For a triathlete what’s one of the best things you can be doing in the off season?
If I were to rate my top 3 it would be:
1. Strength training
2. Rest & Relaxation
3. Skill development
Being what I consider to be the number one, let us talk a little about strength training and how you can periodise it through your training year.
One of the biggest challenges for a triathlete trying to incorporate strength training into their routine is that it’s another layer of stress and fatigue that if not programmed correctly can have a negative impact on your swim, bike and run. For example, if you go full nuts in the gym on squat day, there’s no way you are backing up the next day or even in the next few days to complete a good quality bike or run session. Your legs will be too trashed and on top of that you are trying to continue your tri training which also doesn’t give the body enough time to adapt to the strength training you’ve put it through. But then on the other side of this, if you don’t do enough in the gym, you aren’t able to stress the body enough to give it anything to adapt to. So, it’s a fine line and that’s why you need to periodise your strength training through the year depending on your race calendar.
So how do we do this?
Simply put, in your off season you go harder in the gym and in your competitive phase (the period of training where you are building specifically for a race or series of races) you back off the strength training and put it more into a maintenance/injury prevention mode.
Here’s an example of what one exercise might look like in the off season versus during the competitive phase:
Back Squat – 3-5 sets/75-90% 1RM (1 rep max)/1-10 reps
Back Squat – 2 sets/50% 1RM/4-8 reps
So, you can still do the same exercises in the two phases but during the off season (because there’s no racing and any races you have planned are in the distant future) you can afford to push the body harder as it will have more opportunity to recover and absorb the training). In the competitive phase you still want to be including strength work but just at almost ‘warm up’ levels. This still keeps the muscles innervated and ready to go.
So, in my opinion if you’re not including a thought out strength plan in your off season you are really missing out on a very important part of developing yourself as an athlete.