Triathlon training in the winter

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Triathlon training in the winter.

As a triathlete of many years the question that comes back to the forefront of people’s minds at this time of the year is; how do you juggle winter tri training, a full-time job as the nights get darker and weather becomes less favourable to your winter sessions.  As you look back on the year when you raced hard and trained even harder to achieve your tri goals. It is difficult to see the wood for the dark, rain and early morning fogs – let alone the Icy mornings where you quite often bail on your session in favour of your own safety.

With Christmas fast approaching it is now the time to be looking to the race season that is fast approaching?  2016 season isn’t going to train for itself.  By now you should have had the post-race rests that you will have fully deserved after the months of highs and lows of achieving your goals or not, as the case maybe. What did you learn?  What can you improve.  And ultimately how can you be a faster triathlete come the 2016 season.

So how do you train for the ultimate season in the cold winter months that are upon us?       

Wrap up warm for the Bike and Run

However mild you reckon this winter is going to be, there is never going to be a time for your favorite lightweight cycling jersey – without two layers under neither. If you’re going to cycle in winter you need to get good kit to keep you warm and help all your muscles fire at their optimum. Layering up is the best way to get the most out of the time you have,  too hot on an uphill whip off a layer, to cold through the layer back on or do the jacket back up.  Remember that as you come down a decent get your jacket done back up – you will see tour riders doing this in the summer months so winter it is much more important to conserve your body heat.

Cold hands and toes will never make for happy riding. Inverting the best quality winter gloves and shoes that you can afford, and even if you don’t wear them – have them in your back pocket and there will be a time you appreciate it.  Doubling up on socks can make a huge difference too, laying the socks and possibly buying over shoes to keep the heat in and the rain out.  This can be a cost effective starter if your new to triathlon.

Keep it clean

Muddy road bikes

A good winter ride can lead onto more maintenance for you and your bike.  Keeping your bike clean and tidy in the winter months can be a huge undertaking or if done properly little and often really can make all the difference to how well your winter triathlon training goes for you.  A quick post ride clean down after EVER ride is importnant to making your life easier.  Give your bike a quick rince using hot water if possible but cold water is almost as good.  Once you have given it a quick rinse then reach for the lube. A liberal coating once you have cleaned it down will mean you can get on the bike much faster for your next ride.

For me cover shoes are just as much about keeping my shoes clean as they are for warmth. Mud guards are not only essential for group rides (and avoiding being the brunt of angry club emails) but they really will save you a soggy bottom and save you bike cleaning time.  Some people have the luxury of having a winter bike: if you don’t, make sure you clean it after every ride.  It doesn’t have to be compressive just a quick swill down in the drive and some more lube. If you don’t clean it then you’ll have a slow bike next summer, many of those dark winter miles wasted just because you didn't pick up the hose.

triathlon winter training

At least once every 4 or 5 rides give your bike a quick health check – it won’t take long but can save you sitting in a field in the cold as you’ve had a bike failure.  Give the chain a good de greasing – check your tyres for signs of heavy wear and possible tears in the tyres.   Look at the side walls for cracking, if they are starting to crack then get them changed to keep you safe, a sharp corner on cracked side walls can be a ride ender. Give your bike a good clean using degreasing wash – this will not only highlight any bike failures but will motive you onto your next ride as your will be riding your nice and clean pride and joy.

The best suggestion is to check all your power units (this means charging bike lights and head torches) the night before you head out on the road for your winter session. There will never be time for charging bike lights in the morning and no, you won't remember to do it at work.  The invention of USB light chargers has made it a little easier but this is YOUR safety we are talking about.  Be safe and secure on the roads after all we have all driven our cars and seen those bike lights that are running out of power and how much harder they are pedalling to get home before they run out.  DO you want that to be you?

Mix up the winter triathlon training

With the months of do this then, now recover, now do this that you’ve read in a training book or on a website.  Now is the time to mix it all up and remind yourself why you love Tri so much.  So what do you want to do?  Well there are some many winter training activities that you can do that will mean that you come back stronger and more mentally prepared for the 2016 season when it arrives in six months time.  Borrow a mountain bike and go get really dirty at the countless trial centres across the country, most will have  bikes that you can borrow and means that you can go have fun with none of the cleaning, well you’ve have to clean yourself afterwards. 

Buy or borrow a turbo is a good way of mixing up your training and giving you the chance to train “when you feel like it”. Had a bad day at work, 20 minutes on the turbo (after a warm up which is most important in the winter) will make you forget what happened.  Get your trainers muddy – run through woods, fields, hills and streams really go for it through the mud and dirt and maybe even sign up for a cross country race that are spread across the country.  Get in touch with a local Triathlon club and they will point you in the right direction.

spin classes

Some of the most entertaining races happen in the winter use them for training or just to keep the motivation high. There is nothing more endorphin pumping than the local cross country league. Spending 30 minutes driving to work becoming annoying? The chance is this would only take you 60-90 minutes on the bike, making the total investment in training time quite small.  Yes there is a little more logistics involved in ensuring you have a change of clothes but drive in once a week and leave shirts and suit at work so that you don’t even need a bag to get to work all you need is socks and pants in your cycling top pocket wrapped in a plastic bag.

This means that you will get into work more alert and ready to work and then after work you’ll be home in good time quick shower and your ready for family time and your training sessions for the day are done.  Try mixing up the route too so that you get a different view on the way in each and every morning.

Plan ahead

Get excited. There’s nothing more motivating than knowing you’re racing your best buddy in next year’s January Half Marathon. Get some early races pencilled in to motive you and drive you through the long winter months.  We at Triathlonbox have a team night out after the Leeds Abbey Dash each year which give a final kick to the winter and means that we have chance to get a late season PB in the bank to push you for the next years sessions.

 Triathlon training plans

Enjoy the dark

There is nothing less appealing than finishing a long day and going out for a run in the dark (although if you use it for your commute you’ve got no choice). Chances are you won’t regret it.  You see more wildlife under the beam of your torch.  Though watch out for those low laying branches as they can be a real side swipe. You get a more peaceful run and you get the hugest sense of accomplishment having overcome the urge to sneak off to find your nearest glass of wine.


When damp and dull wet winter training session is getting you down, statistically speaking, there is a good chance your night run home will be crisp and clear.  It’s not easy and it's more than likely that all of your winter triathlon training won’t be fun, but stick to the rules above and you’ll get a lot more out of it. You might just grow to love it.