Off Season on the Off Road
By Coach Tom Manzi
Most triathletes are entering the off season, or what coaches call the Transition Period. During this period, it’s a good idea to lose a bit of fitness, but not turn into a couch potato, so non-triathlon specific workouts would a great way to stay fit and have fun. I find mountain biking to be one of the best off season workouts to complete a couple of times a week, because it’s fun, builds bike handling skills, it’s challenging, and you can do it even in cold weather or wet weather. In mountain biking, the bikes are heavier, the hills are steeper, you’re pinning it the entire way—it’s the perfect strength and power training for triathletes. The secret to a better triathlon season may be spending the off-season off-road. In mountain biking, you’re using the same effort and energy system you use when time-trialing—my heart rate is never higher than when I’m pinning it on my mountain bike. And that fills a common fitness gap for triathletes who are used to sustaining a high but manageable heart rate for hours at a time. Mountain bike rides, on the other hand, tend to max out your heart rate in short bursts, and your heart adapts by increasing how forcefully it pumps blood. The training combo means that your heart can not only pump more blood, but also pump it faster.
I have mountain biked forest roads and single track trails, for well over 25 years, and it’s become my favorite endurance activity. If you’re interested in getting into this awesome activity you need to purchase a mountain bike. My advice is to look into purchasing 27.5 plus bike with the 3 inch tires, hard tail, with dropper seat post. There is a low learning curve on this set up, and it’s a blast to ride on both single track and cross-country forest roads. If you shop around you can find a reasonable price for this set up, or look for a 29er which has 29 inch tires. I also recommend to use flat pedals instead of clipping in when you first start out in this sport. I use Pedaling Innovations Catalyst Pedals and Five- Ten shoes, this set up makes you feel like you are clipped in, but you can quickly get your foot on the ground to prevent crashes, which are common in mountain biking. After a few weeks of mountain biking you will develop skills that will carry over to the road, and you may even want to enter a few mountain bike races, or look into competing in Xterra Triathlon. I can guarantee, if you approach this activity the right way, you will end up loving it ,once you get the skills down. Have some fun this off season and enjoy the outdoors on a mountain bike!!
BEST Coach Tom Manzi