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Off-Season Triathlon Training

Well, another triathlon season is over and the so-called “off season” is upon us. The arrival of the holidays, nicely enough, typically coincide with the end of the usual triathlon season. For many, this also causes what’s often called the “Ironman Hangover”.

After finishing an Ironman (and living in Phoenix, this is Ironman Arizona for me), many athletes are stricken with a general malaise of unknown origin. Symptoms include boredom, sleepiness, sadness, and/or a general melancholy. Some outlying symptoms that are also noted are food not tasting as good as normal, conversations being less interesting than normal, and/or the need to do something crazy to get a bit of adrenaline. Ok, I am making up those last ones, but you get the point. Anytime you finish a big project, reach a big goal, etc., it is natural to feel some absence due to the void created by your accomplishment, as backwards as that sounds. That’s why most people have a period of “transition training”, crazily enough called the Transition Phase.

During the Transition Phase of triathlon training, you are pursuing multiple objectives. You, obviously, want to combat the Ironman Hangover. You also want to give your body a chance to heal and refresh. While a total cessation of training will cause you to lose all the adaptations you worked so hard to make in about thirty days, a reduction of about 50% will result in no loss. You essentially reduce your training to a minimum to enable yourself to recover both mentally and physically, while keeping enough training so that your baseline of fitness and body weight are maintained. The Transition Phase can last anywhere from two to six weeks. Generally, you want to avoid any hard training so your body is fully healed and your mind is excited to begin training for any spring races.

triathlon trainingThe Transition Phase of training is also a great time to experiment with some alternative training and get away from the standard swim-bike-run stuff we all do practically year-round. And, by training, I mean non-traditional, but still physically-active things. Certainly, you can focus (or re-focus) on some training-related activities, such as weight lifting, as well, but where’s the fun in that??? Nowhere, that’s where. So, with all that in mind, here’s a few suggestions to stay active, stay fit, and have some fun!

Go Outside!

Ever heard of mountain biking? During the intensive months of triathlon training, I probably couldn’t even identify a mountain bike. But, come winter, I love hitting the trails as often as possible. Whether it is in my shoes or on two wheels, my view is Trails = Good Times! This also includes things like hiking, rock climbing, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, or any other under-the-sun-when-it-is-cold, makes-you-sweat activity. This stuff, done during the off-season, can help you stay motivated and maintain your fitness, if not make it better!

Go Inside!

Just like getting out and doing something different, you can find the fun inside too. Things like yoga, spinning, boot camp classes, group exercise class, and even my personal favorite Insanity (or its cousins, Insanity: ASYLUM and Focus T25) are all excellent options. The one caveat is to be aware of your effort levels. For most people, you want to keep the heart rate low as you are trying to give the mind and body recovery time. But, if you like to work and are confident you won’t experience burn-out, then go with it!

transition training

Play Some Catch-Up!

During the grind of annual training, we all have to table certain things as time and energy dwindle. You can use the off-season/Transition Phase to visit those old friends. Whether it is re-establishing your love for pumping iron, actually doing the stretching protocol your Coach gave you, or pursuing that elusive, yet spectacular, washboard-like six-pack, use the extra time in the off-season to nail these frequently neglected routines. If you need help in this regard, please feel free to contact me or check out the helpful guidelines in the thousands of triathlon training books (the best being Joe Friel’s “Triathlon Training Bible”).


Yes, the off season is a great time to relax and refresh. But, it can also be a great time to try something new or reconnect with some old friends. You know, like crunches. Enjoy these alternative forms of training and come back stronger, refreshed, and excited to tackle a new year of racing!

Thanks for reading and have a good winter!

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