Often we think of the fall or end of the racing season as the off season. It is true that we need to give our body some time off, especially after the rigors of an Ironman or multiple Half IM season. But too often we go from training our body to being the fittest it has ever been, to not exercising at all within a few weeks. Not only is this very unhealthy, it also leaves us with trying to play catch up early into the next season. Many of you are planning to improve at your next “A” race and the best race season starts with the smartest preseason.
What is the goal of a successful preseason plan? Here are the key points I consider:
• Goals for the next season and what we want to improve on. If we determine that we want to improve the run, then we need to spend some more time running in the preseason but not necessarily a lot of miles, but maintaining a healthy frequency and focusing on improving our technique, efficiency, turnover and form. Similar to cycling and running.
• Strengths & limiters. As I just mentioned, we want to use this time of year to improve our limiters, but not turn our strengths into a new limiter! Healthy base & muscle recruitment of each triathlon discipline.
• Strength & weights. We are all working athletes, so the strength training often is sacrificed during the main part of the season. That means only this time of year allows for a solid focus on strength. Also, strength training and endurance training are in complete contrast with each other and therefore can’t be effectively “trained” at the same time. The Preseason is an excellent time to work on strength. This does NOT mean heavy lifting. There has been no (none!) scientific proof that strength training benefits the endurance athlete only the exercise of swimming, cycling and running benefits the endurance athlete. But you will see most of the strength work revolves around balance, core, flexibility, stability and power.
• Core & flexibility. Similar to strength, this often gets neglected during the main training phases. At this time of year we can work on re-integrating into our daily/weekly routine and hopefully it will “stick” for the next season in our daily/weekly routine. Core & flexibility are always beneficial in any training plan.
• Starting late. Many of you have heard me say this time and time again: starting early allows for flexibility in your training and your lifestyle. If we do the preseason work, the ski weekends, the family trips, the holidays, the reunions and any sickness or injury are no cause for freakout. A well prepared athlete with healthy base of endurance will ensure a better racing season than the athlete that decides to pick up the training again in January. Don’t cram for the test because if you get sick or injured or have to travel for work, all of a sudden your plans for a strong buildup for the triathlon season are compromised. Every year I have plenty of athletes that start too late and then write off their result with “I couldn’t train that much, work & family wouldn’t allow that”.
Well, consistent training for multiple months does allow that! You just need to know when to start.
The Preseason is built in 3 phases:
1. Phase 1 is designed to prepare the body for the rigors of strength training by improving stabilizing muscles and activating the neuromuscular system. This Phase has little endurance training included, only maintenance. Your goal is not heavy lifting; it is lighter weight and no repetition until failure. You should comfortably complete each exercise set. After 2-3 weeks your body will be better prepared to work harder and to failure. Focus should be on controlled movements throughout each exercise, holding the core tight for the extent of the action.
2. Phase 2 is designed for you to utilize the strength you have by increasing the muscular capacity (repetitions) and neuromuscular function (failure). Remember we are not looking to build strength; we are looking to utilize all the strength we currently already have! Each exercise should be repeated three times (3 sets) and each set should be 8 to 12 repetitions. This should be challenging enough to cause failure between the 8th and 12th repetition. If this is too easy, slow down your movements dramatically.
3. Phase 3 is designed to reintegrate endurance training while maintaining the strength routine. By gradually increasing the volume of training miles and reducing the strength training, we ensure a good transition and application of the strength, stability and core work.
Each phase will typically last 3-4 weeks, but can vary depending on the individual. Once Phase 3 is complete, physiological testing should be scheduled.
ALSO: I will be integrating KEY exercises into our Indoor Cycling routine such as wall squats, lunges, single leg cycling, jumping rope, single leg gluteals and back extensions. Indoor Cycling remains an integral piece of the preseason training since it allows for interval training, intensity & quality as well as a controlled environment for wattage and heart rate training.