“the offseason”: a term with many meanings. I personally use it to mean any time when we’re not yet seriously building up / ramping up for a specific race. For example, if your “A race” is Ironman Arizona in November, and your first “B race” is in May, then in December you’ll be in the offseason.
TriForce Splash N’ Dash (300 swim, 1 mile run)- a good example of offseason fun!
However, just because you’re not building for a specific race doesn’t mean that you do nothing. I’m a firm believer in maintaining some level of year-round swim, bike, and run training (especially if you’re an athlete with limited time). If you don’t have the time to build to a high volume peak, then it’s important to hold onto a decent amount of fitness year-round.
For my Kona / 70.3 Worlds aspiring clients, I often use the “offseason” to focus on weaknesses. Kona qualifier Rob Gray is doing a massive swim block right now (20+k / week with lots of quality) and making big swim gains. While we focus on the swim, he’s maintaining his bike (his strength) with relatively light volume and also laying the foundation so we can work on raising his sustainable run speed in the New Year. I’ve got other athletes focusing on gradually increasing their run volume to 100k / week over several months while doing moderate amounts of biking & swimming. Those are the more “hard core” people on the Force who are looking to be challenged year round.
However, many team members just don’t have the motivation or time to keep putting in a serious training focus and to make big time sacrifices in the offseason. If given a moderate offseason plan of 8-10 hours, they’ll probably do about anywhere from half to 3/4 of the plan most weeks, picking & choosing which workouts they’re doing. They know in the back of their minds that they’re far enough away from their race that they have plenty of time get in shape as long as they don’t let themselves slip too far out of shape. Or worse, some perfectionists in the group will start doing NOTHING many weeks since many people have an all or nothing mindset.
The problems with this approach are obvious: (a) the athlete feels like a bit of a failure if they are only doing part of the plan; (b) we’re not developing them as an athlete in a methodical way if they’re picking and choosing random workouts (or, more likely, focusing only on their strong sport!); and finally (c) it’s not fun!
Enter: the 1 hour per day offseason plans!
I developed the 1 hour per day offseason plans to keep TriForcers motivated and progressing over the winter. Like any good plans, they are progressive (i.e. start off appropriately for your current fitness then get gradually harder as you get in better and better shape). They give athletes a target they can hit. They also give athletes a chance to push quite hard in their workouts on a regular basis, which is a fun break from the lower intensity Ironman stuff.
How does the plan work? It’s quite simple. I load the plan for the athlete based on their current level of fitness then it gradually gets harder… and harder… and harder… all with a time budget of 1 hour per day. I’m looking to keep the athlete at a dose of training where we’re seeing a continuous trend of improvement and where they’re able to hit their target #s in their workouts. When the current level of the plan becomes too easy, we up the challenge (over and over and over!) The advanced version of the plan (and I can always create a harder one if someone needs it) adds up to an average training stress score of 80 TSS / day (560 / week). Put together week after week at that level and you’ve got a solid amount of fitness that will let you quickly ramp into your base training when the time comes.
We can easily modify the plan to account for any group workouts (weekend rides, masters swims, etc). Group workouts can often be detrimental during your race build, but during the offseason (and especially the winter) anything that promotes routine and consistency is a help (as long as you don’t hurt yourself or deeply fatigue yourself).
Sample Week (one of the higher levels of the plan- don’t jump right into this if you’re out of shape!)
Bike: 2-4*20 min “sweet spot” (or olympic distance) effort.
(optional 10- 15 min run off bike)
Swim cords: 5 min (3 challenging sets)
Swim: 1000 warmup, 10*200 threshold, :20 rest (if only doing 1 swim / week, add another 1000 easy pulling before or after)
Bike: warm up then 4*10 min (2-3 recovery) #1 (5 tempo, 5 sweet spot); #2 (10 sweet spot); #3 (5 sweet spot, 5 threshold); #4 (10 threshold)
(optional 10-15 min run off the bike)
Swim cords: 5 min (3 hard sets)
Run: :30 threshold run (warm up then :30 at vLT)
(optional endurance swim- 4*1000 descending)
Bike: 2-4 * 20 min “sweet spot” (or olympic distance effort); always feel free to go out for a long ride if you want and if you have time.
(optional 10-15 min. transition run)
swim cords: 5 min: 3 challenging sets
Run: 1 hour, descending (10 gradually build to steady, 10 steady, 10 tempo, 10 sweet spot, 20 threshold); always feel free to go out for a longer steady run if you want / if you have time.
If you’ve struggled with offseason consistency in the past, commit to 1 hour per day in the offseason! Put it in your calendar and do it! You might just be setting yourself up for your best season yet.
As of this writing, TriForce is still taking new members for the 2014 season. We have bronze ($99 / month) and gold ($199/ month) team memberships available. We have several athletes on the 1 hour per day offseason plan and the 10 hours / week Ironman / HIM base training plans (more info here)