October 12, 2019 - An annual training cycle should have multiple phases that include building of base fitness, sport-specific-strength, race preparation, a taper period AND it should also include an offseason phase.
We, as triathletes, are notorious for having “Type A” personalities. We plan our race schedules months, if not years in advance. Many of us feel we must check those day-to-day boxes of completing our workouts and we are always looking to “what’s next!?”. Because of these personality traits, I find that far too many triathletes don’t allow themselves to have a real offseason. As soon as our Fall “A” race is documented in Training Peaks, we start looking at how early in the Spring we can race again. That kind of commitment can be a great weapon in your training, but it can also be detrimental to your overall success and longevity in the sport. An annual training cycle should have multiple phases that include building of base fitness, sport-specific-strength, race-preparation, a taper period AND it should also include an offseason phase.
Mentally and physically, we can only keep up the breakneck pace of multisport training for so long before something gives. If we don’t allow ourselves the time to rest and recover, eventually we will break down. That can be in the form of mental burnout, physical exhaustion and, too commonly, stress injury. To some it sounds counterintuitive, but allowing yourself a true offseason can be a key to what takes you to the next level.
Now, and this is important, I’m not telling you to dedicate three months to being your best version of a couch potato. Triathlon rewards consistent, smart training above all else. What I am suggesting is that you do something in between your uber-focused race season mentality and being a non-athlete for the offseason. In the first couple of weeks after my athlete’s grand finale race, I recommend they do no structured training. They’ve earned it! Work on those house projects you put off all season, sleep in for an extra hour, attend happy hour on Friday night with your friends that you haven’t seen, go for a hike and spend extra time with family – I am sure they have all missed you! These super-relaxed weeks are great for your mental wellness as it allows your overworked, laser-focused brain to get some much-needed rest.
After that short respite to catch up on life, it becomes the perfect time to work on becoming a stronger, more efficient triathlete by working on your weaknesses. We all do plenty of swimming, biking and running in very precise proportions throughout the year. There is certainly a time and place for that, and it will be critical to your success during the race season. The offseason is THE time to focus on your physical limiters, weaknesses and imbalances. This is the perfect timeframe to get to the gym and lift weights, sign up for some rock climbing lessons, do a yoga class, jump into Pilates… whatever physical activity sounds like fun to you that you would normally abstain from during the racing season. Dropping a run and ride throughout the week to accommodate these activities will make you a more well-rounded athlete, freshen your mind and, most importantly, make you less prone to injury as you develop muscles that are often neglected and/or underutilized during the race season.
If nothing else, ask yourself; “Why wouldn’t I want to give myself a head start into becoming a better athlete – and have some fun at the same time?” It is with this thought in mind that I consider the “offseason” to be the commencement of the next annual cycle, instead of the conclusion to the preceding period. This phase of training is priming your body to grow on the accomplishments of your previous season while also giving your mind the rest and reset that it needs.
AJ Baucco Coaching Triathlon Coach
CB Multisport Owner & Head Coach
IRONMAN Certified Coach
IRONMAN Maryland First Timers Coach
SafeSport Certified Coach