12 off-season triathlon training tips

Strength, recovery, pilates… Variation is key throughout the triathlon off-season. Here are our experts’ top training tips…

A weekly long run should now become a staple, ideally off-road to save wear and tear.



“Autumn is the best time to work on areas that make you stronger and prevent injuries,” says tri coach Mark Kleanthous. “Train in the gym, go to pilates or start yoga. It’ll improve strength and core fitness, and lay foundations to better prepare your body for the tri training to come.”


“Recovery is vital; in fact, it’s almost more important than training.” So says Olympian Ryan Bailie. And as autumn’s not filled with the stress of racing, now’s the time to play around with tactics to recover quickly. “I use compression socks,” adds Bailie. “I also consume nutrition that fuels the muscles so good carbs and plenty of protein.”

How to recover from a hard triathlon season

Triathlon recovery: what to eat post-race


That experimental theme continues with glycogen-depleted sessions. “Studies have shown that mitochondria density increases significantly when training on water only,” says exercise physiologist Garry Palmer. “Ultimately this can potentially play around with your metabolism and you derive greater energy from fat than carbs at a higher intensity of exercise, which spares carbs for really intense efforts.” Wake up and ride for an hour, just fuelled by water. Add 20mins each week for a month and see how you get on. Just keep intensity at around 75% maxHR or lower.

Five tips for low-carb training


It’s easy to get caught up with your mates and end up following their regime, especially when in race mode. Now is the time to make a change. “Ditch the ‘follow the crowd’ mindset,” says Ironman 70.3 winner Tamsin Lewis. “Start listening to your body and work out key sessions that work for you. For me that was six one-mile reps at 10km pace. You need to remember that more is often not more in terms of performance benefit.”


Gwen Jorgensen’s coach Jamie Turner is a big fan of working on ‘rates’, whether this is stroke or stride. “From an age-grouper perspective, there are many good tools out there for gauging timing and feedback,” Turner says. “A Finis Timer is one in the swim. On the run you can use a stopwatch with a base function of six on it. Count the amount of strides per, say, 10secs and it’ll give you a figure for a minute. Then aim to increase the amount, but do it slowly with swim and run drills.”

19 triathlon running tips from Jamie Turner


Studies have shown that strength training has endurance benefits, helping you to create more power for less effort. But many triathletes are deterred because of time restraints. Don’t be. “The main exercises we prescribe are squats,” says Elliot Lipski of coaching outfit Train Sharp. “Not only do they improve pedal power and run speed, they’re great for your core, so they’ll help you to sustain a more aerodynamic position for longer.” 10mins of squat and single-leg squat work, twice a week, is a good start.

11 strength training tips for triathletes


“Sleep quality and quantity is arguably the single best recovery strategy,” says triathlon coach Tom Bennett. “On training camp our athletes take their own pillows and a mattress topper. You should also avoid phones before sleep and have a cool shower if your sleep is poor. A lower core temperature encourages a better night’s sleep. If you cannot sleep within 15mins, get out of bed and maybe consume something containing sleep-inducing tryptophan like milk. An afternoon nap’s also useful but not more than 45mins.

Struggle to sleep after exercise?

Six ways to sleep like an athlete


Inclement weather can make cycling a trickier prospect, meaning the run leg comes to the fore. A weekly long run should now become a staple, ideally off-road to save wear and tear, but keep within the 60 to 90min range. Research has shown that your body doesn’t see a significant increase in aerobic development, specifically mitochondrial growth, when running over 90mins. The majority of the physiological stimulus of a long run occurs between the 60 and 90min mark with the mitochondrial ‘hotspot’ at around 65-75% of your 5km pace.

Five common winter running issues

Increasing mitochondria improves performance

Five ways to boost aerobic endurance

How to improve your aerobic capacity


If money and time allow, planning a winter triathlon training camp will provide the dangling carrot of motivation to keep you training as the nights draw in. Having an early autumn rest and then a return to training is easier if you’ve planned a training camp in hot and sunny locations like Club La Santa in Lanzarote or the Playitas resort in Fuerteventura. Seek out a qualified triathlon coach who’ll maximise the sunshine!


A PowerBreathe is a proven training tool that’s used by many an elite athlete. You simply clamp it between your lips and exhale/inhale against a resistance, which strengthens your lungs and the diaphragm. “This pays off significantly in extreme positions like being aero on a bike,” says breathing expert Alison McConnell. “Your lungs are compressed and there’s stress on your trunk. Undertaking breathing exercises each day for just a few minutes improves both of these.”

12 swim tools to improve technique and fitness


Swimming is the discipline the majority of triathletes struggle with. That’s why it’s worth signing up to weekly swim coaching. “If you do or you don’t, you should focus on technique rather than speed or power,” says triathlon coach Steve Lloyd. “Frequency in the water is better here so three 20min sessions are better than a weekly hour swim set.”

Front crawl technique: the key components

6 ways to improve your triathlon swim technique

How to streamline your swim


A triathlete’s off-season is a duathlete’s race season, so there’s no let-up from mastering the art and fitness of running off a bike. Here’s a proven session from author of The Triathlon Training Book, James Beckinsale. “For me, running off the bike is about ‘race rhythm’ and you find that by counting your foot strike. So on a track, run 1km at race pace and count your steps. Take this info to the brick, which is 3 x [6mins on the bike at around 80% maxHR and then 1km at race pace off bike counting steps until 1km]. Did you reach the same place? As you practise this session, you should get closer to this mark.


Bin the swim – why you should try duathlons this autumn

Duathlon race day: 12 tips for success

12-step guide to mastering duathlon

Need a training plan? Whatever your distance or goals we will have one to suit you in our triathlon training plans section