Winter training is prerequisite to a successful triathlon season, you won’t find an athlete out there who has shunned winter training for a few months of lounging around. Not only is it important to build base up throughout the winter months, it will also help with injury prevention when building up more intensity leading into the season. Although training in the winter months can be tedious at times, it does allow you to branch out a little more and enjoy your training. You don’t necessarily have to stick to a strict training regime. The most important thing is that you enjoy your training and actually want to get out there and do something. I also believe that it is important to challenge yourself, as facing five months of training without any competition can be slightly daunting, but will also get very boring. Doing some other type of racing, whether it be cross country, cyclocross racing or even something completely different like skiing allows you to focus on other things. The tapering into such races I believe is a good pattern to keep accustomed to, as this is what you naturally do through the triathlon season.
Training through winter is obviously different to what you would do in the summer months, as I previously mentioned, you can take a lot of the intensity out to begin with, and look to build on that throughout the year. It is fairly easy to get things right with cycling and running as you can just gradually bring in ‘tempo’ or ‘threshold’ work. Not only is this easy to keep on top of and progress, but it also works very well if you are looking to race cross country for example. It is a great way to build on strength, before you tackle the speed needed for the summer.
In the pool, it is slightly different as multiple sessions a week of aerobic swimming would not only be very boring, but it wouldn’t bring about much improvement. It is still important to keep in aerobic work, but the winter provides good opportunity to push on your swimming, and you can afford to do threshold through to sprint work. Going into a new season is also a good time to evaluate where you are as an athlete and pinpoint the areas where you think you could improve. Swim technique is always going to be one of these areas, whether you’re an age group athlete or an elite. I always like to put in more kick work and IM swimming. This is something that gets forgotten over the summer, but are both great ways that you can improve your strength. It may sound strange but doing some hard kick work after a hard swim session can replicate what it feels like going from the swim to the bike in a race.
An example of a set where I like to include this is…
Warm up - choice 1500m, but look to include ~ 300m of a prep set, for example
75m threshold (1500m race pace) / 25m easy
50m vO2 (400m race pace)
25 as 12 strokes max / 25 easy
Above twice through.
A good threshold main set is...
4x100m threshold / 1x100 VO2
3x100m threshold / 1x100 VO2
2x100m threshold / 1x100 VO2
1x100m threshold / 1x100 VO2
You can choose recovery based on your fitness level in the pool. But I think this is a great swim set to see where you are. If you record your times then you can easily assess your progression throughout the off season. This is also a great set to introduce kicking after a hard swim…
8x50m as threshold with decreasing turnaround times e.g.
1x50m off 60
1x50m off 55
1x50m off 50
1x50m off 45
Above twice through, and yes this will be tough on the legs, so make sure you have a good cool down of at least 1k.