Don't just Twiddle Your Thumbs This Offseason

The time we’ve all been waiting for is here, triathlon offseason! This time of year being the offseason is quite new to me though. As a competitive swimmer my down time from racing was always August and April, and this time of year was full of championship meets. But I definitely like how triathlon and open water racing offseason coincides with the colder months, that’s super convenient. Especially considering I think everyone’s biggest obstacle in getting to the pool right now is not wanting to be outside with wet hair, talk about a win win. So now that we’re here, what do we do? Sit around and start training to become all star couch potatoes? I wish, but alas, that’s not what I wanted to write about (although I think it’s perfectly reasonable for you to be a couch potato for at least two weeks, I won’t tell anyone, I promise).

Offseason training is the absolute perfect time for two things: skill and speed work. You’re probably thinking, “But Lissa, shouldn’t I be working on those things during the season as well?” To which I say, yes, yes you should be. However, these two things in particular take a lot longer to make positive changes and progressions, so being able to work on them when you don’t have races getting in the way will allow you to really solidify your progress and help your body better adapt to what you’re looking for.

If you’ve been swimming with improper form (don’t worry, I didn’t know how to catch properly for over 20 years…), and that’s how you’re used to swimming, making changes to these movements is going to take a bit longer than you’d probably like. Muscle memory and I have a love hate relationship. It’s great when you’re tired and you can let your body take over for that early morning swim practice, but it’s pretty terrible when you’re trying to make technical corrections and it just wants to go back to your normal way of swimming. This is why skill work is so important during the offseason. You don’t have to fret about spending too much time on drills that you won’t get your yardage in. Instead, you can actually take your time, focus on the changes you’re trying to make, and not worry about anything else while doing so. Unless, of course, you’re like me, and your mind wanders to that never-ending to do list whenever you swim long distances at swim practice…

Speed work is the absolute best thing you can work on when you don’t have races scheduled every other weekend. I say this because building up your anaerobic capacity takes SO MUCH LONGER than building up your aerobic capacity. And, exciting news coming at you, whenever you’re training, either in season or offseason, you’re always working on your aerobic capacity. Every time you get in the pool for a long swim practice, hop on your bike for a 20+ mile ride, or go out for a long run, you’re building up your aerobic capacity. You do this without even knowing about it, that’s how easy upping your endurance is. But anaerobic? That takes timeeee. Why? Because you’re working on building up your lactate tolerance, increasing your resting levels of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate - the high energy molecule in all living cells that supplies you with energy), and increasing your fast twitch muscle fibers. That’s a lot to work on all at once. You might be thinking, “why do I need to do this if I only compete in long distance races?” Building up your anaerobic capacity is going to allow you to perform at and maintain a high level of intensity over a longer period of time. What does that mean? Faster times.

If you’re not sure where to start, try out this simple workout that allows you to focus both on skill and speed work at the same time.

1 x 500 warm up 

4 x 50 drill - one arm freestyle; alternate by 25s with :15 seconds rest

4 x 50 - descend 1-4 with :10 seconds rest

1 x 100 - easy with best technique as the focus

40 x 25 - freestyle fast  - take :10 seonds rest

4 x 50 - moderate effort with good technique - take :10 seconds rest

1 x rest for a minute

30 x 50 - freestyle fast - take :15 seconds rest

1 x 200 warm down