TRIATHLETES: 7 WAYS TO PUT YOURSELF BACK TOGETHER IN THE OFF SEASON
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Your 2016 Event Success Starts in the Gym
If you’re an endurance athlete, your off season season pretty much lasts about a 1000-1 count from 11:59:59pm on Dec 31 to midnight on January 1st. Unless you are "volunteered" to rest because of an injury, "rest" is the nastiest four letter word in your vocabulary.
Your Off Season Checklist
While training around the calendar year may keep you on top of your training, here is a typical list of “trophies” that go on the mantle of most endurance sports enthusiasts over the course of a season. They are the result of the accumulation of the repetitive stress of training and competing. My guess is one or two of these will be familiar to you!
Tight IT bands? Yes.
Loss of glute function? You bet your sweet glutes.
Tightened hip flexors that can lead to hamstrings being in a constant state of tension? Check!
Reduced thoracic spine mobility leading to reduced shoulder function/mobility? Check and check.
Spend more time in the pool, in the saddle and on your feet rather than undoing all of this uniplanar motion in the gym, and the piper will be coming to get paid. Stay with this strategy long enough, and you'll put imbalances in your muscles, tighten them up, potentially experience joint pain and get robbed of peak performance.
As the beginning of the fall “off season” hits for most endurance athletes, here are some tips that will help you put yourself back together after a long season of riding, running and swimming.
1) Rollout HOURLY!
Ok, maybe not that frequently, but you get the point. The knots in your muscles are your body’s way of self correcting dysfunctional joint movements. Want to minimize some serious IT band or psoas agony on a deep tissue massage table? Roll out frequently.
Want to make this even less excruiating? Get into the gym and strengthen your core while building glutes of steel.
2) Hammer your posterior chain
Sitting all day + endurance sports = shortened anterior chain. The best way around this is to perfect your hip hinge. You can also lunge in several directions.
You also need to give ample love to your mid/lower traps and spinal erectors. CRUSH your glutes (but we knew that already, right?). Nothing will break you down faster than glutes that don’t function.
The glutes power the machine. The stronger they are, the more horse power you'll have under the hood when its go time!
3) Don’t stretch your hamstrings
Yes, I just wrote don’t stretch the hammies. Why?
If you’ve got an excessive anterior pelvic tilt (read: you sit all day then compete in endurance sports), your hamstrings are in a constant state of lengthened tension. To further stretch them can make sway back worse.
The best way to address this is to mobilize the hip flexors then do glute work. The combination of hip flexor lengthening with glute contractions will do a lot more to loosen up hamstrings than any amount of stretching will.
Hip and core dysfunction are usually why muscles tighten up. Your brain tightens muscles in one area because something else is weak in another. Work on restoring muscular balance, and it goes a long way toward releasing tentioned muscles.
4) Stay off seated machines
This is about the worst way to train for endurance athletes. Seated machines aren't safer, in fact they may cause more dysfunction than they cure.
Sit all day, then sititing to ride moving in one plane motion, topped off with sitting to weight train in a single plane of motion is a perfect recipe to create muscle dysfunction, reduced range of motion and poor performance. Do exercises where you support you as you move and you'll get stronger faster.
5) Take more rest days, ARGGGHHHHHH!!!!!
I'll let you in on something. You won't lose any of the fitness you've worked hard to gain by taking down time. In fact, you may just increase it by doing nothing.
Let your body (and mind for that matter) recover one to days a week. Continuing to release inflammation causing stress hormones into your system makes it a lot tougher to get over any aches/pains/dysfunction from your 2105 season.
6) Connect Your Diagonal Loading Patterns
Since it is critical for opposite hips and shoulders to work together through the core for optimal performance, this is something that definitely needs to be in your program. Dial these loading patterns in, and your body will not only move better, but it will feel better and may just recover faster. Single arm pushing and pulling out of a split stance is a great way to go here because it forces your body to produce force the way you do in the pool, in the saddle and on your feet.
The kettlebell goblet squat is one of my favorite lower body exercises to do this:
7) Use a Periodized Strength Plan
Strategy is the key to any victory, and programming your off season training is no different. The following is an approach I've used for nine years that works like a charm every time.
1) October: Mobility to restore any lost joint range of motion (ROM)
2) November: Stability to drive a lot more power. Now that you’ve got great ROM, you can start making it more stable! Since we can only produce the amount of power our joint stability allows, this is an important step to getting faster.
3) December: Strength to begin to charge the power in batteries for increased performance.
4) January: Strength endurance with the grind of density training. Pick up a decent sized weight, 3-5 reps per exercise and grind through 3-4 movements non stop before the weights go down.
5) February: Power endurance to put the hustle in the muscle. Metabolic training is the goal. Essentially, you move real fast and don’t rest all that much.
Here's a great example of an exercise you should be working into your strength training program:
As you go through these phases use bodyweight, a TRX, free weights and exercise bands to get the most out of your movements. And make sure you do exercises that look like the motions you are trying to improve. Yet another reason why machine training is an inferior way to train for endurance athletes.