Monday, September 20, 2010

Transitioning to Off-Season Running

In this article, Kelly and Derick Williams offer some great tips about transitioning from tri season to off-season running. Of course, if you have any further questions, stop by the shop. If we don't have the information you need, we'll find it for you!

J&A: For some of us die-hard multi-sport athletes, it might not make sense to trade in three sports for one. Why do some athletes spend their winter training for running races; what are the benefits of this over a swim focus or spending multitudes of time on the trainer?

DW & KW: It is important for triathletes to change up their routine, especially when they live somewhere like Austin, where we are able to train swim/bike/run year round. For those living in colder climates, it is an easier thing to change it up in the winter (when they are buried in snow, cannot ride outside and have the opportunity to ski, do other outside activities or they are 'forced' indoors).

Not only does a running focus in the winter simplify a triathletes training schedule, but running is the best way to increase your fitness off of a minimal time commitment. So for a couple of months, they can enjoy a change of the 3-sport grind, lighten up their training load yet still maintain and even gain fitness. Running is the most efficient way to increase fitness because for the most part, you will burn more calories per minute as well as gain more cardiovascular fitness than you will swimming or cycling. One great thing about run training in the Fall/Winter is that you'll notice that as the temperatures come down, so will your paces for the same given effort. We notice that athletes can generally run 5-15sec/mi faster on their training runs once temperatures start dropping below ~75deg. This means that you can get in some much higher quality workouts during the Fall/Winter and see some nice running fitness gains that you can then carry over into the following season!

J&A: When is a good time to start making your transition from triathlon to run training. What are a few good events to plan on doing during the winter in Austin?

DW & KW: The transition really depends upon when someone ends his/her season. I'd say in the range of October or November is when most of the bigger triathlons and series' come to an end, and with the cooler weather, the shift to running is a welcome change. That said, I think that people should take 2-3 weeks "off" or of low key, very unstructured training. During this time, it is good to limit training; do not make it a priority, and simply do whatever sounds fun each day; if that is nothing, that is alright too.

In terms of winter Austin running events, a few fun and laid back ones that fall in the November-February time frame are the Dirty Duathlon (an off-road run/bike/ run in November), Thundercloud Subs 5 miler (on Thanksgiving), Decker Half Marathon (early December), Jingle Bell 5k, and then of course the Austin Distance Challenge will run from October through the Austin Marathon in February, each race progressing in distance. Another fun activity to try is open water swim events, which I know also take place over the winter months in Austin as well. Also consider trail running races for a change of pace and scenery and to limit the pounding on the body.

J&A: Triathletes tend to be an intense crowd, what are some good rules to remember when you're transitioning from three sports to one to avoid overdoing it and putting yourself at risk for injury. Does swimming and running still have a place in a winter run training program?

DW & KW: While a run focus can be a welcome change in the winter, it definitely does need to be approached with caution. Remember that if you are a triathlete, this is STILL the 'off season' so best not to completely wear yourself out running too much (or worse, risk injury). If you do not have a program you are on, be careful of your total run volume. (What do you usually do in tri season?) and of course, light swimming and cycling are always a good idea to keep the body healthy. Also consider adding in some other complimentary activities you may not have time for in the summer months like yoga, pilates, light strength training, mountain biking, etc. Just about the only thing you have to rule out in Austin is snow skiing!

J&A: How can athletes 'keep it interesting' without three different sports when training for running races (especially longer-distance races like marathons)?

DW & KW: See above; try to find activities you would like to do during triathlon season but never seem to find time for. Again I re-iterate that a good yoga instructor can be invaluable; you will discover imbalances you have in your body from all of the "single plane" activities (meaning they are repetitive and take place in a simple forward-backward motion, and provide little need for lateral stability) and you will probably even be sore from the first few sessions! Keeping it interesting really comes up to how creative you want to get, so in this respect, do what sounds appealing to you; know that if you stay active, you can start up the official season with not only renewed excitement for the sport but also with good base fitness.

J&A: After culminating a winter season with a challenging race, what are a few tips for recovery and getting back into multi-sport training?

DW & KW: Just ease back to the routine. Triathlon season is very long in a state like Texas, when local events begin in March and go through November. Create your race plan for the season, then step back and figure out when you need to be training most heavily. If you do not know how to do this, find a coach to help guide you through the season. With a good plan, you should never feel 'rushed' to get back to your peak triathlon fitness; the process to start your season should be a gradual build. A lot of athletes start the year off with so much enthusiasm and zeal that they over do it for those first few months and are either injured or burned out by June. Pace yourself and focus on a progressive training program so that you are continually getting better and limiting the potential for burnout and/or injury.


Athletes as well as trusted coaches, Derick and Kelly Williamson have been in Austin for about 5 years now. They draw from their broad experience as athletes and awesome educational backgrounds to provide excellent and accessible coaching for all levels of athlete. Check out the Durata Training website, to learn more about them.

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