Training: Welcoming The Off-Season

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Written by: Nan Kappeler

The signs are hard to ignore: morning frost, falling leaves, fading tan lines, arm warmers and a sparse listing of triathlon events on the race calendar. Warm, sunny days are behind us. So are the after-work open-water swims and weekend road trips to races. Unless you are racing in Australia, or you’ve found a few holiday events, the reality is that the off-season is here.

Many triathletes look forward to winding down for at least a few weeks or months. The off-season can be a chance to build endurance for the next year, re-think goals, plan race calendars and even catch up on some socializing or sleep. We spoke with athletes from across the country and everyone seems to have a little different take on their off-season and how to make the most of it.

Mirinda Carfrae, 28, Brisbane, Australia/Boulder, Colo.
Second place female, 2009 Ford Ironman World Championship

“My off-season starts with two complete weeks off. I usually spend this time catching up with family and friends and doing a lot of sleeping. After two weeks of absolutely no physical activity, I have another two weeks of whatever I feel, like surfing or hiking. At this point I am pretty much ready to get back into it. The next month is when I ease back into full training.”

Bart Hackley-65, Balboa Island, Calif.
1989 Guinness Book of Record holder, awarded August 17, 2009
Most number of triathlons in one year – 123

“I don’t ever turn off the machine, but I do cut down the distances. That’s tapering, I guess.
I cut way back from what I’m doing, then look at my races and start building again.  I just did a race, but it was short.  I’m not quite at the off-season yet, but I have backed down to about 25-minutes of training a day. I’m actually disappointed in the fall, because the sun isn’t out as much.   It’s kind of a downer.  I’d rather be racing in warm weather.  If I had more money, I might be in Australia or the South Pacific.”

Dave Welsh, 47, Westminster, Md.
Age-group triathlete

“During the off-season, unfortunately, the thing I do the most is work.  This off-season I intend to really work hard on my running so I am more prepared for Eagleman 70.3 and for my first full Ironman.”

Jennifer Chalmers, 38, Dana Point, Calif.
2009 Ford Ironman World Championship, 35-39 1st place

“It’s tough for me after an Ironman not to workout.  I’m on that high.  I can’t go home and do nothing.  I can’t go into work without working out, but I do make it a point not to log anything this time of year for two months.  I get off the tri bike and onto the road bike.  I do light stuff for a month to transition into winter training and train in the gym more. I include a little more fun stuff like a cruise to Starbucks with girlfriends, but it’s hard not to be thinking about not working out because you have to sign up for next year’s races in so soon.”

Andrew Bell, 39, Atlanta, Ga.
Age-group triathlete, Team In Training coach

“My off-season starts in October. I take some time off and stay active but with alternate activities—which is any activity but swimming, biking and running. Training this year will start in November, but normally it is December. I usually do an Adventure Race with a non-triathlete buddy of mine. This year is a little different because I am doing Ironman St. George.”

Brad Culp, 24, San Diego, Calif.
Editor, Triathlete Magazine, Age-group triathlete
I start my off-season with one week of absolutely no exercise and then follow that up with one week of just swimming. After that, I kind of just roll with the punches and do whatever kind of workouts get me excited. As long as I keep the intensity and mileage down I don’t really worry about how much or how little I’m doing. I look forward to snowboarding and staying out late on the weekends. Those are two things I don’t get to do much during the season so I try to take advantage while I’m not doing any “real” training.”

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