Why the Post Season is When You Improve the Most - Matt Dixon
There are many reasons why we don't think you should take a break between seasons. This is timely, so let me provide some context on the post season (some may call it off-season) workouts. Here is the headline news of the value of post season training for triathletes:
It is the phase of the season when you make improvements. Could that be more clear? As I mentioned previously, every single athlete that achieves a massive performance leap has a single common thread, which is a platform of a focused and structured post-season staying consistent and aimed at speed, technique, and fun.
How to Approach the Post Season: Goals and Focus
The purpose: There couldn't be a more valuable part of the season to make fundamental groundwork changes to who you are as an athlete. I view the post season as a phase of preparation for the heavy lifting ahead, technical and skills development, and critical 'building block' work that paves the way for greater yields from the training that we will hit later. Consider it as the first part of your annual performance journey, and the absolute bedrock and foundation of your construction project as an athlete. With this in mind, the focus is:
- Preparation: If you want to be healthy and injury-free, we must prepare the body to positively absorb the required training to be race-ready later in the season. Injuries occur because of too much load placed on the musculoskeletal system, but these happen much more in athletes who have not gone through specific sessions designed to strengthen muscles, tendons, and ligaments during the post season. Injury-free is not random, so post season training is key to reduce the occurrence.
- Technical Improvements: With limited time, the bulk of training time we complete must be a hybrid of specific training and intervals, with a focus on form and technique. The post season is the only portion of the season we have time to truly focus on technical changes. Swim, bike or run we can achieve this, but it must be structured and focused. THIS is the time to evolve how you swim, bike or run, but it won't happen with random training or a 3-month break.
- Building Block Training: In just a few short months your mind will turn back to chasing improvements in power, speed, and sustainable efforts. You will want to be faster, more powerful and be able to maintain your output for longer and longer. You want to be able to race faster! The very first step in this process that creates the runway for greater jumps in performance are foundational 'building block' sessions. This raises your ceiling for what you are capable of. Let's use the example of bike power. When you see someone make a massive leap in bike performance, it has always evolved out of a process of workouts designed to improve pedal stroke, the neurological connection between brain and cycling muscles, and strength-endurance focused sessions. While these sessions are not massively stressful in themselves, they are critical in optimizing the yield when things DO get tough. It is preparation for the hard work and allows the hard work to come with a bigger yield. Skip this part, and the hard work is still hard but doesn't yield the same resilience and results.
None of this is magic. It is a blunt truth. So how should you approach Post-Season? The very first thing I would do is to:
- Write down three things you wish to improve in post season
Is it a swimming project, the introduction of strength (for the season commitment), a run project, a focus on riding strength-endurance? TELL US! Outline a specific three-part goal of this phase and we will help you. We can evolve the schedule and emphasis and help you with suggestions and targets.
Realize that all of this will still fit nicely into a less physically demanding schedule. A successful post season should still allow some fun and less structured training as well as a less demanding set of hours than at the height of race-specific training, but don't think that the specificity isn't there.
We want to improve athlete buy-in and understanding of the purpose behind the sessions and how to yield the best results.
Personally, I am keeping a tab on those who execute post-season, and those who pass on the opportunity. I know who will be talked about next season for their own personal excellence, and those who will be living in hope.