Winter is without a doubt the most difficult time of year to train. Not only do you have limited hours of light and sometimes freezing cold weather but motivation is also hard to maintain! It’s easy to say “It’s raining I’m not training”, or “It’s too cold”.
Why not start here! For everyone it’s different, but I find goal setting the easiest way to maintain motivation, races certainly help with this. If there are no races then plan your training with a few swim, bike or run time-trials each month.
Make sure it’s always the same distance, course and if possible conditions and try to get faster each month. Another tip is if you are training after work, don’t sit down when you get home, keep moving and focused with positive thoughts despite the weather. I find running in the rain quite refreshing, water won’t go past your skin! Lastly find a training partner and arrange to meet them for training sessions, that way you have an obligation to train. Oh and don’t be late!
#2 Take a break and recovery
A rest will do you wonders if you are feeling stressed or tired. I always take a break at the end of the triathlon season and then start back training easy. You really feel refreshed and ready for winter training. While you doing all this great work over winter remember to have an easy week at least once a month. This gives your body a chance to catch up and recover. Recovery is the most important part of your training, do not under-rate this! A good way to monitor over training is to record your resting heart rate each morning before you get out of bed, if it starts to rise then ease back the training a little. It’s an indication that you are getting stressed, this could be work/training related or indicate you are getting ill.
#3 Injuries and Technique
If you have an injury then winter is the perfect time to get it sorted. Go to a physio and rehabilitate the injury, then gradually get back into training (let the injury heal). The follow on from there and what you should also start your winter training with is technique training. You need to train the muscles to know the correct techniques of swimming, cycling and running. This ensures you exercise with the correct form and also reduces the chance of injury. Drills are the best for this and I recommend that you also look into some one on one coaching. A coach is a great resource no matter what your level and can provide you with some insight you never thought of. You’ll find a list of coaches in your area on the Tri NZ website.
#4 Weight Training
My view on this is to use weight training for injury prevention and not muscle building. You want to prepare and strengthen your muscles and tendons for the training you will be doing. Don’t spend too much time lifting weights; I would encourage you to do more core stability exercises and lighter weights with higher reps or just join a Tri-Planet Indoor Fitness Programme! Strength training is best done during the exercise, i.e. running on hills, doing hill intervals on the bike and using pull to strengthen swimming (make sure you don’t kick when you use the pull buoy!).
Check weather conditions before training, if you are heading for a cycle or a run in the hills then wear appropriate clothing; it’s also a good idea to let someone know where you are going. If the conditions are particularly bad, ice and snow, then you may need to head indoors and do a session on the treadmill in the gym, or on the cycle trainer (unless you have a stationary trainer, see point 7).
If you have an early morning session then plan the night before and have everything ready to go. For example if you are swimming, have your session prepared and written down, a bag containing everything you need for the session (towel, goggles, swimmers, cap, drink, soap, moisturizer etc.). That way you can get the maximum allotted sleep (and avoid the morning panic), if you use the snooze alarm make sure you set this so you still get up in time to make the swim session!
Winter clothing is very expensive; I started out using thermal longs under my cycle and run shorts and thermal tops under my jacket until I could afford some proper clothing. If you can’t afford it all at once then just buy one garment at a time, start with a good lined winter jacket for cycling and a water proof jacket you can use for running and cycling. If you can afford cycling bib tights and running tights then go for it. Gloves are also important for those cold days on the bike, use two sets if you need too. If it’s a really windy, cold day and your heading out on the bike, put a newspaper underneath your shirt in the front, you‘ll be amazed how warm this will keep you.
#7 Training Equipment
You can spend your well earned money on a large range of equipment and gadgets from a Garmin watch to a Specialized Time Trial bike. Probably one of the best investments you can make for winter is to buy an indoor trainer for cycling. TACX make some very good trainers, and you can call into your local bike shop or investigate online for more information. Basically the more expensive the trainer, the quieter it is. Make sure you get one with adjustable resistance, and then you will have more training options. Speaking about training, when you use your Indoor Trainer make sure you break up the session to make it interesting, work on technique by doing one leg drills (cycling with one leg only) and do some high cadence spinning intervals (cadence over 100rpm). A 45min session is nearly the equivalent of 1 hour on the road!
Happy training, my last piece of advice is consistency, get into a routine and stick to it. If your training is all over the place so will be your racing. There are plenty of general training plans on the internet, however if you want something specific to your needs that is adjustable with you and catered to your available training hours then give me a shout. Also if you have any questions in general about anything to do with training or triathlon just email me and ask away.