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Pre-Season Prep

By: Mat Steinmetz

Hopefully everyone did some form of movement in November. If you didn't, you're only making things harder on yourself once you decide to start training again. Remember, triathlon doesn't need to be an "on" or "off" endeavor. Maintaining a normal active lifestyle will improve your performance and limit the huge swings in your exercise frequency. This will make it far easier for you to focus on specific preparation for your key events during the year.

As I've written before, winter is here for many of us. Unless you plan on relocating, it's best to setup your training schedule in a manner that utilizes your current environment.

What I'm looking to do for the month of December...

I have 3 main areas to address during this time.

  • Run Frequency

  • Establish Swim

  • Strength Training

I'm ok with athletes taking some time off the bike. Some athletes love this time of year as their local community has indoor turbo classes geared towards endurance athletes. I'm happy to include this training 3x/week for them. Others who aren't as thrilled to hop on the turbo get a bit of a break as they focus on the 3 key items above. I will still include 1-2 short 45-60 min turbo sessions to maintain the feel of the bike and movement.

I personally have a flexible schedule and am not that excited about hopping on the trainer and usually head outside when the weather is acceptable. Currently, if weather doesn't cooperate I don't ride. However, that will need to change as we get into January, February and March. I'm in the market for a trainer if anyone has suggestions...shoot them over.

Run Frequency

Just as it sounds. Depending on your level, start running every other day for 30-60 minutes. The goal is to wind up to running 6 days/week. The effort should be whatever allows you to hit your weekly goal. Don't sacrifice one day's run for the other. Most of us are limited by run durability, not speed. This is a good and safe way to log more run miles at this period of the season. Eventually, I'll add in a long run and reduce the duration of a run during the week.

One area that I'm working on is run cadence. I don't have a specific number that I'm shooting for, only quicker than what I normally run. The most challenging part of this is to keep the pace down while running with a high turnover. It feels like I have to really shorten my stride, but when I run by a window or parked car where I can see my technique, it looks just fine. I can see value in using a treadmill close to a mirror where you can get feedback on your run technique.


It's taken some time to get back into the pool. I've been sporadic since our baby girl was born in June. It has been very frustrating try to get going again. I started and stopped a few times in November, but swimming is my priority for this month.

To start, try going to the pool every other day. Aim to swim at least 1.5-2k with mostly 3-stroke breathing. The 3-stroke breathing is to slow you down at the start, as you'll normally feel good until you hit the wall 400-500 meters in. Again, pace doesn't matter right now. The objective is to establish swim consistency and to build a foundation before stepping up to more quality sessions. As you progress over the month, increase the volume of one of your sessions to 3-3.5k before adding another swim during the week.

Many of you have masters squads that you can join. Here is what I suggest: my goal is to start swimming masters in January, but I need to show up with some sort of foundation first. As much self control as I have, I've struggled to join the squad and hold back. Without any sort of depth to your swim fitness, it might only take one session with the squad to have you smoked for the week.

Strength Training

There is debate around whether or not non-specific strength training improves performance. My opinion is that you're limited on what you can do during the winter and it's clear that strength training is good for your well-being. Seeing that most of us aren't relying on triathlon to make a living, doing something that will improve your health and functional well-being is worth the investment.

The goal with strength training is to get yourself past the "soreness" phase. Getting yourself through this phase is the key to a consistent gym program over the winter and into the early season. If you aren't willing to commit to this, you're better off not even getting started. You'll get a few sessions in, will always be sore, and will eventually stop as it will negatively impact your swim, bike, run training. If a strength training regimen is important to you, it's best to start now.

The program itself doesn't need to be fancy. Start off easy and focus on maintaining proper form throughout each movement. If you're struggling to get started, it might be useful to pay for a few sessions with a personal trainer if you're new to strength training.

The key is to make sure you're not wondering around the gym. For efficiency, go in with a plan. I'll post more on strength training next week.


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