Winter Workload

A week since race day and I’ve been acting out my off season plan. For seven days I’ve eaten whatever I want, slept in and avoided anything resembling exercise. I extended the off season into every aspect of life doing the absolute minimum needed! It’s been fun, but can I return to normal now?

Another fortnight of this holds no appeal. I’m itching to do something active again and I’m fed up eating cake! There’s a tradition of taking a break at the end of a season and following it with ‘off season‘ training. Two year’s chasing an endless summer means I’ve dodged tradition and know it’s not essential.

What happens when you take a training break? You start losing fitness and combined with a relaxed diet you’ll gain weight. There’s room for a little of this, but if I extended mine to three weeks I dread the point I’ll reach. The longer the break the more fitness lost. Every week off leaves me more work when I start again.

A break has its benefits – long periods of focussed training are mentally and physically tiring. Down time allows for high quality recovery. I’m not immune and needed time off during the last two years. More on the mental side when the pressure of continual structured training all seemed too much!

Costs and benefits should be balanced if you don’t feel mentally or physically drained there’s no reason to extend down time. I’m not going to force myself to take a break I’ll do whatever activity I feel like. After a few weeks I’ll think about structure and sessions.

Beyond the end of season break comes the off season. A confusing period with conflicting views on what should be done. Don’t do too much or you’ll be burnt out by race season… Winter miles, Summer smiles… Focus on intensity not mileage… If anything it’s a worse mess than the advice on Ironman training!

Being a long way from races the off season provides an opportunity to do something different. The perfect time for a single sport focus whether to eliminate weaknesses or boost strengths. A month or two dedicated to one sport can reap real benefits. When training balance is restored you come back an improved triathlete.

Winter isn’t about avoiding intensity or logging big miles nor is it just about training intensively. I see no reason to view the off season any differently to the rest of the year. The aim is a consistent training load, i.e. a mix of volume and intensity that you can perform week after week.

Admittedly weather is a good reason to adjust plans, but it’s not a good reason to train less effectively. Rather than view it as an excuse to train less view it as motivation for a focussed period of training. Identify areas to work on (probably avoiding endurance) and build the program round them.

It’s the perfect time to work on threshold power. Riding outdoors is less pleasant and I can only manage the turbo for so long. A large chunk of my riding will be spent indoors working at threshold pace. I’ll get outside a little, but I’m not going to worry about regularly long rides until Spring. Endurance will come back easily especially with a few months of FTP work.

Swimming can really benefit if any environment is unaffected by winter it’s the indoor pool. My program will continue the regular swim sessions that worked well in the build to Hawaii. There’s no magic to them it’s a combination of consistency, regularity and ensuring there’s hard work in each one. An entire winter of that will set me up for the New Year.

I realise this reads like I’ve no off season focus, but running is where I’m looking to make gains. I can chip away at times in the otherss, but know that good run training will significantly improve results. The build into ITU LD Worlds set me up to run three hour marathon pace the aim is to develop that for Ironman Austria.

It’s not a weakness, but the best area to place my efforts as the returns are huge. A high volume period of running will set me up for a faster 2011 season. It sounds like winter miles and effectively it is. I know I respond well to running a lot then running harder. Too much of the latter and I’m far more likely to injure myself.

My winter involves fewer hours of training overall, but the workload will remain the same. Time will be divided differently with a run emphasis and a reduction in cycling. Training intensity will be adjusted I may not be cycling for as long, but I’ll balance it by cycling harder. Less time on the bike, but not too large a drop in training load.

My athletes are mostly in their off seasons. For each of them I’m establishing a basic week that we’ll carry through the winter and into next year. The focus of their week is determined the same way as mine – where are the biggest gains to be made? Some sports are maintained and some developed it’s hard to improve them all at once. There’ll be harder weeks to come in the season, but none of them are taking it easy.

(When I take a break I really take a break. Regular blogging will return, but don’t expect daily posts that’s tough work! I’ll also be contributing a monthly column for Endurance Corner so watch out for posts there. The focus here will be on building my sub-9 Ironman plans, run training and working towards goals. I’m always open to suggestions by e-mail, Twitter or Facebook too.)