As we head in to the period where I consider winter training starts “proper” for most athletes I thought I would share my thoughts and experiences on allowing some parts of your performance to tail off whilst allowing other aspects flourish.
After a break for most my athletes of 1-3 weeks followed by a phase of pre-winter conditioning we hit the first block. This looks different from one athlete to the next with focus’s more heavily on one sport than normal for some or re-strengthening parts of their system that have become weakened along with “up-skilling”.
The important thing for athletes to do here is to let go. Let go of that race specific fitness, the perfect balance of swim, bike and run and allow whatever the objective of the next phase to take priority. Trust that evidence based studies along with plenty of anecdotal evidence show that athletes can return from even the longest of lay-offs and get back to the top of their game relatively quickly even at the highest levels. So for you to simply switch focus, the losses in other areas will be minimal and in some instances fitness crossovers could see gains.
Why do we do this? To avoid the dreaded Plateau of course!
Triathlon is so tricky to get performance right, especially for the time crunched, as you are trying to become great in 3 sports. Allowing time to move on one aspect while maintaining on the others is key to your evolution beyond a given point.
I will use myself as an example here as an example:
Having started 2020 with a heavy focus on my running, going on to run faster than ever before even at the ripe age of 40, I used the Covid crisis to switch my attention to a life long goal of riding the UK in an interesting way with an gravel based LEJOG route. Training for a 100+ hour event obviously meant my time for running decreased to the point I ended up not running for 6 weeks. In this whole lockdown period I also swam very little but of course my running improved and then my bike endurance and aerobic fitness went through the roof.
After recovering, which took a while, I started to get back in to training and the run and the swim felt awful for 2 weeks or so. I am currently 3 weeks in to it and already the run is coming back as is the swim. My top end as you can imagine from an ultra-distance event is none existent, something I have tested to quantify it, but my aerobic fitness is actually on a par with the best it has ever been on the bike. So for me the approach to re-balance the energy systems and re-strengthen the top end is the obvious one and I can just maintain the aerobic base I have.
For the swim and run to be returning is of no surprise, I knew they would, and the hard work running earlier in the year is “not forgotten” as I am already aware I will be back to mid summer training paces within 2-3 weeks along with being mentally much tougher as a runner, something the first half of 2020 taught me. My body can also handle much more volume on the run than it used to, another thing the body does “not forget”. And finally, the 2000km off road event has without doubt made me mentally much tougher which was one of the goals – this will stay with me forever showing that not all your gains need to be physiological when chasing being the best you can be.
So when the inevitable thought of “I am running better, but my biking feels awful” or vice versa enters your head. Ask yourself, do you really believe you will not get that bit of power back on your bike, and actually, if you do more biking, could you actually move on the running the way you want to…….I will let you answer that in your own time.
Whilst we always train swim/bike/run throughout the year, have faith that shifting focus several times though this period is likely the best way to keep pushing the goal posts in the right direction. Once you reach a new level it is in the bank as far as I see it, the magic comes from doing this several times over before putting it all together on the day that matters.