Tips for Off Season Training

For many of us, the triathlon off season is here! Finally! Off season can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  I would guess the majority of people need some time off for mind and body to recover.  You probably need a few date nights with the loved one or maybe to go out with some non-triathlete friends just so they know you are still alive. Whatever your need for some time off, it usually doesn’t take much time before that crazy triathlete part of your brain kicks in and you are ready to at least be semi active again. When that happens here are a few tips I try to follow when that urge to move comes back.

  • Do a different sport – Now is a great time for both mind and body to pick up a new sport or go back to a sport you were avoiding. Changing up the training method can really help build new muscle groups, especially when going from triathlon to a sport that requires lateral movement.  Maybe you’ve been avoiding a pickup basketball game because you were afraid of getting injured.  Well, dust off your Jordan’s and hit the open court!  Also, opening soon is the Brooklyn Boulders facility in the loop if you ever wanted to get into rock climbing.  Changing it up can also help mentally to break up the everyday swim, bike, and run that most triathletes do, while still keeping you in shape.
    • DO CYCLOCROSS!!! Cross isn’t exactly new to the cycling scene but it is growing really quickly. Think of cross racing like cross country running, you ride over grass, concrete, sand, gravel, through woods, up and over stairs, fallen trees, fixed barriers, and all kinds of other stuff.  The race involves a rider dismounting their bike, running over a barrier, and then remounting to ride, which ends up being great practice for those transition mounts and dismounts.  For a list of races in the Chicago area, check out Chicago Cross Cup (here).
  • Cyclocross ChicagoFocus on a weakness – If/when you want to get back to swim, bike, and run now is a great time to overload a weaker discipline. Not a good swimmer? Bump your normal weekly swims from 3 a week to 6, and try to up the volume slightly from your previous workouts.  Gaining some ground by overloading a discipline can carry fitness and strength over to the next training block when you go back to a normal workload.   Always be careful not to hurt yourself.  When you make this jump don’t go from 5,000 yards a week to 20,000 yards, implement the increase gradually.  Consult a coach for some specifics, but in general don’t increase the volume more than 10-20% per week.
  • Work on technique – Off season is also a great time work on technique building. Hire a swim coach (I’m available) to analyze your swim technique or have someone look at your running stride.  The relaxed atmosphere of the off season can let you focus on making some small technique changes without the rush of trying to get fitness or build speed.
  • Go off schedule and make it up as you go – Now is a great time to leave your Garmin at home, ditch the training peaks log, and get out and just have fun. Swimming, biking, and running ‘free’ as I like to call it can be a great mental break from the structured workouts of a hard training season.
  • Lift heavy weights – It’s a classic thought that triathletes and endurance athletes should lift light weights and high reps. I’m not going to get into that argument right now, but the off season is a great time to switch that up.  Lifting heavy weights can go a long way to building muscle in sport specific muscle groups, which will translate into stronger swimming, biking, and running next season.  Strength training can be a bit complex, if you are not experienced I HIGHLY recommend consulting a personal trainer before you start throwing around the iron and as always make sure you check with your doctor and are healthy enough to exercise.
  • Be social – Very often triathletes do all their training in very anti-social environments. The off season is a great time to jump into a group ride, run, or masters swim practice.  Get outside your normal gym and find some new friends.  We have a group ride leaving from Element in Chicago every Saturday morning at 7:30am (details).   Often a group training session can force you to train in ways you have not trained before.  Maybe you get on a group ride and learn the physical toll a pace line can take on your body, or you have a new run group that forces you to run a bit faster than normal for a few sections.  Either way, sometimes just being able to interact with others makes the training fly by.
  • Most important – Lastly and most important, whatever you do, HAVE FUN. Off season is a great time of year and can help set you up for success in the next season, but none of that means a thing if you are not enjoying what you are doing.



Remember to consult your doctor before taking part in physical activity.  If you are not an expert in any of the disciplines I mention above you need to consult an expert before taking part in any exercise.  Even under a watchful eye lifting weights can be dangerous, hiring a personal trainer is highly recommended.


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