So now that winter is here, how do we keep up that motivation to keep all those fitness gains we made during the Spring, Summer, and Fall? Beach season is a long ways off, racing season has just concluded, and we've got at least 2-3 more months of short, cold days and long, frigid nights. Summer race times (and summer race bodies) are made in the winter, which means maximizing the winder months to ensure you get the most out of your off-season training. Here are a few tips to make sure that when the temperature starts to climb, your times start falling.
To "get" the most out of your winter training, here are 4 keys to consider:
1) Get Better. Use Winter as a time to focus on weaknesses- for triathletes this could mean focusing on improving running technique or spending more time in the pool fine tuning that swim stroke. For runners, this may include improving flexibility or finally taking care of that nagging injury you've been putting off. If you’re neither, this may simply mean building some endurance into your weight program, improving an existing strength regimen, or developing a realistic meal plan. Use this time as a time to improve those areas that have been lacking.
2) Get Stronger. This is a perfect time to hit the weight room. Strength comes before speed. By building a strong base, the body is better prepared to handle the intensity and duration when the miles begin to pile on, and the speed work ramps up. The gym is where athletes prevent injuries by doing the essential, stabilizing exercises- not just plyometrics, HIIT circuits, and power lifts. Strength comes before speed, but stability comes before strength! The gym is also where you can build that top-end, explosive speed needed to out-kick your competition in the sprint finish, or power past other cyclists or runners on the hills. Dedicate a few days a week to focus on getting strong in the gym- work with a trainer, coach, or find a proven strength planed designed for endurance athletes to help guide your efforts. Hint: If the plan has you doing something like alternating days of 'chest and tris, back and bis, legs and shoulders, etc.', IT'S THE WRONG ONE!!
3) Get Organized. The off-season is a great time to determine goals for next race season or the calendar year. Even if you're not looking to compete in races, you can always better yourself. Work with a coach or find a mentor who can help you set realistic goals that still push you beyond your current capabilities. If you’re tackling fitness, set a dedicated time block to focus on building fitness. If technique is a challenge, block off some time in the year to dial in your form in specific areas. If race execution has been an issue, set aside time to dial in race strategy, tapering, and race fueling. A coach can help you take an objective look at your season and work with you to create a realistic macrocycle that enables you to work on areas of weakness. Use the winter months to plan for success.
4) Get Rested. Last but not least, take some time off! "Unstring the bow!" as the saying goes. Take a few weeks to decompress and destress. Time off is critical to avoid both physical and mental burnout. After a long season (whether that's a dedicated race season or just following workouts and pushing yourself), your mind and body both need a break. This doesn't mean go off the rails and lose all fitness, but take some time off from the normal routine. If you're a runner, maybe try some mountain biking, kayaking, or hiking. If you’re a gym addict, try some outdoor or functional workouts instead. If morning workouts are your thing, try a mid-day workout on your lunch break. Keep the fitness, but change things up. Enjoy the break from the routine- your mind and body will appreciate it!
So there you are. Four ways to “Get the most” out of winter training. Whether you’re a hard-core triathlete, recreational runner, or simply looking to keep in shape, these will help guide your winter-month workout regimen.