12512356 10153693243688579 1010741833049495935 n

How to Improve In The Off-Season

If you’re a runner, cyclist or swimmer, you probably dread our long winter.

While there are definitely cold-weather activities you can do outside–like skiing–these require different equipment and skill. They’re great for cross-training if you’re skilled at them, but most of us try to maintain our performance on treadmills, bike ergs or at open lane swims.

But winter actually presents a massive opportunity to improve your speed, power and Vo2max. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Boost your power with weights.
    Your fast-twitch fibres are what make you explosive. But even endurance athletes rely on them for hills, sprints and accelerations. To really improve them, lift heavy weights and move weights fast.
    That means using a barbell, not machines. It means doing big compound movements – squats, deadlifts, presses, and cleans – instead of doing 30 reps on the calf raise machine.
    Go as heavy as you can with good form. A good program to follow is 5 sets of 5 for a week, 3 sets of 3 for a week, and then heavy singles for a week; then a deload week of 8-10 reps of each.
    You do not need weights to build endurance. You need weights to build power. High-rep sets of 30 won’t help you.
  2. Improve your speed by improving your efficiency. No matter what your sport, your body geometry matters. Most people bleed all sorts of energy (and speed) by moving inefficiently. They slouch when they run; flop when they swim; or hunch when they bike.
    Instead of fixing the problem, they just work harder and harder in bad positions. Worst-case, these can actually cause overuse injury. The offseason is the time to fix your form.
    Work on your core; your flexibility; and your stabilizers. Do lots of planks, knee raises and some short yoga sessions. You don’t need to go full-in on drinking green tea or buying Lululemon pants (unless you want to.) I use DynamicCyclist for my mobility work in the winter, but you can find tons of stuff on your phone and do it when you’re at the gym.
    One tip: this is the stuff I don’t really get excited about, so I do it with my trainer.
  3. Improve your VO2max by going HARD at multi-modal functional movement.
    Your VO2max determines how long you can work really hard. It’s a limiting factor for a lot of endurance athletes who spend all year “building their base” but never thinking about how high their peak can reach.
    The great thing about improving VO2max is that you can do it with really fun workouts. CrossFit is probably the best option in the world – it’s fun, it’s hard, and you can do it in a group if you want to.
    Your VO2max isn’t sport specific. If you’re a runner, you don’t have to build VO2max on your runs. It’s far more efficient (and fun) to hit a tough 12-minute workout with a coach than to try and punish yourself all alone on the road.
    This is also a great time to get your metabolic zones tested (we do it at Catalyst) so you know exactly how to train when the spring comes back!

Winter can be a drag – or it can be an opportunity. There are other things you can do – like set up group rides on your favourite indoor training app, and meet your friends for a virtual ride. You can take up similar sports – like fat biking – but the learning curve makes it hard to improve at your primary sport while you’re doing something else. Luckily, this is the perfect time to improve in the gym.
Want to chat with me about it? Book a no-sweat intro here.