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Offseason Training is all About the Base

By Michael Gallagher | Jan. 14, 2019, 11:58 a.m. (ET)

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2019 edition of USA Triathlon Magazine. To read the digital version of the magazine, or to become a member and subscribe, visit here. 

Offseason training is all about the base

After our race season comes to a close, we enter the offseason. This is the time for athletes to analyze their past race season results, splits, limiters, strengths and more.

This is all well and good, but spending too much time in the past will not benefit you next race season. In order to keep progressing, we need to look at our past limiters and strengths, then refocus for the year ahead.

Having a fresh start is important as it allows us to create new goals, keeps us motivated to improve and eliminates the burdens of negative thoughts from the previous race season. To start fresh, it’s good to create a list of new goals both big and small; from detailed to basic, and write them down in order of importance.

When setting goals for 2019, make the goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to your sport and training hours, and have a timeline to achieve these goals. One way to start is by selecting your A,B and C races and putting them on your calendar. Give yourself at least a month between races, especially an A race for which you’ll want to peak. Your B and C races will be “testing” races to help measure your progress and determine what you need to work on. With every season there will be ups and downs, so be flexible as you work toward your main goals.

Planning your entire season is important so that you have an idea how long your base-building phase should be before you get into higher intensity phases. The more information you can gather throughout the season the better. 

The base period is critical. It allows our bodies to slowly build up the endurance needed for multisport and its various race distances, keeps injuries at bay, helps athletes progress and gives us time to work on limiters.

The base period will range in length depending on the athlete’s training background. Your workouts will be less sport-specific and more general. The time for higher-intensity and sport-specific workouts will come in other training phases. Generally, during the base period, we focus on technique and volume, and slowly add in some intensity.

Some athletes may find it unnecessary to have a base phase, but in order to fix your limiters and not reach a plateau or detraining mode, it’s necessary to work on everything from the ground up. This will pay off in the long run as the workouts get harder.

Overall, in order for an athlete to keep progressing in their sport both physically and mentally, they need to start fresh every offseason and not dwell on the past. Take some pointers from last race season and use them in your training. For example, if your swim times were slow, incorporate a swim block during the base phase, where you will work on improving your stroke and technique. Planning out your races and goals in advance will keep you motivated, focused and give you some built-in progress checks to ensure you’re on the right track.

Having a seasonal base training phase, which should also include strength training, will help prevent injuries, increase overall strength and transfer into better in-season performance. Following these tips, along with listening to your body, will help you progress and keep you motivated each year.

Base Phase sample workouts

Incorporate these workouts into your base-building phase to improve your swim, bike and run this offseason.


Warmup: 200-yard swim/100-yard kick/100-yard pull with paddles

Drill: 2x50-yard drill of choice

Main set: Swim at aerobic pace: 4x100 yard freestyle/2x200-yard IM/1x200-yard pull/2x400 yards with different stroke for every 100 yards. 2x50-yard kick

Cool down: 200-yard swim in Zone 1 (Recovery heartrate zone)


Warmup: 10min. zone 1-2 (start with recovery pace then move to aerobic pace)

Main set: 60min. (Aerobic pace) with 4x1min. climbs (tempo pace) interspersed throughout the workout.

Cool down: 6 min. in zone 1 (Recovery) 


Warmup: 10min. jog with mobility drills

Main Set: 45-60min. (aerobic). Add some strides at the end to work on leg speed.

Cool Down: 5min. recovery jog with stretching.

Michael Gallagher is a Certified Strength & Conditioning coach, USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, ACE Personal Trainer/Sports Conditioning, and US Masters Level 2 swim coach. Michael is the owner of Rogue TRI Performance; a multisport training company and has coached athletes ranging from beginners to Team USA athletes. He also competes in triathlons and running races. 

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.