With the 2022 triathlon season now over for most people and some well-earned downtime being enjoyed, many of us are beginning to think about kickstarting winter training ready for 2023.
With 6 long months to go until most of us start thinking about toeing a triathlon race line again it’s important to make sure we avoid some of the common pitfalls of winter training so we can start 2023 with a bang.
I’m certainly no expert when it comes to nailing the winter build, and I’ve definitely been guilty in the past of getting carried away too early resulting in injury, illness or a premature peak in performance. So, while I’m still learning the art of winter training, there’s a few things I try to do to make sure I get the most out of the training I put in.
1. Easy, easy and more easy
After a break in training and a summer that might have been heavy with racing and hard intensity workouts, it’s important to start off easy. Easy swims, easy bikes and easy runs – and when we say easy that’s generally aiming for your zone 1 HR or maybe low end of zone 2. Building a solid aerobic base over the next few months will allow you to add the power and intensity to this as we build closer to target races. It’s also a good opportunity to explore new routes without worrying about the need to hit certain paces or times. I also try and build in an easier week every 4-5 weeks over winter, almost like a mini taper to give my body chance to recover in between the harder stuff.
2. Set clear goals
Many athletes often find themselves feeling lost over the winter months and not really sure what they’re aiming for. This can make it easy to skip training sessions due to low motivation or to do training that isn’t really targeted at a specific goal, which while not wasted, may not be as productive as it could be. By planning in key races, maybe with a goal time or position, it gives you a greater focus and aim for training. Goals can also be more specific rather than race orientated such as targets around getting stronger in the gym, faster at transitions or a bigger focus on sleep and nutrition.
3. Reflect on the previous race season
Whether your season was a breakthrough for you, or whether you fell short of your own expectations, it’s important to reflect and learn from it ready for the following year. Try to get a good balance of areas you want to work on and areas that you were strong in or exceeded expectations in. It can be easy to get caught up sometimes in the buzz of summer racing and when you actually sit down and reflect on all you achieved, it can be a really proud moment.
4. Strength and Conditioning
Winter is a great time to spend more time focusing on strength and conditioning work, whether you’re a complete beginner or are experienced in using weights and want to work on getting even stronger, winter is a great time to focus on this. If you’re new to gym work or are going to be upping the intensity then it’s likely you’ll get some associated DOMs and this can mean you need extra rest or easy days after, this makes it more challenging in the summer with key sessions and races. In the summer S&C might be more aimed at maintenance whereas in the winter you can really push the sessions and get the benefit later in the year. It’s important to do this gradually though as a sudden jump in gym work if you’re not used to it, may lead to injury if not done gradually. However, if done well a good winter block of S&C can help make your body stronger and more robust come the spring and summer, therefore reducing the risk of injury.
5. Illness + rest
We all know it’s much more common in winter to pick up colds and viruses, however hard we try to avoid them. Particularly when symptoms are only mild it can be tempting to want to train through being unwell, but this increases the risk of making the symptoms worse and prolonging your illness. If you do get sick, its much smarter to take a few days of rest or super easy training until these completely settle rather than powering through and being forced to miss a much longer period of training due to getting sicker. With the winter nights drawing in earlier and many of us back to being busy with work it can be easy to build up fatigue as well when getting back into training, therefore building in sufficient rest time is important to make sure you’re as fresh as possible when it comes to training, as well as also reducing the risk of getting ill.
6. Finding the balance
The winter months are a great time to think about your work, training and general life balance. Sometimes in the summer we can get so caught up with racing and training that our social life slips away or if we have a busier period at work then our rest might be impacted. Using the winter to plan in things you enjoy outside of training is important as this means that come the spring and summer you’ll be much more refreshed and ready to take on the harder blocks of training nearer to those target races. Balance also looks different for everyone so it’s important to not compare yourself to other athletes.
While this is no means a guaranteed way to avoid any pitfalls throughout the winter, it’s certainly a start of what to be thinking about when working out your training schedule.
Let us know if you have any other winter tips that have worked well for you and what your 2023 goals and plans are.
Chloe Dooley – SBR Clothing Ambassador
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