Coach Clarkey’s advice heading into the winter!

October 16th, 2012 by

This is my first instalment of training advice heading up to Christmas.  It’s simple but effective advice and I hope you find it useful! Look out for my thoughts for Jan-April later on!

Don’t be afraid to have a decent break

It’s really important that once the season comes to a close, you take a decent break. Two weeks is the bare minimum, preferably a month as 2 weeks off 2 weeks of whatever you fancy so long as it’s very light. If you’ve been in the sport for a long time. I’d say 6/7 weeks isn’t out of the question.  I know plenty of pros who take this and by Christmas they’re fully fit! It’s vital to replenish your energy stores, get fully healthy, rest the muscles and also allow any niggles to settle down. Probably more importantly though the mental rest. You have to really be craving getting back into it.  Long term you’ll be thankful.

Free Speed in the first month.

Free Speed is anything you can do to that will make you faster without costing any more energy. Why not?! Some of it may seem boring however you’ll improve way faster by doing this then you will by flying out the door all guns blazing.

-Swim technique…It’s the key to swimming fast and even at the top level I believe that I’m way better off starting my training with a mixture of lots of drills and swimming.  Instead of getting in and ploughing up and down with a session.  When you first get in the water you’re likely to feel pretty rubbish, spend the first month concentrating on drills and swimming with good technique after and you’ll also be building up your fitness again.  Next thing you know you’re swimming faster then you were in August! Ask an expert to help you!?

-Bike Fits…You’re position on your bike is another crucial factor for you to consider and is indeed Free Speed.  The more comfortable and aerodynamic you are on your bike the faster you’ll ride.  It’s pretty complex but you’ll benefit massively with a visit to Velomotion for a Retul bike fit.  You’re way better off working on a new position early on so that you can get used to it while riding easy.  It’s likely to take some getting used to.

-Biomechanics…Before the big miles start, it’s a good idea in this month (and ideally throughout the winter) to work on your Biomechanics alongside some easy running.  Get your body strong in the gym so it’s ready for a decent work load and complete some running drills once a week perhaps with a local athletics club to improve you’re ground contact time and leg turnover and running tall. This will help you get through the winter to remain injury free and will improve your running economy to boot.

Build up slowly 

Don’t get too excited too soon, the season is VERY long and the British winter can be very tough!  Here at the High Performance Centre in Loughborough it annoys me every year to see athletes taking a two week break then going straight back into serious work, decent milage and hard sessions.  If you start in Mid-October, normally you have  around 7 months before you’re even doing your first race.  The season goes on usually till September/October.

Use the first 5 weeks of training to gradually build up your volume each week. It should all be at a comfortable pace (you can talk to her person next to you pace) Last year we started at around 16hrs and gradually build it up to around 3ohrs.  By January on our camp in Australia we we’re averaging around 32hrs per week.  Consistency is the name of the game in Triathlon.  Rather an average of 20hrs a week over a block of 12hr, 28hr, 22hr, 9hr!


Once you’ve built up your fitness over the 5 weeks you can start thinking about some blocks of Lactate Threshold running and just above.  (Just about talking pace but you’d rather not!). i.e. 5-8miles tempo.  Running in the hills will build up your strength and work your technique hard!

Keep in touch with your speed leading into Christmas.  You’re not training it as such but maintaining that feel of running fast.  Try running a set of 12x200m’s building each one so the last one is close to your top speed.


I don’t think it’s important to do anything really specific at this time of year on your bike.  Think of it as ticking the box, you want the major miles of your winter to come in in the New Year otherwise you are in danger of getting too fit too quickly.  So anything before Christmas is solid but by no means operating near your maximum capacity.  Once you’ve been through the build up phase start to build up your strength on the bike with some long and easy riding.  If you live near hills try to get out for hilly riding as much as possible especially if you’re short on time and practice a bit of over-gearing (hard gear) riding to force some strength in your legs.


Hopefully after some good work on your technique you’ll begin to feel a lot stronger and more effortless in the water.  Then come mid November start putting in some decent work in the pool, building up your volume week by week.  Plenty of people use large volume in the pool to supplement their fitness for cycling and running and you’re much less likely to pick up an injury.  Of all the sports I think swimming is the one that you can start pushing a lot earlier.  You’re not hammering the legs so much and it’s great for moving on your fitness in other areas.

Most important sets at this time of year are your easy swims and your Sub Threshold Sets. Such as the classic 10x300m’s with 20-30 sec rest or my favourite of all time…below:

800m easy, 8x100m Paddles short rest (5 secs) 8x50m Band Only

600m easy, 6x100m Paddles short rest, 6×50 Band only

400m easy, 4x100m Paddles short rest, 4×50 Band only

500 easy Warm Down  (5k)

*Band Only – It’s a band tying your legs together, it normally makes them sink, however it forces you to increase your arm turnover and it’s just bloody tough, so get involved! Cut up an old inner tube!


It is the part that most Triathletes hate however if done properly it can potentially shorten the amount of volume you have to complete to build up a similar amount of strength.  Especially useful if you’re short on time.  I think there is a window where it’s advisable to go heavy in the gym however once you really in the thick of your training you should transfer this to body weight exercises so you have more energy for your normal training.

Apart from the obvious keeping injury free part that is important to everyone.  Gym is also very useful when using specific exercises that can actually help improve your performance and in much shorter amount of time.  You can go a long way to improving your running economy, and also supplementing your swim and bike training with a little extra strength work.

Swimming – Chin ups, Latt Pull downs, dumbbell pull over.  You’ll find that your arms tie up a lot less and you’ll have extra power in the water if you’ve been working on these exercises.

Cycling – Leg Press, Deep Squats – You’re putting strength in the legs that you may struggle to get on the bike alone.

Running – Hurdle drills, Bar Bell Step ups, and Glute activation and any core work – All these will improve your strength, stability and your ability to hold form.

I hope you find my thoughts useful, very simple but effective! Good luck heading into the winter.