Before you can set some goals for next season, you’ve got to get through the off-season. During the winter off-season months the cold weather and (in some places) snow can make doing long bike rides and runs outside uncomfortable and even unsafe. However, that’s no excuse to neglect building some offseason fitness. In fact, it’s the perfect opportunity to try something new! Besides strength training and indoor workouts on the trainer or treadmill, there are plenty of other ways you can train to improve your endurance performance through cross-training. The cross-training activities explained below provide a mental boost, as well as many strength and endurance benefits. I would encourage athletes to do 1-3 cross-training workouts a week during the prep phase of training to keep things fun and exciting.
Cross-country skiing in particular is a favorite among endurance athletes in snowy areas. Not only is skiing a full-body workout, but you can also go for long durations without increasing the risk for injury. Consider taking a cross-country ski class in your area, and join others who are more experienced.
Looking to go for a hike in the snow? Snowshoeing is the way to go. Snowshoes can be rented or purchased from any sporting goods store and will provide a killer workout. Believe me, walking in the snow, even with snowshoes, is much more difficult than just walking.
Hiking trails are a great way to get outside and enjoy nature. If you really want a challenge try putting on a heavy backpack and going for a ruck hike, I can almost guarantee your legs will be sore after and hour of “rucking” with a pack on. Hiking is very beneficial in the early season for individuals whom are doing hilly trail running races or off-road triathlons come race season.
My personal favorite cross-training activity is mountain biking. Not only is mountain biking extremely fun, but it also improves your biking handling skills and pedaling technique. Both of which are often overlooked in sports like triathlon. Road cyclists and triathletes who are comfortable on a mtn. bike tend to be more confident in their cycling abilities.
Cyclocross bikes are basically sturdier road bikes with beefier brakes and tires. These are great for going fast and being able to handle mud, snow, and sand. I find these perfect for easier trails or rough roads. If you’re feeling really adventurous consider doing a cyclocross race, which will be sure to challenge you. While all these activities above are fun and provide both physical and mental benefits, I would recommend athletes make their endurance sport of choice the primary focus as they enter the base phase of training. It can be easy to lose sight of the overall goal is.