We are embracing that period in the year where triathletes get a little stuck.
That blip when events are done for this year and we can begin planning out the next.
The problem is that the upcoming goals are just far enough away that we could afford to take our foot off the gas for a moment to relax knowing that really in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter too much.
We know those events next June or July won’t be hugely affected by taking a day off here or there in December.
But the thing that really can grind you down is when the odd day off becomes the odd week off. Maybe the whole month.
But maybe this isn’t a bad thing?
This made us think about the strategies we use to help get us through winter to boost motivation and ensure next year isn’t ruined by an overly relaxed winter.
So here are our five tips for you – if you have any others you think should be included – let us know via [email protected]
Take a month out.
I’m personally an advocate of taking a month off each year. It’s a rule as far as I am concerned.
Finish the last big event of my year and psychologically I find that break does the world of good for me.
I’ll bounce back with more enthusiasm, more passion and because I’ve spent that month off researching my goals for the following year, I feel more focused on them too.
Now there is a small caveat.
A “month off” for me isn’t a feet up on the sofa type month.
I’ll still ride my bike, I’ll ride off road or something fun. My runs will be easy, perhaps catching up with friends and I’ll still swim every now and then. But the important thing for me is that it isn’t structured. It’s ad hoc, unfocused and what some might call “junk” miles.
But it ticks the box of enjoyment for me, so I stick with it.
This month off might be different for each person
It might be that you only run. Maybe you focus on swimming technique solely for that month to boost your fitness in the pool. Perhaps a month of yoga to start your winter by integrating something new that will benefit your year ahead.
Whatever you might do – keep it interesting and don’t panic about losing fitness in four weeks… You will inevitably loose some, but at the sacrifice of renewed vigour at the 12 months that lye ahead.
Focus on FUN
We already mentioned the F word in the previous point. But fun really should be ranked the highest when it comes to winter focus.
We can all be too guilty of focusing on the numbers, we know the heart rate scores, the power data and pace we want to run at. But we can’t measure fun (not with a firm number).
We can quickly experience burnout if all we do all year round is focus on those numbers, we need to have a break from them every now and then. So another strategy we use is to ignore those pesky numbers.
Go for a ride without worrying about the speed. Perhaps ride off road and get muddy.
Switch your weekend long run on the road for a trail run and hunt out some hills.
Of course, this really does depend on what your view of fun really is.
I even know triathletes that choose to go rock climbing as part of their winter strength training. Some hit the gym more, some switch to doing all of their interval sessions on the treadmill (madness if you ask me..!)
There are no “rules”but when it comes to remaining fit and healthy over the winter, you don’t have to follow the same training you were doing in the summer to maintain your fitness.
Hitting the gym is one option over the winter.
Firstly it’ll be dry and probably warmer than outside, secondly it’ll have the knock on effect of improved swim, bike and run performances too.
Adding in strength work to your winter (and year round) training is something all triathletes can benefit from. And it doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym either – many of the movements can be done at home as a starting point and with the addition of a set of home weights you can do most exercises you’ll ever need from your own house.
However, accountability at home when you have lost that mojo is the downfall. So often having a gym membership or a Personal Trainer is an ideal option.
Strength training isn’t just a way of becoming stronger, but a method of dropping a few excess lbs too – for many triathletes I have worked with, their bodies become used to the three sports and they struggle to shift any excess weight, finding that the scales stagnate. Adding strength training to their routine is one stimulus which can help.
Winter ≠ Slow and Steady.
There was a time when winter training meant a lot of base miles. Slow and steady in winter followed by more event specific training in the spring/summer when the events were getting closer.
But times are changing now, more so because the training advice is more mainstream.
Triathlon used to be the sport for individuals with 15-20 training hours per week available to them. In this scenario, you need to keep a lot of your training “easy” otherwise you’ll be doing more harm than good.
This made sense to keep winter “easy” then build the speed up as you got closer to event day.
But fast forward to today, and I know I personally work with 5-8 triathletes who have 5-8 hours available each week for training. And half of those hours are on a Saturday and a Sunday. Leaving just 2-3 hours during the week (and some I know have even less than this).
Going “steady” in each of these sessions isn’t going to be too motivating for these people, nor will it help their performances into the next year.
There is one guarantee, if you always train slow, you won’t get any faster.
Recently the trend has moved towards keeping the intensity over the winter to avoid letting fitness drop too low. If you too are on a strict budget with the number of training hours you have available then following a plan with more intensity thrown in will likely benefit you as you training through the winter.
Winter does not mean slow and steady training, make sure you mix things up with different intensities, different focuses and perhaps different people too.
Set Winter Goals.
Seeing as most of us will have events in the summer or maybe as early as April, it leaves a big gap until we have that marker in our year.
It’s these markers which focus many of us into action and when they are so far away we can lose a little bit of motivation. It’s natural.
What works for myself and many triathletes I coach is to have a series of winter goals.
Goals such as:
– FTP (Functional Threshold Power) Benchmark every 6-8 weeks.
– Running event or parkrun targets, every 4-6 weeks.
– Swimming CSS Benchmark, every 4-6 weeks.
– Weekly yoga targets – can you do a certain yoga move after x weeks.
– Strength targets, either x number of times per week, of lifting x kgs.
I’ve listed some of these as Benchmarks too, as the word test suggests a pass or fail result, when really over the winter we just want to see where we are currently. The result doesn’t really matter at this point. It’s just there as a check up and to have a focal point 4-6 weeks away that you can work towards.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to winter goals – you just need to get a bit creative and work out what motivates you.
Dedicated to your success
The Triathlon Festival Team.
P.S. THIS WEEK we’ll be announcing the date and location of the Triathlon Festival coming to Southampton in March 2019.
To be in with a chance of winning a free ticket, pop your email address in the box at the top of this page and we’ll be announcing winners when we release the date.