Part 10: Post-Season Training

­­The Triathlete Strength Training Primer

Part 10: Post-Season Training

Prior to Christmas, we discussed what our in-season strength training goals should be and how to create workouts designed to reach them.  We noted that our in-season workouts should be organized in a way that maintains our strength and power, while keeping the typical injuries that plague endurance athletes at bay.  Subsequently, in part 9, I showed you how to manipulate set/rep schemes in order to prioritize maintenance, while selecting exercises that give us the most bang-for-our-buck when it comes to injury prevention.

As you may remember, the very first article of this series presented an overview of periodization.  What is it, what are the components of a fully periodized training year, and why do we take the time to plan any of this out any way?  If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve come to appreciate how vitally important intelligent programming is.  You understand the benefits that come with properly structuring your strength training, and have come to see some of the holes in your current plan.

Our Journey So Far…

We’ve journeyed through the off-season, entered the pre-season with relentless motivation for our sport and training, and dominated our competition during our in-season races.  Now it’s time to enter the final period in a fully periodized plan; the 2nd Transition Period.  This phase occurs immediately following our final race of the season, and serves as a segway between our in-season and off-season training.

The 2nd Transition Period…

The 2nd Transition Period is often referred to as our “Active Rest” phase.  It should last long enough to allow the athlete to completely recover from the brutal demands of the in-season.  We want to encourage non-sport-specific recreational activities performed at low intensities, and it’s important to avoid intense training to allow complete physical and mental recuperation.

Our strength training should be extremely GPP-oriented, and we want to avoid performing any lifts that demand high amounts of muscular tension or CNS activation.  This means cutting out much of our explosive and plyometric work, eliminating super-heavy squats and deadlifts, and crafting workouts that are fun, easy, and designed to keep you moving, increase blood flow, and get you as far away from your sport as possible.

These types of workouts should last between 2-8 weeks, depending on the length of your competitive season and the event that you compete in.  Ironman racers will likely spend more time recovering then your average sprint-distance triathlete.

Oftentimes, a serious triathlete will be very reluctant to stop running, biking and swimming.  They have this fear of losing the enormous “base” that they worked hard for during the past 10 or so months, and rightfully so.  Cardiovascular endurance is a performance attribute that tends to diminish relatively quickly when endurance-focused workouts are neglected.  This process occurs much faster then the process of losing strength (strength gain are normally associated with structural changes; a process that takes longer to reverse), but there is a silver lining.  Gains in cardiovascular endurance also occur much more rapidly, and they can also be maintained to a certain degree with proper organization of your training.

2 Methods for Maintaining Cardiovascular Endurance

1. Using Strength-Based Circuits

  • Adding in strength-based circuits with weights are a great way to keep your heart rate at a respectable level, while also focusing on increased stability at your joints.
  • An example would be to perform 3 rounds of the following, while resting minimally in between exercises, and for 45-90 seconds between rounds: A1. TRX Rows, A2. 1.5 Rep Goblet Squats, A3. Tempo Push-Ups, A4. Deadbugs.

2. Implementing Other Methods of Cardio

  • Go for a hike!  Go kayaking!  Go play pick-up basketball at your local YMCA!
  • These are all methods of cardiovascular activity that are not triathlon-related!  Not only that, these activities allows you to spend time with other people, keep you moving at a lower intensity that won’t excessively wear you out, and they’re also incredibly fun!

The Bottom Line…

At the end of the day, competitive athletes are just that; competitive.  They don’t want to take the time to rest and recover, and instead want to spend their training sessions doing anything they can to get faster, stronger, and gain that competitive edge over their competition.

There exists this false idea that taking time away from your sport will only make you worse (read all about why that’s wrong here), when it may be just exactly what you need in order to improve your performance.  There’s a reason that high-level competitive athletes take weeks to lower their intensity and volume.  They artfully implement these “deload” workouts that are designed to allow the body to recover and supercompensate from the past 3-6 weeks of hard training, and subsequently hit their next cycle with increased vigor and motivation.

What you need to realize as a competitive endurance athlete is that this period of training (the 2nd Transition Period) plays a crucial role in preparing you for a successful next season.  This is the king of all deloads; a period of time that allows your body to FULLY RECOVER, and prepare itself for another intense season.  You shouldn’t be worried about maintaining your peak condition, because the time to peak is before your race, not during the off-season.  The entire process of periodization is meant to do just that; peak you for competition.

In conclusions: After your season, REST.  It’s only going to help you in the end.

The Triathlete Strength Training Primer

Part 1: An Intro to Periodization - Seeing the Bigger Picture Part 2: The Repetition Maximum Continuum Part 3: The Preparatory Period a.ka. the Off-Season Part 4: Off-Season Periodization Part 5: Off-Season Periodization, cont. Part 6: The First Transition Period Part 7: The First Transition Period, cont. Part 8: The Competition Period - In-Season Strength Training Part 9: In-Season Template Part 10: Post- Season Training