Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Maintaining base during the off-season

Maintaining base during the off-season has been a problem for me in the past.  For some reason, this year I feel like I'm doing really well with it.  I thought I'd share why I believe that to be the case.  Disclaimer:  I am not a coach (or even a particularly accomplished athlete for that matter), but perhaps what I have to say can help you maintain your fitness during the long, cold winter months so that you aren't starting from scratch when the weather gets warmer.

Here are some key success factors that have helped me transition into the off-season:

  1. Don't overdo race season: In years past, I have gone overboard with racing (like the time I ran 3 marathons in 6 weeks).  My mentality at the time is, "I'm already trained, why not run another one?"  The problem with that thinking is that the cumulative effect of all of those races really does a number on your body (and more importantly, your mind).  By the time I am done beating myself up, I don't feel like doing ANYTHING anymore).  This year, I wrote out a schedule, reviewed it with my coach and stuck with it.  I executed my "A" race (Ironman 70.3 Princeton), spent some time in active recovery, and went right into maintenance mode.
  2. Plan smart, and have some early season goals:  This year, I'm planning an early season 70.3 (Challenge Atlantic City).  Having a big race at the beginning of tri season is a strong motivation not to slack off over the winter.
Here's how I'm working out differently, which is keeping me engaged
  1. Shorten the duration of my workouts, but don't lessen the intensity:  For long course racers (marathoners and long course triathletes), there's a heavy emphasis on long, slow runs and rides.  These workouts are critical to building endurance, but I find them to be very fatiguing, both mentally and physically.  To that end, my emphasis has been on shorter workouts (1 hour or less).
  2. Focus on quality:  Since I have cut down the quantity (duration) of my workouts, I can place a greater emphasis on quality.  For swimming, I focus on maintaining proper form, and avoid slacking off as the distances grow longer.  For running, I spend more time at tempo pace (or speedwork) and for the bike, I have spent more time on workouts designed to build power, rather than the endless spin on the trainer.
  3. Invest in equipment to make it interesting:  In my case, trainer rides were never interesting, or particularly helpful.  To change that up, I invested in Trainer Road software.  Pair that with Sufferfest videos, and you wind up with custom tailored workouts, calibrated to your FTP Threshhold, with trackable metrics.  This setup allows me to get better use out of my trainer, keeps it interesting, and lets me track improvement over time.  I'm hoping that I hit the roads this spring in better shape than I have in years past.
  4. Focus on cross-training:  With triathlon, this is easy, since I'm rarely doing the same workouts two days in a row.  For runners, I'd highly recommend time in the pool or time on the bike. This breaks up the mental fatigue (especially if you are doing mostly treadmill workouts). Who knows, you may become a triathlete that way...(that's what happened to me).
Hope these tips have helped - would love to hear what's keeping you going in the cold, dark winters.


Nate Wiener said...

Wanna go 50/50 on Peloton Cycle? We can keep it at my house...

Anonymous said...

I like your comments on "quality over quantity." I think this is something many struggle with, especially during the off season. Good luck in 2015!

-Trevor from TrainerRoad