Some Thoughts on Winter Training

By Dr. Steve Jonas | Nov. 16, 2017, 10:07 a.m. (ET)

Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series, (No. 47, 2017/11)

First, let me say that while I live in a part of the country, the New York City Metropolitan Area, that has a cold winter, I do recognize that there are many multisport athletes who live in a moderate-to-warm climate year-round. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a winter. It just means that you don’t have a cold winter. And, while some people can race and train pretty full-bore year-round, many of us cannot. And so, since I cannot speak from experience in training and racing year-round — as one can in Florida, for example — the thoughts in this column are aimed at those folks who stop racing for the winter (which of course you might do while living in a warm climate as well). 

In terms of training, there are many ways to approach the offseason. Some multisport athletes take off the winter completely. This is not recommended. Although you certainly can take off up to a month or so, if you shut down completely, next spring the road back will be a long one. At the other end of the spectrum are those who maintain a pretty full program throughout the winter. If you swim train in the pool, you can certainly keep that up. If you dress properly, you can certainly run in cold weather. And you can bike, either indoors on a trainer, or outdoors if again you dress properly and don’t mind having your feet converted into miniature icebergs.  

But just as I don’t recommend taking off completely, nor do I suggest just continuing your regular training. That way you never give either your body or mind a rest. Your body needs some decrease in intensity in order to decrease the risk of injury. Your mind needs some of the same to decrease the risk of burnout. Thus, I suggest the happy medium approach to winter training, the one I have used myself during my 35 seasons as a multisport athlete.    

At the end of your racing season, I suggest a renewal period during which you stop training entirely or just do some light workouts. After your renewal period, then get back into regular training, but at a reduced level. For some, like myself, that is no more than 2.5-3 hours per week. Assuming that you do not regularly devote more than 10 hours per week to triathlon or duathlon training during the season, next spring you will be able to comfortably get back into your training program.

I also recommend maintaining a cross-training program. I do a combination of modest weight training, with a 10-15-minute stretching routine and 10-20 minutes on the stationary bike and the rowing machine, 3-4 times a week, for a total of about an hour, plus fast walking for 45-60 minutes, once or twice per week. I used to run and bike outdoors in the winter, but as I have gotten older I gave that up.  What I do now seems to work just as well when the next season comes around. You can develop your own program, one that will work for you just as well, I’m sure. Just as long as you do something, regularly and consistently.


This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, "101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes" (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.

Steve’s most recent multisport book is "Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It" (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

His first book on multisport racing, "Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®" 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Dr. Jonas recently was featured in World Class Magazine. Click here to read the article.