The off season is the perfect time to give your body a break from all the miles you have been racking up during the training season. However, just because swimming, biking and running volume goes down, doesn’t mean that all types of training need to ramp down. In fact, certain types of training can actually help improve your efficiency in all three triathlon disciplines.
Maximize Your Off Season
The most effective use of time in the off season is to tailor your strength program to improve your swimming, cycling and running performance. Although group strength classes are great for beginners, they often don’t take into consideration individual needs. And, the lighter load / higher rep. training often seen is group sessions may not produce the same benefits at the muscular level (i.e. muscle fibre recruitment) as heavy strength training. However, heavy strength training also comes with significantly greater injury risks. This is why it is best done on an individual basis with a coach.
Indirect Strength Benefits
Indirectly, strength training can improve your performance by reducing time off due to injury. Since many athletes suffer a number of injuries (or are on the edge of becoming injured), during the training season, taking some to properly rehab and strengthen those weak areas will allow you to take your training to the next level during your next season. Among the most common injuries in runners are overuse injuries, which are often magnified when there are increases in training volume and intensity. Often those overuse injuries arise as a result of muscle/ joint imbalances, which is best combatted with unilateral training.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to dedicate the time and energy for strength training while maintaining a high running volume. In addition, the two styles of strength training that yield the greatest impact on running economy – heavy strength and plyometric training – do not produce as great of results when combined with high volumes of run training. For this reason, the off season is the perfect time to build up a solid foundation of strength that will carry you through your next season. Working on specific strength patterns “fresh” (i.e before other workouts) will accelerate your bodies’ ability to learn new motor patterns and increase firing and sequencing within your muscles.
While you might still be doing some light training after your strength sessions and your paces may drop by a few seconds/ km, the benefits your muscles will gain far outweigh this drop in pace in the off season. Once race season approaches, strength training should switch to more of a maintenance phase and be done after runs. This ensures the strength work does not interfere with the quality of your run workouts.
Where to start
Set yourself up for success by booking in for a 1 on 1 initial assessment and program design. This assessment will ensure your program specifically addresses any muscular imbalances and/or weakness that could be inhibiting your performance or potentially cause injuries in the future. After your assessment, you will have access to all the videos, pictures and descriptions for the corresponding exercises in your program to help you build a strong and powerful foundation for your next race.
Amanda Regnier, MSc. C.S.C.S.