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Take it easy

The off-season brings many different challenges. But, says Joe Beer, it takes a change of mindset to do the right things...

The off-season brings many different challenges. But, says Joe Beer, it takes a change of mindset to do the right things…

It’s the off-season – a time of reflection, recovery and re-thinking your methods. For many this is a physiological and psychological low ebb. Your next tri season and that chance to realise your goals seem very far off.

You’re also aware that training must continue if big things are to be achieved next year. Unfortunately, in their keenness to see improvements, many do too much too soon. What you need is the vital Best Known Method (BKM) to help develop your triathlon performances in 2012…

Between now until January, look at training at modest levels in combination with some new fun activities. For example, try water polo or a new masters swim session where you learn to tumble-turn; check out a spin class, go off-road mountain biking, buy some indoor rollers; do some cross-country runs, hill walking, a yoga class… Whatever you choose, always remember: don’t make these new fun things competitive.

As well as the fun aspect, another vital off-season BKM is to focus on keeping yourself healthy and getting some non-training tasks out the way. You’re setting in place the foundation on which you will train and compete next season, so you need to spend more time on other things than training and on other people than yourself. Get your brownie points in now or be prepared to rack up some IOUs.

Brave new world Instead of training volume being your mantra, the BKM is to shift to an emphasis on rating your weeks, based on wellness and organisational development. Documented professional training data and proven training methodologies of effective age-groupers show more training volume and intensity after 1 January than before it. Keep this in mind.

Keep the training heroics for late winter into spring. For the time being, your regular training and recovery weeks might have a training-to-recovery ratio of around 3:1 – or even 2:1. This will allow you to make small technical and fitness gains despite low training volume.

If you do too much now, you’ll peak too early, get ill or fail to turn up the effort in spring when it’s actually required. Focusing now on non-training elements and activities means you open up those vital days and weekends in the spring when you need to be building bigger sessions and putting training to the fore.

Note to self A training diary in the off-season is of great use and should be jam-packed with comments like ‘sorted the garage’, ‘went to Revolution track night’, ‘had a whole body massage’, ‘found identical saddle to race bike on eBay’ and so on. Keep the November-to-January pages filled with notes on the quality of other things you’ve done, rather than the quantity of training you’ve racked up. So, phone Granny now and book lunch…

The joy of six: Winter-time essentials

Keep healthy: the secret to performance success is consistent good health. Simple interventions, such as washing your hands, are super-effective.

Rest: getting in extra weekend naps rather than more training is just common sense when you’re feeling really tired and the weather’s crap.

Clear the chores: do more than your fair share of chores for once. And taking care of those long-overdue DIY tasks frees up time come race season.

See the daylight: short runs outdoors at lunchtime get you that much-needed dose of vitamin D. I’m also a fan of light boxes, which many pro athletes have also cottoned onto.

Do your admin: get stocked up with training consumables like nutrition supplies, spare inner tubes and tyres, brake pads, heart rate monitor batteries, cleats and so on. More time saved come spring.

Have an equipment makeover: from swim to run, check your race-day equipment. Goggles scratched? Helmet got any cracked polystyrene? Race shoes bottomed out and smelly? Now’s the time to replace them.

Profile image of Matt Baird Matt Baird Editor of Cycling Plus magazine


Matt is a regular contributor to 220 Triathlon, having joined the magazine in 2008. He’s raced everything from super-sprint to Ironman, duathlons and off-road triathlons, and can regularly be seen on the roads and trails around Bristol. Matt is the author of Triathlon! from Aurum Press and is now the editor of Cycling Plus magazine.