It's happening. September is upon as and that means that the end of triathlon season (at least in Ontario) is only weeks away. Hopefully you have had a successful season and are looking forward to some time off the race course.
One big question that people have after their last big race is, "how long should I take off?" Some athletes will feel guilty taking any time off training, while others want to take the entire winter off. When making this decision, keep in mind both ends of the spectrum. If you take no time off, you are more likely to become overtrained and suffer an injury in the upcoming season. If you want to take a lot of time off, you should know that it only takes about 4 weeks of inactivity for you to revert to a pre-trained state.
My recommendation is to take about 1-2 weeks off triathlon specific training. Yup, you heard me. Now, I didn't say not to do any activity during this time. Walk as much as you want (within reason), take yoga classes, dance or play soccer or basketball with the kids, get on your commuter bike for a family bike ride. Do not turn on your Garmin, do not log in to your TrainingPeaks or Strava account, do not track every detail of your sleep, nutrition and weight! Have a glass or two extra of wine, catch up with your friends and sleep in (if you can).
What do you do when you do get back into training mode? Well, what you shouldn't do is get back into the same training routine as you had in race season. Take some time to plan your season, write down your SMART goals, write down some habits you want to change. Then come up with a plan of action [or hire a coach like me :)] Break-up your 2016 to 2017 training plan into 4 or 5 phases so that you change up your training every once in awhile. Have a different focus for each phase that is more and more specific towards your race as it gets nearer. Keep in mind that you should include a swim, bike or run once every 3-4 days to maintain fitness in that sport. Focus first on what you need to improve the most, and spend a majority of your time in the fall training that sport. As your get nearer to race day, spend a proportionate amount of time each week on each sport relative to the time you will spend on that sport during the race. For example, don't swim 3 times a week if it means you can only bike 2 times a week.
Here is an example of a triathlon season plan for someone training for a half-ironman:
Phase 1: October, Goal: (1) Improve muscle engagement of weaker muscles like core & glutes (2) Improve swim technique
- Strength training (3 times per week)
- Swim - Technique focus (2 times per week)
- Bike - Aerobic, one legged drills (2 times per week)
- Run - Short, base (2-3 times per week)
Phase 2: November & December, Goal: (1) Strengthen muscles like core & legs for cycling & running (2) Improve swim endurance with new technique
- Strength training (2-3 times per week)
- Swim - Increase mileage without compromising technique by doing a lot of swimming with lots of rest (2-3 times per week)
- Bike - Aerobic and slow cadence, high power intervals
- Run - Aerobic running, one short brick run, your longest run at about 1/2 your goal race distance (2-3 times per week)
Phase 3: January & February, Goal: (1) Improve FTP on the bike (2) PB in 400m in the swim (3) Improve run efficiency
- Strength training (2 times per week)
- Swim - Speed, pull paddles and race pace efforts
- Bike - VO2max and FTP+10% work, one longer ride/week
- Run - Hill repeats, one short brick run, your longest run at about 2/3 to 3/4 your goal race distance (2-3 times per week)
Phase 4: March & April, Goal: (1) Improve 2-3 hour power on the bike (2) PB in 1500m in the swim (3) Improved endurance for running off the bike
- Strength training (maintenance mode)
- Swim - Longer race pace efforts
- Bike - FTP & Tempo efforts, one longer ride/week
- Run - Hill repeats & speed work, one longer brick run, your longest run at about +/- 10% above your goal race distance (3-4 times per week)
Phase 5: Triathlon Season, Goals: PB or finish goal race
I encourage you to use the above as a template when planning your own season. Keep in mind that this will vary depending on the individual, your own abilities and the distance you hope to complete.
By: Miranda Tomenson, Triathlon Coach, RMT, MSc