EPC Tips - Welcome to The Off Season

Dec. 18, 2014

With 2014 winding down and coming to a close this month, now is that time narrow-focused endurance athletes begin to look towards not only the new year but the new racing season that lies ahead. Most endurance athletes (in the northern hemisphere, anyway) have brought their competitive racing season to a close in the previous weeks/months and have been enjoying some downtime coupled perhaps with some cross-training and/or easier aerobic training/fun as they settle into the off season.

The term "off season" is often misunderstood and misused in training talk.

The off season is not a time to take off from training, but rather the time you take off from racing. You have your racing season and your non-racing season, or off season, as it’s commonly referred to. With the pressure of being in top racing shape removed, you can now focus on a consistent training program without being interrupted by racing and recovering. Now is the time you can focus on your weaknesses and train to improve yourself as an endurance athlete.

Regarding how you should train during the off season, there are countless numbers of different training philosophies out there from which to choose. What I've found to work well for most athletes, regardless of chosen training methodology, is to train progressively from 'least race specific' to 'most race specific' as you build up to your key events. Put simply, this means the further out you are from your priority events the less event specific your training can be; and as you move closer to your A-race your training becomes more specific to the fitness requirements called for on race day.

Triathlon, regardless of distance, is an aerobic sport. As we near race day we want to achieve the best possible aerobic conditioning in order to race to the best possible result.

When we are months away from competitive racing, we can train far from the aerobic end of training and focus more of our efforts on technique, strength, speed and power.

These often neglected areas of fitness development will improve our movement efficiency allowing us to utilize more of our given aerobic capacity as we transition to larger aerobic training volumes. This equates to faster maintainable aerobic training paces over greater distances as you build towards your priority events.

This training approach goes against much of the traditional off season ‘base training’ methods that endurance athletes may be familiar with: the long, slow distance theory of off season training to build the aerobic system prior to sharpening up with high intensity training as you build towards your key events. Many current physiologists and top coaches from around the world are now beginning to agree that this classic method, created by the ‘strength/power sports’ community (ie. weight lifting), to be flawed for endurance sports.

The new school thought is to train first from the less race specific, higher intensity strength, speed, and power, then adding the race specific aerobic volume as you near your goal races.

When you view it from this angle you can see why the classic periodization model (low intensity/high volume followed by high intensity/low volume as your peak events neared) was successful for sports like weight lifting, track running, short and middle distance swimming, and other strength, speed, power dominant sports.

Here we are at the end of the year, and it’s time to first dial in your racing schedule for the new year ahead. Once you have that in hand it’s time to figure out your training program, either on your own, with the help of others, or with your coach so you can make the most of this off season. Be better prepared for the racing season ahead with an effective off season training program that emphasizes technique, strength, speed and power and save the long slow (or not so slow) distance efforts for later. It takes less time, can be highly effective performed indoors as daylight disappears and cold weather sets in, and it’s something different for you to experiment with which will all likely lead to improved fitness and fun.

After all, a smart friend of mine says, “ Training is just an adult form of play.”

Have fun!

Written by Cody Waite, professional XTERRA athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Looking for help with your training for 2015? Check out EPC's Personal CoachingGroup Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options created to fit your needs and budget.  www.epcmultisport.com

EPC Tips