your limiters. This is probably the broadest and most widely used statement when it comes to discussing what to do over winter. What I take it to mean is this: if you are going to make a sustainable change, do it now. If you want to improve your eating habits, start small and do it now. If you want to change your bike position or equipment, now is great time to do so. If you want to change something with your swim stroke, run cadence or other mechanics do it now. It can be difficult to work on these things when volume starts rising and the preparation for races takes over. Make these changes now, when everything has slowed down.

One final thought I will leave you all with is this: be flexible. Winter and the early season can be challenging for different reasons and learning to stay positive and do your best with the what it brings will go a long way in making for a great season of racing.

Justin Daerr is a professional triathlete and co-owner of Endurance Corner. You can follow him on Twitter @justindaerr.
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