The popular image of professional triathletes may be of young, hyper-fit, intensely focused super-beings who spend the winter training in a sun-drenched paradise at the expense of a sponsor with bottomless pockets.
The mundane but oddly reassuring reality is that many of the country's top athletes - including Alistair Brownlee, the reigning ITU World Champion - spend the majority of their off-season slugging it out through rain, sleet and snow right here in the UK. And if they can do it, so can you.
Under The Weather
Let's face it, though; the weather can be atrocious, especially in February. Any buzz you felt from your new year's resolutions will probably have worn off; you might go through a whole working week without once venturing outside during daylight hours; and the weekends are cold, damp and miserable. Your first triathlon of the year may be months away. All things considered, staying in bed with a mug of hot chocolate has much more appeal than a bone-numbing bike ride. After all, missing one little session can't make that much difference...
Wrong. Snuggling under the duvet may sound attractive, but you'll hate yourself later in the year. There's simply no getting around this harsh fact: if you want to slash your race times next summer you have to train regularly through the winter, whatever the weather.
Spencer Smith, ITU World Champion in 1993 and '94, and now as a coach, says, "The key to success is consistency. I always knew winter training had to be done if I wanted to win in the summer. And if I wasn't doing it, I could be pretty certain one of my rivals was, and possibly in worse conditions."
Work On Your Weaknesses
The first step is to know precisely what you should be doing. Just because the weather is grim doesn't mean you can slack off. Fiona Ford, a professional triathlete, coach and founder of coaching service Triathlon Europe, says February is the ideal time to work on your weaknesses. "For many triathletes swimming presents the biggest challenge and winter is the perfect time to stay warm in the pool and improve your technique."
For those wanting to work on their biking skills a turbo trainer would be a sound investment. Failing that, spinning classes can be very effective. Ford makes her athletes do single-leg drills, simulated climbing (both sitting and standing) and over-gearing sets on their turbo trainers.
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