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Training

Dear Coach: How Should I Structure My Triathlon Off-Season?

Plan your time off wisely in order to gain the greatest benefits going into 2022.

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Ah, the off-season. A time of great confusion—at least, it can be when you hear so many different athletes with their varying perspectives on how to execute a successful off-season. How long should you totally rest? Should you stop swimming, biking, and running? And what exactly should your training look like when you do resume? Of course, it’s different for every athlete, but I increasingly find that with so much access to pro athletes on social media posting about their off-season breaks it’s easy to get confused about what you, as an age-grouper, should be doing: Take a week off? Take a month off? Don’t take an off-season at all?

RELATED: A Triathlete’s Guide to Off-Season Winter Sports

Review Your Year

The first thing to consider is how much do you train all year? What does your total weekly volume look like? How big was your competitive season? When do you plan to start your race season in 2022? The answers to these questions will help guide you in structuring your off-season and also knowing when to really start your training in earnest for the season ahead.

It is worth noting, however, that for most amateur athletes, breaks tend to take care of themselves. Between family, work, and travel, if you add up the number of days and weeks that you’ve taken off from training across the season, you’ll see that there have (likely) already been a number of natural breaks in your year. I call these breaks and rest through forced circumstances. These breaks usually affect athletes who have pretty darn busy lives and do a total of 10 to 15 hours a week. When you pile on a business trip every three to 12 weeks, family holidays, “life is kicking your ass” breaks on top of what you deal with on a weekly basis, this usually means that you’ve taken plenty of time away from structured training that often doesn’t get accounted for.

If you fall into this category I suggest your off season be short! Rest a bit after your main race, take a mental break from absolute structure (maybe you go on more social sessions or hit the mountain bike instead of your TT bike), but avoid taking three to four weeks off. The deep and lengthy rest periods you hear athletes taking are for athletes training all season for more than 25 hours per week with a packed middle- and/or long-distance racing schedule. 

Be Smart About What You Do With Your Time

Once you’ve decided how to structure your off-season, make sure you’re smart about what you actually do. I suggest using your off-season to rebuild some weaknesses and improve on areas you are not able to in the thick of your season. This might be improving your swim stroke mechanics, working on your bike position, or focusing on gym/strength work. Whatever it is, go after it with focus and energy. Use this time to rebuild to be a better athlete with no races around the corner. Avoid getting caught up in what it “appears” people are doing on social media. Do what’s best for you so you can start your 2022 season feeling fresh, motivated, and ready to go.

Marilyn Chychota is a USAT-certified coach and former pro triathlete who is now owner and head coach at Marilyn Chychota Coaching. Find her at MarilynChychotaCoaching.com.