Off season, warm weather triathlon training base.

For many triathletes (and their families) training often feels like a full-time job already during race season, despite this however, it is also essential to include an off season plan to establish good technique, repair any niggles and put down a strong aerobic base. Also this is the time to enjoy being fit and healthy and take time to rest and recover and listen to your body. This is as important as the days spent training and racing.

As a Triathlon Coach, my business is to help keep athletes healthy ( both physically and mentally), alongside developing and improving their fitness and skills and  help them establish and keep a good balance between training, racing, recovering ( including diet and nutrition) and whatever Life throws at them.

Your 2017 Triathlon season begins now!

OCTOBER and NOVEMBER, are a great time to ask yourself ( and your coach if you have one) some fundamental questions :

1. Was 2016 successful?

If yes—meaning you raced well, up to or beyond your expectations and goals and incurred no lasting injuries — you obviously got it right ( or could you go faster;) ?. If this was not the case, things may need tweaking or changing completely, and certainly this is the time of year to spend some time reflecting on the season ( and seasons gone by).  Take time to evaluate everything: bike/run shoes, saddle height, nutrition weight loss/gain, bike set up, training load, training partners, club sessions, coaching etc.

2. Did you have any injuries or niggles minor or not, including health problems

For triathletes, an injury means something went wrong—it’s not part of the game plan. Barring a bike crash or other accident, knee pain, fatigue and depression are examples of physical, chemical and mental injuries. The causes of these problems should be found and corrected, which may require help from a professional. The result? Better performance and resiliency.

3. Develop an endurance-based training plan

About 98 percent of the energy needs for triathlons come from the aerobic system, so re-establishing an aerobic base once (or twice) each year is vital. This is often best achieved during the off season base period.

An important training “partner” and valuable asset for developing an aerobic base is a heart rate monitor and an understanding of a sub-maximum workout “zone.” While it’s best to find this heart rate through extensive testing, the 180 Formula is very effective too. (Read more in this 180 Formula article).

Sancture Sportifs Bike SessionJust as important is training all aerobic muscle fibers, which involves ramping up the heart rate during the warm up, maintaining and not exceeding the sub-max levels, and slowly cooling down.


4. Perform an endurance evaluation

You can ensure your endurance development is really taking place by performing ongoing, objective evaluations of your improvement. It’s during this aerobic base-building period that significant improvements in swimming, biking and running should occur. Plotting speed or power, for example, against an aerobic heart rate is a great test to perform now, and each month throughout the winter (and all year). Effective training should result in running faster, increased bike power and more laps, all at the same heart rate. I refer to this as the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Test. For example, if you established that your max aerobic training heart rate is 146, and you can run 8:00 minutes per mile at this rate, developing a better aerobic base should result in running at 7:30 pace at the same heart rate. (You can learn more about this method in this MAF testing article.)


If progress is not taking place after a month or two, it usually means something is interfering with some aspect of health or fitness. Anemia, allergies, asthma or other health conditions are clear causes for lack of improvement. But other, less obvious but common imbalances can contribute too. These include chronic inflammation, too high a training heart rate, hormone imbalance, refined carbohydrate intake, low vitamin D and even an uncorrected overtraining condition.


5. Strength Training for Triathletes

Triathletes can improve both bone and muscle strength with simple, short and non-stressful workouts. Correctly done, these should not impair endurance. Here’s a review of how to accomplish this:

→Begin and end strength training with an aerobic warm up and cool down of about 15 minutes each, or longer for more aerobic training time.

→ Use higher weight and lower (five to seven) reps.

→Instead of isolating muscles, use whole body actions such as dead lifts and squats for more extensive strength gains.

→Avoid excess muscle fatigue and next-day soreness.

One to three easy weekly strength workouts can be combined with endurance training of longer duration by extending the warm up and cool down. These low-stress strength sessions should minimize muscle bulk with little or no weight gain.


Effective implementation and measurable results should be expected by midwinter and planning a spring-summer training and racing season will then be more tangible. With significant endurance and a balanced body, expect a great performance in your first race.

Phil Maffetone is a best-selling author and has advised many of triathlon’s greats, including Mark Allen. He is the author of The Big Book of Endurance Training and RacingVisit him online at

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IRONMAN Coach Richard Laidlow