It has been a long triathlon season but it has now come to an end. As the long nights draw in and you are adjusting to training in the dark, you may find yourself wondering how to stay motivated and get the most out of your off season triathlon training.
Sandra Barden, a L3 Coach and a Coach Tutor for British Triathlon, shares 10 ways to maximise your triathlon training during the off season.
Off Season Triathlon Training
Unless you’re heading off for sunnier climes, the end of September marks the end of the open water triathlon season with darker, chillier mornings, slippier roads and balmy waters becoming barmy waters! So what now?
Hopefully many (or perhaps only the lucky few) will be congratulating themselves on a successful summer with no injuries and are already planning which tweaks and changes will make 2018 even better.
But for others, especially the older athlete, the road leading to 2018 may look long and grey. It will largely be about recuperating and recovering from injuries and the all out fatigue of competing in one, or several, multi-discipline events while juggling work, life and family.
Youngsters tend to bounce back – they are youngsters after all. The more mature athlete needs a little more time to be given to recovering well and planning how to get stronger for the following season.
So what can you do to maximise and enjoy your off season triathlon training?
1) FIRSTLY LOOK BACK WITH PRIDE
Every triathlete can find something from their season that they can reflect on with pride.
Making it to the start line, managing their first open water swim, getting onto a road bike, first time in cleats, helping another competitor in distress, loaning a competitor a piece of kit at an event, taking up sport for the first time in your more mature years, a PB or even winning an event.
The list is endless and personal. There is always something that deserves that pat on the back so enjoy it and feel proud.
2) TAKE A BREAK
Before you start your off season triathlon training, you should take a break. Triathlon is a demanding sport, or should I say three sports. It requires a lot of mental and physical commitment, time commitment and understanding from loved ones. This is the time of year to take some downtime.
A few weeks (2-4 approx) away from structured training will do wonders for the soul and body, as well as your relationship with the rest of the family. Switch off the heart rate monitor and put the Garmin and the power meter into a drawer. Forget speed, distance, time and frequency – just enjoy.
Even mature athletes can get faster year on year but they do need to plan a little more R&R into the programme.
3) DEAL WITH THE NIGGLE
Now is the time to face that niggle and deal with it. You may have got away with it over the summer but as we mature we need to address the stresses and strains of training on an aging body. Gone are the days of ‘bouncing back’, you now have to treat your bodies with a little more tlc.
If your downtime means complete time off to manage an injury then so be it. You will be far better off in the long run. Use the time to get some expert help and develop exercises to try to minimise or even prevent the problem coming back.
A regular sports massage can work wonders in spotting things before they really become a problem.
4) JOIN A GYM
Yes, join a gym. Swim, bike and run are not enough! Recent research has found that maintaining, or even increasing, muscle mass will help us to age more slowly. Find the time to get into a gym, make your own gym, or join a yoga class.
Longevity and consistency as a mature athlete will come from making ourselves robust before we load our bodies with the demands of triathlon. Now is the perfect time to get a strength programme into your normal routine.
A good PT should be able to give you a programme for improving core strength, balance and range of movement while building the key muscles for triathlon. Remember you’re not the typical gym bunny and press-ups don’t really cut it for a triathlete.
When choosing a PT, check out their credentials – L3 with no further qualifications is the absolute basic level. Be selective and look for someone who has experience and qualifications that are relevant to your needs.
Related: Find A Gym Near You
5) DECIDE ON YOUR LIMITER AND WORK ON IT
What is holding you back? Choose your biggest limiter and do some concentrated work on it during your off season triathlon training. Just focus on one or two things at a time.
Maybe find a coach who can help you. Being filmed either in the water, on the bike or out running can be extremely useful. It can help you to visualise what is happening and what you’re going to be working on.
6) GO OFF-ROAD
Add some variety into your cycling and running.
Cross country running can be very liberating but more than anything else it will:
- Build strength in the lower leg and ankles
- Improve proprioception (messages from your feet to your brain) and balance
- Increase endurance
These are all things that naturally decline as we age.
It’s also very time efficient. Running 5k over hills and dales is like putting in about 7-8k on the roads.
If you have an off-road or hybrid bike then hit some trails to improve your bike handling skills. FORGET THE GADGETS FOR NOW – just go out and enjoy.
7) JOIN A CLUB
Joining your local club can help motivate you through your off season triathlon training and the dark winter. It is a great way to socialise and meet other triathletes.
You will find there are a lot more mature athletes out there than you imagine with loads of tips and experience to share.
8) FIND A COACH OR A PROGRAMME
If you don’t have a local club then you can always find a triathlon coach who you can work with to create a programme that works for you.
Remember, triathlon must fit around your work/life commitments. If you can get a bespoke programme, it will be easier to follow and maintain. Just be sure that your coach understands the demands of the sport on an older body!
If a personal coach is not realistic then a general on-line programme along with all the easily accessible on-line training tips can help point you in the right direction.
During your off season triathlon training, it is the perfect time to look into getting involved in a Spring training camp. There are many camps available. Going somewhere warm early in the year is a great way to kickstart the season.
Just be clear when looking that you know whether you want a ‘coached’ camp (coaching from BTF coaches but how much coaching you get depends on the camp) or simply a ‘guided’ camp (training routes and ideas facilitated by a camp but no proper coaching and possibly not run by BTF coaches).
Read the information carefully, think about what you really want and ask questions.
Related: Find A Coach Near You
9) EAT WELL
The natural loss of muscle as we age (around 10% per year if we do nothing about it) can be counterbalanced by strength training and making sure our diet has everything it needs. As we age the need for regular protein becomes even more important.
Use the next few easier months to work out some general go-to recipes and some specific recipes for pre and post training.
Remember that along with the ‘rainbow’ plate, you should also make sure you have protein with nearly all your meals. Up to 20g per meal (around 70g total per day) is ideal as we need to spread it over the day. Post training you should be aiming for a 3 or 4:1 (carbs to protein) ratio.
We need to recover well and that tends to take a little longer as we get older.
10) WINTER BIKE TIME
As well as giving yourselves a little tlc during your off season triathlon training, it is also a good time to do the same for your bike. You should be getting it ready for the upcoming winter.
That might mean putting away the thoroughbred and getting out the old timer. However, whatever you do, give it an MOT. Winter tyres, mudguards and lights are essential and check out your brakes.
Remember to give everything a regular once over in the bad weather. Taking 2 mins to check for thorns or flints etc in your tyres after each ride can really help save you the hassle of punctures in the winter.
Don’t forget to add tweezers and patches to your repair kit (the new £5 and £10 notes work well as patches in an emergency, assuming you still have one left after the winter cake stop).
About Sandra Barden
Sandra is a L3 Coach and a Coach Tutor for British Triathlon as well as being a successful GB Age-Group athlete.
Sandra, and fellow Triathlete Jo Lewis, run Tri50 which focusses on mature athletes and female specific coaching via 1-1 coaching, training days and warm weather training camps.
To find out more about Sandra Barden and her coaching services, head over to the Tri50 website for full information which includes details of the Spring 2018 Swim and Triathlon Camps in the Canaries.
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