If you reflect on your year of triathlon training and competition, you will probably agree that you put in a ton of volume and intensity. Your body is thanking you for taking a few months off before you break it down again. This brings up a great opportunity to understand the importance of how to handle your offseason. Of course, you will continue to swim, bike and run, only with a lighter intensity and possibly with less volume. You and your coach will come up with a customized gameplan in order to keep your fitness at the appropriate level.
One major component triathletes forget about during the offseason is strength training. Strength training is the key to your next years performance. This doesn’t mean hitting the weight room and hammering out some bench press and bicep curls. Your strength sessions should be focused on preparing your body for next years volume, preventing injuries and increasing your performance from the previous year.
Triathlon is taxing on the body, and if you don’t take the proper steps to prepare your body for the next season of triathlons- you will be disappointed in the outcome. Think of your body like it’s a machine. The most highly sophisticated machine. This machine requires specific preparation in order to perform at it’s optimal level. Strength training being an extremely important part that will keep this machine’s components healthy and strong. The components being bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and joints. All of which need to work together to create a, ‘well-oiled machine.’ Without strength training, you will be less efficient, more prone to injury and less of an athlete. Prepare your body to manage pain and to give yourself the best possible chance for a healthy and fun triathlon season.
As you know, triathlon is a sport that demands a great deal of volume. Most injuries develop from the continuos stress placed on the joints. Running and biking require the same joint actions over-and-over again. This can create an altered length-tension relationship between certain muscle groups, which then leads to dysfunction in the joint. Strength training will help develop (strengthen) under-active or weak muscle groups, which will develop optimal joint movements throughout the body.
You see it everyday when you are training. The girl who, while running, is hunched over and her knees dive in at each foot strike. Or, the guy on the bike whose knees dart out every pedal stroke. These examples are common muscle imbalances that can be corrected through a proper strength training and flexibility program. The more you can limit or prevent muscle imbalances, the greater chance you have of being healthy year round.
You are an endurance athlete. Just because you are an endurance athlete doesn’t mean you will not benefit from strength training. Improving stabilization, strength endurance, core, balance and power will all improve your swim, bike and run ability. A proper strength training program will increase lean muscle tissue and decrease body fat. Added lean muscle tissue provides foundation, power, increased neuromuscular efficiency, increased metabolic efficiency and a decreased risk for injury. Decreasing your body fat has shown to increase your VO2Max. This allows you to process oxygen faster and provide the working muscles more of it.
Triathlon is an addictive sport. An addiction that will break you if you don’t train properly. Use this offseason to reflect on your previous performances. Analyze each one and figure out where you could have improved. You probably have pulled your hair out over five seconds here and ten seconds there. You have to ask yourself, “Did my performance program put me in the best position possible?” Challenge yourself to focus on adding strength training to your offseason performance program and you will reap the benefits at your future races. Enjoy the offseason!