Preseason Training: The Optimal Time for Performance Enhancement

Training in the race season is largely dictated by the logistics and demands of an athlete’s upcoming races, but the preseason presents several opportunities for significant improvement and great results in the race season to come. 

When athletes are not required to train specifically for their next race, they are able to make measurable gains and address areas of weakness and opportunity.  So while many athletes are “taking some time off” before the next race season, others are making substantial advancements in their technique and performance level that will give them a competitive edge.

Consider these five areas for possible progress:

“Fast before far, strong before long”
This principle describes one of TriDot’s core training and preseason objectives—maximizing an athlete’s functional threshold in the swim, bike, and run, and then adding necessary stamina as race day approaches. The preseason is a great time to focus on making gains in speed, power, and efficiency. These gains will have a direct impact on race results the following season and often has even more influence on finishing times than training done later in the year. 

This is especially true when racing long course triathlons. Any time an athlete is not in a race prep phase leading up to a specific race, he/she will be in a development phase with training specifically optimized to meet the objective of increasing functional threshold. Development training phases include less volume and more intensity, and athletes can expect to see gains quantified through their ongoing assessments.  

Form correction

Correcting form is often a long process that is difficult to prioritize with all the demands of race season training. This makes the preseason a great opportunity for such improvements. Swimming is the most form-centric of the triathlon disciplines, and most triathletes can increase both speed and efficiency with a few corrections.  Likewise, the preseason is also a great time for a gait analysis to ensure an athlete’s run form is as efficient as possible to maximize speed and reduce injury risk while running.  And for the bike, the same applies: spending the time and effort to focus on technique will provide performance gains with increased efficiency. 

Strength training
Training volume is typically lower in the preseason, so this is a great time to incorporate or increase strength training. While lifting weights to build muscular strength is what often comes to mind first, that’s not the only benefit that strength training provides.  Increased muscular strength will allow an athlete increased power output, but durability and a reduced risk of injury are also positive results from a well-structured strength program. For example, specific strength exercises can address muscle imbalances, which in turn, will improve an athlete’s biomechanics and therefore swimming, cycling, and running economy. 

Recovery from injury

Unfortunately, some athletes may end their race season a little “beat up.”  Recovery from any existing injuries or possible injuries should be prioritized, and the appropriate actions should be taken to ensure they do not return in the years to come. An athlete’s body will appreciate the opportunity to fully recover from the wear and tear from the previous season so they can start the new year as healthy as possible.

Try something new

A common tip in triathlon is to never try anything new on race day. New equipment or techniques can also be difficult to work in during race season training. Therefore, the preseason is the perfect time to introduce adjustments such as using new pool training gear, getting a bike fit, or trying a new pair of running shoes. Leave the surprises for a time when the consequences and inconveniences of something new don’t cost you valuable training or race time.

It’s like they say about opportunities: they’re never missed because someone always takes advantage of them. The preseason is the same. It’s a time of opportunity. The athletes who use it wisely will see it and reap huge benefits during their next race season.

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