Emphasize Rest, Strength, Endurance in the Offseason

It's the end of the season. Empty CO2 cartridges, patched tubes and used race numbers litter your basement.

It's time to reacquaint yourself with the world outside of triathlon, call your mom, watch a little television, read a good book.

Whether you're ready for a break or motivated to get training for next summer, think first about how you will train this winter. By taking the time to plan your winter workouts, you will put yourself in a better position to enjoy and excel at racing next summer.

And, if you're new to triathlon, now is the time to think about what you can do to make your first summer of racing enjoyable.

No doubt about it, triathlon is a demanding sport that requires you speak three languages. Here's what you can do to speak fluently.

Before You Train, Drain

Drain your body and mind of triathl-thoughts, the things that make you wonder if you have some form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Put away the triathlon magazines and books, stop surfing the Web on triathlon topics, and don't stop into the local bike shop because you were in the neighborhood.

Watch a little television, have a couple beers. Just kick back and act like a regular person for a while.

Don't reject health and fitness altogether, though. Make sure you continue to eat healthfully (enjoy those beers in moderation), and get in your daily exercise. Instead of your usual morning swim or run, try something different.

Joe Friel, author of The Triathletes Training Bible, encourages athletes to participate in their favorite non-triathlon-related activities in October and November. The focus should be on maintaining general endurance, not increasing it.

Taking time off will rejuvenate your love of triathlon and recharge those sport-specific muscles.

Think Strength

After a few weeks in rejuvenation mode, you should feel refreshed and ready to start your training. Because winter is the offseason, you shouldn't expect your intensity to match its summer levels.

You should, however, take one thing up a notch: building strength. Strong legs will help you climb hills on the bike and run. They will help you kick more efficiently on the swim. Strong arms will not only get you through the swim more quickly, but they will also help keep you comfortable in the bike and run.

A strong body will get you moving faster in all three disciplines and will require less effort for you to do so.

According to Friel, strength workouts can involve lifting weights at the gym or working on certain sport-specific drills. For gym rats, Friel lists a number of exercises in The Triathletes Training Bible: squats, leg press, knee extension, heel raise and hamstring curls for the lower body; seated row, chest press, push ups, lat pull-down and standing row for the upper body.

Done first with low weight and high reps and later with high weight and low reps, strength training will lead to new gains in strength that will carry over into the summer months with minimal maintenance.

If hanging out in the gym is not your thing, try running and riding hill repeats to increase leg strength. Swimming with a drag suit, T-shirt or (if you're really daring) a carpenter's apron will provide added resistance for a challenging arm workout.

Swim, Bike and Run

Regardless of what you choose for strength training, always remember what triathlon is about: swimming, biking and running. In order to get good at anything, you must practice.

The Swim
Friel says the winter months are a great time to focus on endurance and form. Swimming is the one sport where improvement in technique can make you significantly faster.

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