Use the Off Season to Improve
In the sport of triathlon the off season refers to the period of year with no races on the schedule. It certainly is not a time for eating, watching TV and becoming a couch potato. For many athletes this represents a time for reduced training and pursuing other interests, but for others its time to get that advantage on their competition for the upcoming season. This time of year is the most effective time of year for improving triathlon performance. During the racing season a busy schedule of working and training for three sports leaves little time for focusing on your weakest sport. Whenever an athlete focuses on one sport the other two sports will suffer. That‚Äôs no problem in the off season since there are no races and as the racing season approaches training for all three sports can resume. Every triathlete has at least one weak sport.
An improvement in each of these sports basically comes from more time spent training for that sport. In the off season I strongly recommend reducing the hours of training for two sports so that your weakest sport can be focused on without increasing the total weekly volume. For example, if cycling is your focus and your total off season weekly volume is 15 hours (3hr swim, 5hr run and 7hr bike) reduce the swim to 2 hr, the run to 3hr, and increase the bike to 10 hours. The reduction in swim and run training will still be enough to keep from losing too much run and swim fitness and will come back quickly once normal hours of training start. An athlete with even less time to train may even have to cut back the swim to once a week and the run to 2 hours a week. For a period of a few weeks to a month an athlete can even cut back to little or no training on two sports to really boost that single sport focus.
A high frequency schedule can also help with an athletes one sport focus. For example if an athlete were to focus on their run and during the season they ran for 1 hr 3 x / week they need to increase their frequency to 5 x per week. To avoid increasing mileage too quickly and getting injured they could run 1 hr 2x/week and the other 3 runs of 30 ‚Äì 45 minutes would keep the mileage from increasing too quickly and their frequency would still increase. Runs can also be broken up into two workouts (or two a day). A 30 min run / 1 hour bike and 30 min run will put less running stress on the legs than an hour straight, yet the frequency has increased and the benefits of running an hour are still there. Some very high mileage run weeks can be accomplished injury free this way.
Some other ways of improving for one sport other than or in addition to increasing the volume may include the following: for swimming ‚Äì a swim clinic, joining a masters swim program or having your swim videoed by a coach. For cycling it may be starting a strength and weight training program, using power cranks, starting to train with a power meter or joining up on the local group ride. For running it can be training with a run group on the track once per week, strength training, adding some hills to your runs or plyometrics.
So now you can look at this years ‚Äúoff season‚Äù as a chance to get an advantage on your buddies by improving your weakest link. Whether you increase your weak sports volume this winter or do some sport specific work the next racing season will be your best yet.