How to periodise your training during the off-season

Andy Bullock and Emma-Kate Lidbury explain how to periodise your off-season triathlon training so you peak for your summer races


The coach

Andy Bullock is head coach for the South West Regional Academy

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In order to achieve your best from one season to the next you need to make sure you vary your training sufficiently year round. Breaking your training into a series of connected periods or phases is a great way of doing this.

Done correctly this can create undulations in training volume and intensity, allowing your body and mind the rest it requires to balance and get the most out of the hard work you put in at other times of the year.

During the off-season the first block of training is likely to be built around a recovery phase. This phase often lasts 2-4 weeks, and might include some time off training. It might seem hard to lay off completely, but it will help you enter spring feeling more refreshed than if you push in through.

The next blocks of training will be dictated by your philosophy (or your coach’s), your race targets and your current ability. Whether you put in a block of high-intensity work to help build speed you haven’t had before; build into a
high volume of steady work to boost your aerobic fitness; keep both the above low and focus on technique development or reinforcement, or even put in a block of gym-heavy time to make your body stronger and more resilient, the choice is yours.

The combination of options are almost endless. But if you remember the following points when you’re planning you’ll be heading in the right direction:

  • The body responds well to a varied challenge, so keep blocks of work around 6-8 weeks at a time before changing.
  • Work on your weaknesses.
  • The off-season should lay the foundations for you to move gradually from your current position towards the skills and fitness specific for your key races next season. AB

The athlete

Emma-Kate Lidbury is a 70.3 pro, and has finished in the top 10 at the Worlds twice

The foundations of peak performance in summer are laid during the winter, so it’s vital that your training during the off-season is periodised and planned properly. Following a similar regime year-round is just asking for physical and mental burnout – and that’s definitely not what you want!

  • Once you’ve finished racing for the year (and for most people that’s September/October), it’s wise to take a two-week break in which you do no structured training but keep the body moving and stay active. This could be a ski trip, mountain biking, hiking, a family holiday or whatever you feel like doing. Really take the time to unwind and relax, but try to keep moving blood around the body. After this fortnight, you can ease back into some light swim, bike and run training for a week or two but keep it fun and social. By January, you should start to feel physically and mentally refreshed – the reset button has been hit, and you’re raring to get stuck into your winter training. If this isn’t the case, don’t be afraid to hold back for another week or two.
  • Once you’re feeling refreshed, it’s time to build the foundations for the year ahead – winter miles make summer smiles! Keep the majority of your training aerobic and, as before, ensure it’s fun, social and relaxed. Now is not the time to be hitting high-intensity intervals or lots of race pace work.
  • It’s also a perfect time to focus on technical weaknesses; perhaps you need to work on run form and efficiency, or swim technique? If so, take the time to seek expert advice at coaching clinics or workshops.
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  • If you can bank a solid 12 weeks aerobic base training at this stage then you will stand a very good chance of setting yourself up for success in the new season. Good luck!

Periodised strength training programme for triathletes

Off-season training for triathletes