Q: I spend my off-season increasing the volume of my training in my weakest discipline. Why am I not improving?
A: You’re not alone—many athletes use this approach to improve during the off-season. The problem is that by only increasing volume but using the same techniques, you might not be addressing the underlying cause of your inefficiencies in that sport. For example, if you wanted to pack on muscle, increasing your time at the gym may sound like a great idea. However, if you spend more time lifting but still lift with poor form, you will likely get injured, not bigger. Only by increasing reps over time and using proper form can you achieve your goal. In the same way, you need to consider form when trying to improve your swim, bike or run in the off-season. Check out these three tools to catch inefficiencies so you can become a very clearly improved athlete:
Periodize your training
Too little training volume is typically not the concern; however, doing too much volume or intensity into too short a time period can lead to overtraining and a higher risk of injury. For this reason, most qualified coaches will use a periodized training plan—a plan in which you build volume and intensity, often over a three-week period, then back off for a week—to help an athlete reach their potential while reducing the risk of a negative outcome.
Get on camera
Video analysis is a great way to identify issues with technique. Treadmill videos can help experts analyze your gait, while above- and below-water videos allow you to review your bodyline in the water and analyze your swim stroke. Contact your local tri club for referrals to local coaches or physical therapists who offer video analysis. USA Triathlon maintains a database of clubs across the country (Usatriathlon.org).
Try some tech
Bike training aids such as CompuTrainer and TrainerRoad can reveal how consistent your pedal stroke is and identify weak or dead spots. The software can also help you determine appropriate training and racing paces based on testing performed while using it.
Rich McLellan is an Ironman-certified coach, USAT-certified coach and a USAC-certified coach based out of Fairhope, Ala.