Thoughts on Down Season & Base Season Running

Triathlon season has ended and you're entering the "down season".  Problem is, you've got all this fitness and your coach is telling you to shut it down.  This is a time of year when many triathletes turn to running and even run-racing as a way to maintain fitness and stoke the competitive fires.  Generally, a good idea, but it would be wise to follow some simple guidelines.

Fall or winter running is enjoyable weather-wise and a great way to maintain fitness and polish run skills.  5k, 10k and half marathon are perfect distances to keep training focus without overwhelming a more relaxed post season schedule.  As a general rule of thumb for age-groupers winter and spring marathon distances should be avoided in order to reduce the likelihood of injury, over-training and mental burnout.  

A slight uptick in run volume does not mean to hang up the bike and pack away the wetsuit, however, you need to maintain a fine balance of fitness maintenance in all three sports and doubling or tripling run volume leads to all kinds of problems "down the road."

"Your physiology doesn't know the difference between cycling and running, but your muscles, tendons and neural networks do," according to Mark Pearce of Intelligent Triathlon Training in Loughborough, England.

"Put simply, by continuing endurance-based rides, you improve cardiovascular fitness, which will transfer to running.  Since running is high impact activity, however, it is important to prepare you body for the pounding with some additional run workouts" says Pearce.

So, keep bike mileage built into your program and swim yardage too.  If you are tackling the half marathon distance you may need to reduce a swim workout per week.  Pearce cautions to take plenty of rest periods in this training phase.  "recovery is as important as ever, especially before the race,"  he says.  Ideally an athlete should be very well rested before ramping up any run program; think 3-6 weeks if you have completed a summertime Ironman distance.  Race week taper is critical 8-10 days before race day and post race recovery needs to be built into your schedule.

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