For everyone who did not qualify for the IRONMAN World Championships, you are probably well into your off season. With that said, your off season is absolutely critical for setting up your following season. If you are training for all three sports at a 100% focus level, there is an increased chance of burning out when everyone is ramping up training! This is common practice when your final race of the season did not end the way you wanted it to. You cross the finish line disappointed but motivated to become better and once you recovered from your race, you pick your training back up to full steam! Unfortunately, this training and motivation won’t last long and it is a matter of time until you hit a physical and mental wall that forces you to stop. People who fall into this trap are typically self-coached and are not receiving experienced feedback and are normally acting on emotion.
You should be taking one to three weeks of unstructured training to remove the constraints of having to follow a training plan. For some, following a plan is motivating but also stressful because successful athletes are goal oriented and thrive on accomplishing all of the training their coach applies. Smart coaches will recognize this character trait and work tasks that the athlete can do, but still promotes recovery.
Once an athlete is done resting, most go down the wrong path as they don’t know what to do next so they don’t do anything at all. Three weeks turn into six weeks which then turns into January 1st, which untimely turns into taking the following season off. As a coach, this is the worst thing we see happen.
How can you maximize the off season without burning yourself out? You need to balance short term goals vs. long term goals. Because of the growth of IRONMAN, athletes need to plan ahead and sign up for races well in advance which puts most athletes in a long term planning mentality. However, you can’t start training specifically in October for an IRONMAN that is happening in September of 2018. This is the period where you focus on short term goals that will improve your long term goals.
An example of this would be wanting to run your marathon leg at IRONMAN Wisconsin under four hours which is 9:10 pace or faster. If you are unable to run a 10k at 9:10 pace then it is evident you need to work on your running speed. Speed work is critical taking your goals to the next level. Always going at an endurance pace will result in the same race results, consistency is NOT key in this situation.
The Fall is a great time to focus on improving your running performance; please do not sign up for a fall marathon. There are many local 5k running events that you can sign up for that will help you develop speed. The benefit of committing to improving your 5k performance is that you are tackling a hard goal that will require a tremendous amount of focus because it’s the complete opposite training of what you were recently doing.
How can you set up your 5k goals?
Complete a 1 mile running test on your local track or a flat stretch of road with minimal hills and turns. Do an appropriate warm up that includes a progressive warm up as well as 4-6 x 10 second pick-ups..
If you ran your mile at 8:00 pace, then you’re 5k pace is 20-30 seconds slower; 8:20-30 pace. It’s important to be flexible depending if your targeting race is hilly.
Next step is to start training and this is where having a good coach comes in handy. If you are accustomed to running 4 times per week in your triathlon training, increase your running to 5 times per week. An example training week could look like this:
Monday: OFF Day
Tuesday: 3 Miles at 1:30-2 minutes per mile slower than 5k pace.
Wednesday: Track Workout: 10x400m Repeats at current 5k Pace with 200m walk/jog recovery.
Friday: 3 Miles at 1:30-2 minutes per mile slower than 5k pace.
Sunday: Long Run: 5 Miles Negative Split (3 Miles Easy, 2 Miles at 40 seconds per mile slower than 5k pace)Maximizing Your Off-Season
Steve is a full time endurance coach that lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Steve is a coach for Madison Multisport where he coaches athletes locally as well as remote athletes around the world. Steve is also one of the few coaches in the USAT High Performance Coaching Program. As an athlete, Steve is a Kona and 70.3 Qualifier. If you have any additional questions you can find my Coaching Bio HERE and he also run a Podcast called Inside The Big Ring that provides helpful training tips and interviews.