Q. I’m planning to train for some single-discipline events over the winter. Should I carry on training in the other two disciplines or reduce my training in those areas? Do most triathletes dial back the swimming in winter?
A. Well done on having a focus over the winter and planning some events through what is often a difficult time for triathletes, in terms of remaining motivated and maintaining effort due to the onset of colder weather and a long season. Opting to focus on single-discipline events will help you develop as an all-round triathlete, and is certainly an option that a large percentage of elite triathletes take.
Assuming you are looking to focus on running and/or cycle events, this will mean you’ll retain your cardio-vascular fitness – if not improving it – and allows you to then plan your year post-winter, using brick sessions pre-competition (two or three disciplines in one training session or repeat bike, run, bike, run etc). I would recommend you research the single-discipline specifics, develop your understanding of the bike and consider maintaining or introducing some form of cross or core training into your programme. All this develops your knowledge and all-round strength as a triathlete.
I would suggest that you continue to run throughout the year and in the winter try and get on the bike at least once a week (even if it’s spin/turbo/rollers/indoor racing), as you need to maintain muscle memory and bike-specific skills, although the time you spend cycling will be reduced compared with spring and summer cycling.
With regard to dialling back the swimming in the winter, it’s more a case of refining the pool training and having a look at technique, as quality over quantity comes to the fore. What could you do to improve your stroke – is it technically correct and comfortable, and are you able to change your pace? If you address these areas during winter and then continue them into open water in the spring and early summer, you will reap the benefits as you start to race, irrespective of distance.
A good way of doing all this is to contact your local triathlon club, Masters swim class,cycle club and athletics/running club, as many have taster sessions and qualified coaches to help you train throughout the winter. The group dynamics often helps keep you motivated, while making training varied and enjoyable.
With four Ironmen, three London-to-Paris cycle rides and a selection of marathons under his belt, Dewi Winkle is a top motivational trainer, a qualified triathlon coach, Watt Bike instructor and Run In England leader, and also oversees the Parachute Regiment selection process. He has sub-1:00 Ironman swims to his name and regularly competes in triathlons and challenge events.