October is here and the end of triathlon season is approaching. This is when many triathletes switch from a swim, bike, run mentality to run-only training. Focusing on the run during the triathlon off-season can be a good way to work on something specific like form or speed, it can allow you to continue to enjoy races, and it can help maintain a good base fitness level in the off-season, which will help when you return to training in the early spring (or earlier if you are doing an early race). As coaches, we encourage some downtime following the triathlon season to recover and get to know your family again, but a run-focused off-season is a great way to capitalize on your current fitness and still roll back the total amount of time spent training.
There are a few things that are helpful to keep in mind when making this transition. First, that recovery period is important! After that, switching to run-only or some other modified swim, bike, run schedule to focus on running is encouraged. Some athletes will switch to running only with more rest days, while others will add more runs while still incorporating some swimming and biking (or one of the two).
There is no one answer about how to structure that training, but be mindful of the percentage increase of work in one discipline from week to week. Just because you did 14 hours of training last week in swim, bike and run does not mean that you can then switch to 14 hours of running this week. The impact on the body of triathlon training is spread out over 3 disciplines versus run-only training. Attempting the same number of hours in a single discipline is a recipe for disaster and significantly pre-disposes you to injury.
Increasing the number of runs per week by 1 or 2 in the first few weeks is encouraged (if you are eliminating swim and bike) versus adding more mileage to the in-season run distances. This allows the body to adjust to the additional volume without increasing the long runs too rapidly. Having built up aerobic and neuromuscular capacity during the triathlon season allows for pushing the higher limits of acceptable increase, as long as there were no injuries during the season.
Run training during the triathlon off-season can allow you to continue to push yourself while training less overall and having more time to enjoy the holidays! Of course it’s always a good idea to discuss your plans with a coach to determine if enough recovery has been planned and how to best incorporate off-season running in a way that works for you and your goals.