The Secret to Keeping Your Edge in the Offseason

By Jay Zacharias for | Jan. 03, 2014, 1:45 p.m. (ET)
winter hikeThe goal is to have fun during the offseason without losing too much of that hard-earned fitness. The secret is to direct your focus from being a triathlete to becoming a better athlete.

Think about it this way. Excellence in short and long-course triathlon requires full body athleticism — a combination of aerobic capacity, muscle strength, mechanical efficiency and coordination.

Most of us spend the majority of our training time building aerobic capacity and that's a good thing. Let's face it, if you can't cover the race distance nothing else matters.

The offseason is the perfect time to shift your attention away from aerobic training and get focused on the other three pillars of long-course triathlon training. 

Just keep in mind, there's no right or wrong way to do this.

The Three Rules
1. For best results, mix the activities below in between recovery days … remember this is a down time.
2. Do things that you don't normally do.
3. Have fun.

The following tactics offer some out-of-the-box ways to stay fit while reconnecting with a part of your physical life you may have forgotten about.

Remember camp, high school gym class and horsing around with your pals when you were young?  It's time to tap into your inner kid again and remember physical fitness is more than just swim, bike, run, stretch, lift, repeat.

Muscle Strength
Lifting weights is the most obvious tactic and a good one.  But how about these:
• Load one or two kids into a wheel barrow and push it around the block or uphill.
• Fill a couple of buckets with water and attempt to carry them up and down a hill without spilling a drop. I got this one from a crazy strong body-building friend.
• Take a hike with the family and carry a heavy backpack, one of the kids or most of the gear.
• Remember chicken fights? Toss another human on your shoulders, and spar with a partner — might want to do this one in your local swimming pool to keep it safe.

Mechanical Efficiency
Save the drill work for in-season training and focus on games that involve short, quick sprints, especially in different directions.
• Play catch or tag with your kids.
• Chase your dog around the park (or vice versa).
• Referee sporting events that require you to move around quickly, such as lacrosse, field hockey or ice hockey.
• A quick pick-up game of basketball is a nice diversion and also lets you connect with pals you've likely ignored through triathlon training season.

The goal is to make things work together so focus on athletics that require hand-eye coordination.
• Dribble a soccer ball while going for a jog.
• Play tennis or ping pong.
• Try a game of underwater hockey with family and friends.
• How about a game of Ultimate Frisbee or disc golf?

Remember: No rules. You're only limited by your imagination. Be creative and ask your partner, friends or kids about games they might want to play.

This effort is a game-changer in building your athleticism in a whole new way.  Make it a goal to include one item from each category during the offseason and discover how fooling around in new, active ways will help you handle higher training volumes, tougher workout sessions and ultimately race faster next season.

Jay Zacharias is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach and licensed primary sports nutritionist. He's been involved with triathlon since 1981 and is co-founder of, the leading community for self-coached triathletes. Grab your free short and long-course training plans by visiting

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