3 Rules of Fall Training

By Christopher Breen | Nov. 07, 2016, 4:45 p.m. (ET)

mountain biking

Mix it up in the fall to excel next spring

I love long aerobic sessions, just like many triathletes. They’re an absolute necessity for building endurance and mental toughness, and our minds are a huge factor in both our training and race performance. That being said, if after a long race season we don’t give our minds and bodies time to recover, we set ourselves up for fatigue for the next season before it even gets underway. If you want to be in this sport for the long haul, you better train and periodize your years so you’re able to maintain the multisport lifestyle.

Fall is the perfect time to try new things. During the winter many athletes look to different sports all together for their fitness, such as skiing. In the fall we can continue to swim, bike and run, just in different settings.

Swim with a Group

Spring and summer are often the time to get in some much-needed open water swims that are race specific. You may have also passed on some group swim workouts so you could concentrate on your own intervals and goals. If so, fall is the time to rejoin that group. The benefits of a masters swim group this time of year are plenty. First, they are more social. There is time to interact with other athletes in between sets and before and after the session. This is a huge plus if you’ve been logging a lot of alone meters during the season. Second, if there is a well-qualified coach leading the session, he or she will be able to provide some feedback on your technique — feedback that you can learn from and practice during the offseason. Third, if you get caught up trying to push harder than expected during the fall, it won’t have as great an impact on your fitness and recovery as it would during race season. The fall is a time to be more flexible with your training and if you go harder than anticipated on one day, you should be flexible and take off the next day if needed.

Enjoy Your Workouts

During race season, I am a big proponent of the trainer and the controlled setting it provides for intervals, and it is a must to get outside and get those long rides completed in the time trial position. The fall however is the most enjoyable time to be riding outdoors. The cool air and changing colors will surely rejuvenate you mind, body and senses. Break out the road bike or better yet the mountain bike and hit the trails. The trails provide the perfect terrain to become a better bike handler and overall a more complete cyclist. Riding over those stumps and navigating tight corners are surefire ways to improve bike-handling skills — skills that will transfer to the road and make you a more confident rider. The best part about riding trails is that they are car free. This allows you to take in your surroundings and focus on the workout at hand without the stress of road traffic. If you’ve never mountain biked before, you will quickly learn to enjoy the strength benefits one gets from an hour on the trails. Since fall is the time of year to recover and rejuvenate your spirit, you can take that extra time to spend with your family or take your loved ones out for breakfast.

Go Off Road

As for the run, many athletes like capping off their triathlon season with a fall marathon. I on the other hand continue the theme I set forth on the bike and stick to the trails. Running the trails provides all the same benefits as biking the trails. The cool air and canopy of changing colors is much needed and much appreciated by the body. The softer surface is less taxing on the body and after all those months of running on the hot, hard surface, it is just what the body needs to aid in injury prevention for the upcoming season. Trail running is less linear than road running and helps in using and strengthening those ancillary muscles that have been neglected.

We all love swimming, biking and running and that is why triathlon is our chosen sport. By simply mixing up the setting in which we perform these sports at the proper times of year we will go into our next season recovered, rejuvenated and injury free, while also setting ourselves up for lifelong enjoyment in the sport.

Christopher Breen, PA-C, ACSM EP-C is a Certified Physician Assistant specializing in sports medicine and orthopaedics, a Certified Exercise Physiologist by The American College of Sports Medicine, and a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Triathlon Coach. He is the founder and head coach of ARIA Endurance Coaching LLC and also works at Winthrop Orthopaedic Assoc., PC in Long Island, New York. He can be reached at ariaendurance.com and ariaendurance@gmail.com.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.