1 Rest and recover
Allow enough time off to let your body recover fully. Recovery is vital so that the body and its physiological markers have time to show adaptation to training stimuli. Sports nutrition is a key part of any recovery strategy and is particularly important for those who train several times a day. Inadequate recovery can lead to fatigue, illness, injury, missed training and poor performance. Carbohydrates and fluids containing electrolyte are useful for recovery, as are proteins, which help the body adapt. Assess your fuel intake and make sure that you’re putting in enough to power the best quality training.
2 Plan ahead
If you do just one thing in the off-season, this should be it. Planning is essential and should be split into a number of component parts:
- Plan each week. Liaise with your coach, if you have one, to schedule your training to best suit you and your lifestyle. Look at the key swim, bike and run sessions you need to complete, and make sure that you’ll hit these sessions as fresh as possible.
- Plan your gym, conditioning and injury-prevention work into your week so that it becomes part of your normal training regime.
- Plan training in blocks throughout the year – focusing on swim, bike, a specific run speed and so on. While you’re in a focused block of training adjust sessions for the other disciplines to avoid becoming overtrained and feeling flat.
- Finally, plan your race schedule. It’s important to know what you’re training for and when a peak in performance is required.
3 Work on your weaknesses
The off-season is the perfect time to work on any weaknesses.
- Swimming: book a lesson or speak to a swim coach for more detailed stroke analysis. It may be helpful to swim regularly in order to practise drills and technique.
- Cycling: spinning classes provide a good way of keeping some bike focus in your programme and are more sociable in the off-season than a lonely turbo session.
- Running: it’s important to reduce training load during the break to minimise injury risks, but running drills are a great way to work on any technique issues you’ve noticed during the season.
The off-season break is an ideal time to try something different. Cross-training can be beneficial, maintaining your endurance levels while keeping you mentally fresh. Lots of different activities have benefits that will improve your overall fitness and help with components of fitness associated with triathlon. Yoga, rock climbing and pilates are three great examples – and I’m still working on getting Alistair [Brownlee] a spot on Strictly Come Dancing!
5 Prepare to train
The off-season is a great time to get in the gym and start strength training and conditioning work, making sure your body is strong enough to take the load of training. Check out these 3 strength and conditioning exercises from Nick Beer that will help you stay injury-free
6 Deal with injuries
If you’ve spent the back end of the race season struggling with injuries or training through a niggle – stop! Don’t try to start your winter training block with a pre-existing injury – it will only get worse. See a physiotherapist to get a diagnosis and treatment. Even if you feel fine, a full-body MOT is of value. A physiotherapist will be able to identify any area of muscle imbalance or tightness that you need to correct and monitor so you can stop it developing into a problem as the training ramps up. For more advice check out our sporting injuries section, which has useful tips on managing, treating and preventing sporting injuries.