Staying switched on in the "off season"

As the days get shorter and the mornings get cooler, for many it’s the start of the “off season”. HPT Coach Pete Clifford gives us his tips on what to focus on in the off season so we don’t start the “on season” from scratch…… again.

I can’t believe it’s nearly June and we still haven’t officially hit off-season. I always find it a bit rude to talk about off-season before everyone has finished racing. It’s a bit like getting up from the table before everyone has finished their meal. But please allow me to go through some things.

So the first part of the off-season starts with a trip to Bali where you write yourself off…. oops - wrong sport.

Ok the first part of the triathletes off-season usually starts with “I’m going to do more …… next year” . You fill in the blanks. I have seen many as a coach. More volume, more long runs, more long rides, more intensity, more low heart rate work. The list is endless

What it usually doesn't look like is this….”Next year I am going to be way more consistent” or “next year I really need to sort out my technique”

So start with a piece of paper. Now start with a brain dump. DO NOT give yourself solutions. Give yourself thoughts.

Don’t hold back. Get crazy… use 2 pieces of paper !!

Don’t cross anything out. Let the thoughts flow. Write down goals, strengths, weaknesses, failures, victories, impacts you had around you, finances, mental game,… if it comes into your mind write it down.

But remember .. no solutions!

Next step is let it marinate. At least a few days. Leave yourself enough time to forget what you wrote.

Now get it out and start thinking about solutions. Be realistic in your approach. Is more volume going to work in your life? Will longer Sunday rides annoy those closest to you? Do you really have the money to go to 4x70.3 races next year? Is a one year Kona target realistic or should it be a 3 year goal?

This is where it all goes wrong. A lack of brutal honesty with yourself. Please be realistic and set achievable, yet a little crazy goals. It will motivate you to do the right things. Ridiculous targets lead to ridiculous approaches. Keep it sane.

Now it’s time to get to work on those goals. Like building a building, start at the bottom. Think foundations of a good program. Technique, Endurance, Strength, Health, Durability, Balance. Build these elements into everything you do. Once the training gets difficult, this is what you will rely on.

This training isn't pretty. The numbers aren't glorious to watch or brag about but foundations rarely are. They are buried beneath the building for nobody to see. But if the foundations aren't strong enough the cracks appear up top, come race day.


When it comes to technique, use speed as a driver. Speed forces technique I always say. Use some speed not to improve speed but to improve technique. Get yourself on video. An iPhone has slow-motion video. Get your mates to video you and go through it with them. Maybe you know a coach? Get them to have some input.

Endurance is a simple process and it doesn't start and end with the dreaded long run or long ride. It can extend to doing 7 ride days in a row of 60km. Or AM and PM swims for a few days. Anything that challenges your ability to endure, both physically and mentally.

Get your health in order. Don’t fall for the latest thing you read that works for a pro. Stick to the basics. Don’t stray from them. Don’t look for shortcuts. Look for the foundations. I hear veggies are pretty handy when it comes to nutrition.

Balance is key. It is in everything I do as a coach. Ask any chef and they will tell you that balance of ingredients is the way to nirvana. Likewise, balance all the elements of your life and training. Get the work:rest ratios right. Not too much work, not too much rest.


Finally, one of my favourites…durability. Not everyone is durable. I see this a lot. Once I start to increase load bit by bit, the level of durability of the body and mind appears. Niggles, viruses, looking for shortcuts, missed sessions, they all show we need to think clearly and get our durability right. If we think of a durable car we think of one with good quality components that has been put together with care and patience. We don’t think cheap parts, production line manufacturing and shoddy workmanship. Build yourself a durable vehicle to take you on the ride.

So when you are thinking about what you should do in the off-season, look at your list and get your training to truly address all your foundations to success. More isn't better - better is better.


Pete Clifford is coach at HPT (High Performance Tri) in Sydney and when not coaching his own athletes he spends his spare time helping eductate coaches both here and throughout Oceania.

Read Pete's Coaching Q and A HERE. 

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