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Three Essentials for the Offseason

By Jackie Dowdeswell | Nov. 04, 2009, 12 a.m. (ET)

You've successfully completed your first season of triathlons, or maybe your second, third... and as the leaves are falling and there is a chill in the air, you wonder "What now?" For many of us, particularly in Northern climes, the triathlon racing season winds down by September and you hear the words uttered by those more experienced triathletes - the offseason.

So, what do you do in the offseason? Try these three things:

  1. Recover
  2. Try something new
  3. Work on your weakness
1.       Recover

Give your body a break! Whether you have come off a full schedule of short races or one longer race, you have been pushing your body for many months. It is OK to have a break. Do nothing if you want to, but most of us who have been enticed into this wonderful lifestyle want to remain active. So, do some easy running, swimming, biking, play ball with your kids, friends, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and have some fun. This allows for mental recovery too and allows you to gently formulate your plan for the coming months and next season.

Do what you feel like and don't obsess about missed workouts. Aim for about a month of this, but feel free to mix it in with the second theme. If you keep active, you won't lose too much of your hard earned fitness and it will be easy to work back up to your previous level once you get into your training routine. It's also a great time to allow your body to recover from any minor niggles that you have managed to ignore during the racing season.

2.       Try something new

The offseason is the ideal time to try a different way to keep active and keep that base endurance fitness. This is called cross training and can be extremely beneficial in many ways: it keeps your endurance base, it helps keep you fresh mentally, and many activities have other benefits that will help you in your overall tri-fitness - for example, agility, balance or flexibility.

For those in northern climates, cross country skiing is an excellent way to keep endurance, and because it is so much less risky from an impact perspective compared to running you can pretty much go out for as long as you are able. From group exercising, to tennis (or paddle tennis where it's snowy), to hiking, to ice skating... the possibilities are endless. Get out there and have some fun!

Many of us during race season do not pay much attention to strength training. Now is the time to get to the gym or establish a home strength routine. You will reap the benefits next season. I am always amazed at the new offerings that pop up for group classes, so you don't have to restrict yourself to circuit classes, Pilates, yoga, etc. - although all these are great too. Try them if you haven't already! Some will be strength-based, some aerobic and many both.

3.       Work on your weakness

The offseason is the perfect time to work on your weakness(es). That doesn't mean you have to spend the entire offseason doing one sport, but you can set yourself periods of focus - say for a month at a time. If your swimming could do with some help, now is the ideal time to have a lesson or a stroke analysis, or simply to get to the pool more often to practice drills and technique. 

If biking is your weakness, then incorporating some pedaling drills is often useful. Where it is cold or snowy, it is often a challenge to get outside to ride. If biking is your weakness then think about attending regular spinning classes - or maybe invest in an indoor trainer - attach your back wheel and you can pedal while watching your favorite TV shows.

For running, be careful with a running focus as you don't want to increase your risk for injury. But there is no harm in incorporating some drills (cadence work, skipping, high knees, butt kicks, etc.) into your running workouts and even a bit of intensity (like strides or intervals) if you are ready for it. If you are going to increase your running frequency, then pay attention to overall volume (time/distance) and be guided by the 10 percent rule (don't increase time/distance by more than 10 percent in total each week).

And finally, a word on races. During the offseason, you don't have to completely give up racing. Even in colder climates there are usually many road (running) or snowshoe races. These are a great way to include a bit of intensity into your routine and get together with other athletes. Some places even have "indoor triathlons" which are another slightly different thing to try. So, change it up, have some fun and enter the next season fresh, strong and ready to go with some new skills and strengths.

Jackie Dowdeswell is a USAT Level I coach, ASCA Level II coach, USA Cycling Level III coach, ACE Personal, Trainer, ACE Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant. Jackie's passion is to get people off the couch and into a more active and healthy lifestyle. She enjoys training beginner and intermediate triathletes and spreading the word of this wonderful sport. Contact Jackie at or through her wellness company at