This Year’s Approach to Winter Triathlon Training

Hibernation isn’t a good training plan. My minimal exposure to last year’s icy roads and cold air did little to develop my fitness. While I accept that conditions, along with the festive period, limit the training that can be done, they shouldn’t bring it to a halt. I’m not sure if this year is milder or I’ve acclimatised, but I seem to be more tolerant of these dull days. I’ve not shut myself away in a warm room, instead I’ve stuck to a plan to keep myself productive through to spring. A painful reintroduction to my local pool, progressive run training and a lack of cycling (I continue to shun the turbo trainer). It is a step forward after this time last year.

I hate being cold, but at least with the right clothing I can handle it; the bigger issue in winter is ice and I’m not willing to take the risk. Unfortunately I don’t like to train indoors, confinement removes the pleasure and no DVD can replace it. I’m reluctant to spend more than a few minutes on a treadmill or turbo trainer and have to become more creative in how I keep myself fit. I’ve added more off road options to my arsenal – a mountain bike and good trail running shoes will help me through the worst. Anything to avoid turning pedals while I stare at a screen for hours on end.

Mercifully I don’t feel a need to develop endurance at this time of year. It’s miserable out there, I’m not looking to extend my rides as conditions deteriorate; if it’s a nice day, I’ll ride long, otherwise I want to be off the bike as quickly as possible. There’s time to work on endurance next year, I can throw in the odd session should weather allow, but there’s as much to gain by focussing on other areas of my fitness. I may have a huge base of endurance built over a number of years, but I believe this principle applies to the majority of athletes.

Reflecting on this season, it’s quite apparent how significant my run is to my results. All the improvements I’ve made on the bike count for nothing without the run to back them up. I am carefully charting my way through an injury-free return to running; progress goes well and it’s something I can continue throughout winter. It’s rare that local roads ice-up to the point of danger and if they should it’s not far to the trails. If I can sufficiently rebuild run fitness by the spring I’m willing to accept a loss in bike fitness from neglected training.

Starting swimming again has proven surprisingly easy, seemingly insurmountable inertia crumbled in the face of two weeks consistent training. I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of working against the water, pulling myself over it and developing my feel for it. A remarkable turn around after a year of indifference, a shame the same can’t be said for my times – it will take a while to be back on form. I’m optimistic that with winter focussed on both swim and run they can return to 2010 standards and progress beyond.

A bad winter’s training taught me two things: that I can survive a bad winter of training and that surviving isn’t the same as benefiting. I built good bike fitness this year despite the absence of winter training; I know I can recover from a layoff. However I can’t afford to be completely negligent and while I may accept lost bike fitness, I must make gains elsewhere. 2012 needs it for a return to performance across the board.

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