This time of year is when the cabin fever brought on by cold temps and snow days is really starting to show its effects. Netflix is starting to run dry of interesting content (but thank god for House of Cards) and I have grown tired of staring at myself in the gym mirror while cranking out miles on the treadmill. But the one thing that the early season has to offer is time to reflect on last year’s performances and to plan for the season ahead.
Here are my top five things to do in the pre-season that will pay dividends in the months to come:
1. Plan: Now is the time to decide what races you want to do and put them on the calendar. This will allow you to put together a plan as to how training will progress throughout the summer. If you don’t have the knowledge or time to make a custom plan, go find on the Internet. Any plan is better than none.
I started a few years back with a generic plan that I slightly modified to meet my time demands. The next season, I went and found one that was a bit more specific. Three years in I got myself several books on training and developed a custom plan based around available time, race distance, strengths and weaknesses and I have done so every year since, building on the previous years plan. Again, any plan is better then no plan so if you don’t have one go find one.
2. Strength/flexibility: Strength and endurance has a strange inverse relationship. Having more muscle requires more fuel to maintain thus making you a less efficient endurance athlete. However, strength is required for injury prevention and to maintain good form while racing. This time of year I like to do prioritize strength training to prepare my body for the long hours of running and biking ahead. Generally, I follow a periodized plan similar to what is used in training for an endurance event: start easy, increase intensity (weight), decrease duration (reps). Doing this now means that the extra fatigue will not interfere with my later race specific training and also leaves more time for the three disciplines.
As for flexibility, I am a real fan of yoga but not a fan of doing it in a group. There are free podcasts of guided yoga sessions on iTunes that range from 20-minute run/bike specific stretching sessions that I use post run/ride or hour long general sessions. I also got myself a foam roller and spend extra time messaging out the kinks from previous workouts.
3. Miles, miles, miles: I predominantly race Olympic distance triathlon. I enjoy the more aggressive nature of short course events. But even those are still an endurance race. I am a weak runner so I spend the winter focusing on running: easy long runs geared towards increasing aerobic endurance. This blends well with the more intense strength sessions I mentioned above.
4. Spend time with my family: Traveling, early mornings, and hours spent apart during the summer need to be repaid during the winter months. I am lucky in that my wife is accepting of my irrational need to train and actually enjoys watching my races. However, I like to repay that by being extra available to her and my two-year-old son in the off-season. Plus, it is always nice to sleep in and later make pancakes.
5. Get your gear in order: Pull out your transition bag, which hasn’t seen sunlight since September, and check you gear out. Need new goggle straps? Mine are melts into a knot. How about the bike? Need a new chain, tires, tune-up? I like to do my own bike maintenance so this time of year provides a little more time to put the bike up in the work stand and give it a once over. Also, if you haven’t done a bike fitting, get one done. It will be the best $150-200 you spend on improving your racing performance this year.
As I write this the forecast for the week ahead is getting warmer. I am excited to get back out on the road. If you are looking for a group ride, The Bike Rack offers beginner group rides on Saturdays at 10am and a more advanced (previous group ride experience required) ride on Sunday at 9:45. Check their website for info and maybe I’ll see you there.