thinking about coaching? Get stronger by training with sms

Pre-season training for cycling and triathlon -2015 starts now!

-By: Tomas Swift-Metcalfe

Last modified: October 12, 2014

pre-season training is usually the part most people over look, here’s why its good to get it right:

Okay, so I’m working backwards this year and will be ‘peaking’ in December… But for most people NOW is the start of the off-season. I’ll take a couple of weeks of over Christmas ;-).

pre-season training for cycling and triathlon makes part of larger ‘long term’ training cycles

It’s the ‘rest period’ in the ‘macro-cycle’ that is the season. The main benefits however are mental. If you’ve been at something for months on end, it’s good to it a break. A couple of weeks seems like an eternity not to train but in actual fact it’s just enough time to freshen up for the following year. Physically, there are also important considerations: including strengthening the body, replacing depleted nutrients and broader rest period to recover from 10-11 months of non-stop training. Note that far from being a period of no training (although a week or two is in most cases a good thing) this period is actually characterized by doing a number of different activities to bolster recovery, rest and rebuilding.

other sports activities are important:

Cycling (road cycling specifically) reduces bone and so activities that result in ‘osteogenesis’ -that’s bone development become important. These activities are those that involve weight bearing and ‘impact’ activities. So running, gym, field sport and mountain biking.

I’m not sure how acute the reduction in bone mineral density is in semi-serious or recreational cyclists, however it’s at least equivalent to sedentary people.

Other benefits come from training movements you’re not used to, for example field sports require power and changes of direction and a series of eccentric movements you simply don’t find in cycling. So ligaments and supporting structures are also strengthened through these activities.

So in a nutshell, it’s strength and bodily integrity with which to face the season that we are building.

Use the off season to build solid foundations in technical aspects of your sport. These technical aspects might include bike handling skills in cycling, or technique in swimming:

mountain biking:

Mountain biking can be a great way to develop bike handling skills, specifically ‘vision’ control and balance over the bike. Because the ‘relative speed’ (speed relative to your environment). Riding single track at 25 kph can feel like you’re flying along, however the speed is actually low and you’re not that likely to hurt yourself should you come a cropper. Mountain biking is good too, because there’s little or no cogitative interference in the acquisition of these skills: What this means is you just ‘do it’ rather than think at all about what your doing. The more you think about something, the more you distract your subconscious brain from the important things like getting out the way of that tree your cycling towards!

Mountain biking...

Mountain biking helped sort out my bike handling back in the day. Thanks to my team mates for encouraging me and teaching me!


Going to the pool a little bit de-trained will expose flaws and weaknesses in your technique, so it’s a good point to see whether you’re going wrong (video analysis and a good coach work great), then build it up. There’s an order of priority for building an effective swim stroke, essentially you work on position (balance, kick),  hand entry (important not to develop injury), catch (‘grabbing’ the water),  pull (pulling yourself through the water), rotation (rotating your shoulder to about 45º on the entry) and recovery… I’m no expert. But if you have any question on it, get in touch and I’ll put you in touch with Ricardo.

be patient with rest periods.

Endurance athlete have an absolute hatred of ‘staying still’ and rest: Just do it. It as important as training.

be patient with the cross training

Endurance athletes also have an absolute hatred of the gym and other forms of cross training and frankly I can’t blame them. If you’re used to the outdoor and the pleasure it is to run or cycle through the world, and the ‘fix’ that these sports provide, obviously being stuck in a room under artificial light with a bunch of meat heads eyeing each other up is going to be nothing short of miserable.

However, big improvements can be found by building up your strength in the gym and then maintaining your strength gains through the season with just a couple of weekly sessions. So rather than fear the weight gain, think of the greater (eventual) power at threshold and sub-maximal economy that a strength training phase will afford you.

In a nutshell

  • 1-2 weeks complete rest.
  • 4-6 weeks (this can vary a lot) strength training.
    • Other activities running concurrently: walking, hiking, field sports (with obvious care).
    • Specific sports usually come in a small way about 2 weeks in.
  • ‘Baseline’ evaluation for specific training –absolutely key to make the off-season training objective and effective.
  • 4-8 weeks begin  ‘proper training’: Long slow distance to begin within, or neuro-muscular, anaerobic capacity and some aerobic capacity depending what your training strategy is and what your training goals are.
  • ‘Fit’ evaluation for the last touch ups on training before even more specific training.
  • 4 -6 weeks endurance and anaerobic threshold training…

Final word

While there have been pioneering researchers who have found these alternative forms of training to be better than the ‘tried and tested’ methods, people are surprisingly slow making the switch. What I’d say is that neither rest, strength training or cross-training are anything but bad for you! What’s more, training is a gave of averages and ‘marginal gains’ so that while the benefits might not turn you into superman next season, they’ll certainly be there; there are no miracles, just hard work.

Mike Schultz on training peaks has a good piece on weight training: Don’t need much more than that although different coaches will coach this differently.


Arnstein, S., Øyvind, S., Marius, B., Morten, L., Jan, H. and Jan, H. (2010) ‘Maximal Strength Training Improves Cycling Economy in Competitive Cyclists’, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(8) pp. 2157-2165.

Warner, S. E., Shaw, J. M. and Dalsky G. P. (2003) ‘Bone Mineral Density of Competitive Male Mountain and Road Cyclists’, Bone, 30(1) pp. 281-286.

Zupan, M. and Petosa, S. (1995) ‘Aerobic and Resistance Cross-Training for Peak Triathlon Performance’, Strength and Conditioning, 17(5) pp. 7-12.

Did you enjoy this post?

Sign up to my newsletter (sent about once a month) to keep up to date with all the latest training tips and info from the Algarve.
* = required field

Leave a Reply