by Chris McCormack
The offseason is a bridge between what you’ve accomplished and what your future goals are. What you do in the offseason is determined by the previous season and should lay the groundwork for the next season.
While triathlons are held year-round these days, one cannot continue to train and race without accumulating fatigue and little niggles along the way. The grind of building up, peaking, and racing can also take its toll on you mentally. Taking time off allows your body and mind to recover and heal so that you can be at your peak health when you start training for your target races.
But while you have a plan for how your season will unfold, the way most athletes use their offseason leads to a loss of fitness. When you start training again, it feels like you’re starting from zero every year.
The offseason can and should be used as a time to recover as well as rebuild your fitness. Professional athletes train through their offseason, but differently than in-season work.
Offseason, Part 1: Recovery
I divide the offseason into two parts. To give you an overview of what you should be doing in the offseason, Number 1: take some downtime. Give back to your family. Unwind a little. Take four or five weeks where you just train when you want to, not because you have to.
Many athletes use this period to try out new activities or indulge their love for another sport. This active recovery phase keeps the blood flowing but keeps you free of pressure to hit any set training targets.
A little weight gain may be expected since you are doing less than what you did especially during your peak training weeks. This isn’t such a bad thing. The additional weight is beneficial in three ways:
- gives your body a rest from your “fighting” weight;
- allows you to deliver better on strength workouts; and
- helps you recover better.
Offseason, Part 2: Preparation
The second part of the offseason deals with the kind of work you can and should do leading into the season. Because the offseason usually takes place during the winter months, athletes have a daylight constraint on their training, and long hours on a bike trainer or on the treadmill aren’t particularly appealing.
A lot of triathletes are so caught up with volume; they associate base work with the offseason. Instead, I recommend more strength-specific work that isn’t as time-consuming as volume-based work. This includes the following:
- general strength conditioning through gym work that corrects muscle imbalances
- specific swim, bike, and run workouts that promote better movement and technique and maintain your muscular strength
You do much less mileage, but it is all purposeful. This prepares your body for the season’s training volume and intensity, prevents injury, and improves performance. Your training should concentrate on aspects often neglected by athletes during the racing season: motor skills, training their weaknesses, and strength training.
The key is to keep your motivation and enjoyment high while performing workouts, with options to select workouts that you would not have the time to do or experience on a more race-centered plan. Our MX Endurance full membership offers a variety of off-season maintenance plans you can plug-and-play for this very purpose.
MX Endurance is also currently offering a free eight-week offseason plan. Click here to claim it.
You can really build a lot of strength in the offie. When spring comes around, you add some endurance to it and if you’ve got the right strength, that’s a lethal mix. Add to it renewed vigor, and you’ll be sure to smash the training and racing.
Chris "Macca" McCormack is a four-time triathlon world champion with the biggest winning percentage in the history of the sport. He is a co-founder and partner in Super League Triathlon, CEO of the Bahrain Endurance 13 team, and founder and executive director of MX Endurance.