Wintertime Triathletes

Wintertime Triathletes

Wintertime Triathletes

  • Swim
  • Training
  • Run
  • Bike

Well, with the doldrums of winter upon us, there no doubt will be a variety of triathletes with very different outcomes of the off-season. Let’s talk a bit about how to take on the winter and my personal opinion of indoor dislike compared to potential benefit factors for some of those options.


Some athletes I know are just fine and dandy with running on a “dreadmill” (or treadmill for those folks!). I have mental trouble running on them due to boredom, but occasionally find a good reason to get on one anyway. In a controlled environment, the treadmill may not be an actual replica of what the ‘real’ run in weather and grade may be, but opportunity to have that controlled environment enables you to set benchmarks. It allows you to consistently measure workouts against each other in the same environment which you can rarely get running outside.

In other words, it’s a good testing ground. You can’t mark your intensity and mileage against your same running stats outside, but you have something to compare to your other workouts on the treadmill. Plus, there are programs built into the machines and even classes on treadmills that can vary it up. And, sometimes it’s just plain cold and nasty outside and you at least have an option!

TODD’S SCORE: T’mill dislike – 8.5 (due to boredom); T’mill benefits – 8.0 (due to control).

Bicycle Trainer

Also known as Computrainer, Velodyne, rollers, Spin class or even The Road Machine (if you are old enough to remember the original where you took off your back wheel and hooked your chain onto the machine!). Whatever you use, indoor cycling is a stalwart of training for any triathlete or cyclist who has trained through an off/cold/dark season.

Now, if you are a person from the North (i.e. the ‘real’ north, not Oklahoma!) and have trained for sometime, I am pretty sure that you have used one or more of these devices! A lot of folks in the great white north use trainers exclusively for races as long as Ironman. You just don’t get the chances to get out like we do in N. Texas, when you live in Minneapolis!

I, for one, am in favor of a controlled environment on the bike. I did state above, for the run, that I prefer to be outdoors even though the treadmill is more controlled. This is because it is much easier to stop and walk to control your heart rate than it is to slow down to 5mph or get off your bike to bring your heart rate back down. Getting used to and performing intervals on a stationary rig can be preferable as well, especially starting out.

Spin classes can be hard, and you can achieve fitness out of them, but that big ol’ weighted flywheel of 20-40lbs on the front can make you think you are a god, until you get outside again. Use them, but don’t substitute them for riding YOUR bike unless you absolutely have to.

TODD’S SCORE: Trainer disdain (due to boredom, and saddle soreness) – 6.0; Trainer likability – (due to control of HR and intervals, plus being able to work on pedal stroke) 9.0.

Strength training

I, again, will reiterate how important strength/functional and core training is. Use the winter and off-season to build stability and establish core strength and integrated (or functional) strength. You can do yoga, Pilates, any of those crazy classes where you beat up the air, anything that will change up the normal routine and that will make you better, but not injure you. I urge you to keep from doing any wild, crazy ballistic movement that might sprain your gizzard or throw your back out though!

TODD’S SCORE: Strength hate – 4.0 (it hurts, but a good hurt); Strength love – 10.0 (the benefits out way any hate. It’s a must for all athletes).


No brainer. A great time to refine your stroke and work on getting your times down. Don’t just work on swimming long and slow (good stuff for base work) but use send off intervals and learn to observe what pace you are holding. Set a goal to knock ‘X’ amount of time off of your pace.

TODD’S SCORE: Forced time in the pool because it’s freezing outside dislike (I would rather be in open water) – 6.0; Forced time in the pool like – 8.5 (great time to work on technique in a controlled environment).


Gee, what else can you do in the off-season? Snow shoeing at White Rock Lake in Dallas has been known to draw a tremendous amount of attention, but I don’t think it’s been very positive! No, we can’t do a winter triathlon around here, but you can up North. No cross country skiing to be had, and ice skating at the mall just makes you want to get a drink at Bennigan’s and go shopping! Not that much exercise!

But you can incorporate some other activities. Mountain biking tends to me a little more ‘cold weather friendly’ with generally slower than road bike speeds and a lot of enclosed trail areas.

If you go downhill skiing every year, take some time to plan out a cross country skiing day. Take a sack lunch, my friend!!! Because it is a butt busting workout! The purported hardest exercise there is! I would never argue that as I have tried it! Good stuff!

TODD’S SCORE: Omigod this is hard, can’t I get a ride back?? – 10.0 Opportunity to gain fitness and get your butt kicked – 10.0 (plus, you will gain from some elevation work at altitude).

Other options

Things that might seem a bit of a reach for real fitness gains, (to type A triathletes) are things like martial arts, dancing, hiking, gymnastics and good ol’ brisk walking (I am a big believer in doing walks during all phases of training, not just the off-season!)

TODD’S SCORE: Yeesh, I can see a variety of these things being some what fun or something that my girl might make me get involved in, but I like to be outside; dislike – 8.5; Benefits of flexibility and stretching, plus working those stabilizer muscles like – 8.0.

Tis the time to be healthy!

Republished from December 2007

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