As the triathlon season comes to an end, it’s easy to find yourself in a bit of a slump, unsure how to keep busy through the off-season. Of course, friends will tell us to put our feet up or get down to the pub. But the inner-competitive demon in us needs to find a way to keep fit for next year.
Just like skiers look forward to the onset of winter, endurance athletes should be embracing the chance to get outside and have fun. If it’s dark, grab a head torch or put a powerful light on your mountain bike. If it’s muddy, get some trail-running shoes. If it’s cold, put a warm top on. If it’s raining, grab a Gore-Tex jacket. There’s no reason whatsoever that we can’t fuel our passion throughout these cold, sometimes wet, but always refreshing months.
We’ve chosen six sports that all offer something different, yet simultaneously complement a triathlete’s off-season training programme. And because we all like to have a goal and love kit, we’ve also listed some events that will give
you a focus over the next few months. Whether it’s trail running in the dark dressed in tweed, taking part in a cyclo-cross event, getting muddy at an obstacle course race, honing your navigation in an adventure race, careering downhill on a mountain bike or joining your local club and taking part in a cross-country race – these are just a taster of what’s out there. All you have to do is get outside.
Be at one with nature, rediscover your love of running and get one hell of a workout in
If you’ve lost your running mojo or simply want to enjoy a spot of mindfulness, then trail running is for you. You’ll not only strengthen your core, but you’ll naturally get faster and stronger as you bound up and down hill with wanton aplomb. As Anna-Marie Watson, the top British female finisher in this year’s Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, says: “The simplicity of placing one foot in front of another, dialling into my breathing and getting into a rhythm surrounded by nature provides the perfect oasis in my daily life.”
Obstacle course racing
If there’s one event that’ll make you laugh and cry, it’s an obstacle race. Expect anything and everything
Although many might not see what’s fun about leopard crawling under barbed wire, swimming in freezing cold muddy pools of water or being electrocuted – believe it or not, Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) is all the rage. Indeed, it’s
not often you both laugh and cry in a race, which is what makes OCR so fun, especially in the winter.
But as three-time OCR world champion, Jonathon Albon, says, “Get used to being uncomfortable…like running with wet shoes or with some sand in them.” So grab some mates, enter a race and train in mud – because everything else will feel easy afterwards!
Practise key bike-handling skills and racing on every type of terrain imaginable
A mashup of road cycling and mountain biking, cyclo-cross has become one of the UK’s fastest growing sports. And if you’re looking to improve your bike-handling skills, if cyclo-cross doesn’t do it, nothing will. Because as well as becoming a master of mounting and dismounting while on the move, you’ll also encounter just about every type of terrain from tarmac, dirt and mud to grass and gravel. And with most races lasting between 30-45mins, it won’t
even take up that much of your time. “I love it because it’s tough, challenging but most of all, good fun. It’s also something different to do in the off-season that keeps you fit but doesn’t hammer your legs,” says the 11 x Three Peaks Cyclocross Race champion, Rob Jebb.
Keep those competitive fires burning, boost your navigation skills and discover the joys of teamwork
For multisport enthusiasts who want to brush up on their navigation, adventure racing (AR) is the best thing to be invented since anti-chafing cream. As Bruce Duncan, a three-time winner of the Patagonian Expedition Race says, “The sheer variety of sports ensures that you never get tired of one discipline as you’re always looking forward to the next part of the adventure.” Ranging from several hours to week-long expedition races, most events involve mountain biking and trail running, where you race against the clock to collect as many checkpoints as possible within a set time. It’s all about team work, so choose your mates carefully!
Become a better tri biker by hitting the trails this off-season and developing some serious skills
Although you’re likely to get very wet and muddy when MTBing, you’ll at least have a smile on your face. Keeping your cycling legs moving also offers brilliant cardiovascular fitness and allows you to get off the beaten track and explore the country. “What I love about mountain biking is the opportunity it’s given me to explore the world,” says former pro Oil Munnik and eight-time Cape Epic finisher, “introducing me to hundreds of like-minded people who share a similar love for the outdoors.”
X country running
Do a 10k in mud and you’ll be knocking out the tri road 10ks with ease
For many runners, autumn means one thing – the beginning of the cross-country season. A time to don the colours of your club and battle it out in the various regional leagues. If it’s wet, you’re guaranteed to get very muddy,
but you’ll also get very fit. If you can do a 10k in mud, an Olympic-distance road triathlon will be a breeze. “For me, cross country is running and racing at its very purist,” says the four-time National Cross Country Champion, Liz Yelling. “I love the toughness of the terrain, the weather, the racing. It’s thrilling to race on hilly, muddy courses with the wind and rain beating the energy out of you. Learning to love what others hate will make you a cross-country champion.”