For many of you (at least our Northern hemisphere readers and non Kona qualifiers), your last race is coming up more quickly than you want and after that a well deserved break as you enter the offseason. In my opinion, “off season” is a big misnomer. For many, It might conjure up images of pizza, doughnuts, sleeping in, and a dry swimsuit collecting dust at the bottom of your swim bag in the back of your closet, but for me, it means honest self-evaluation of the previous season, analysis of current limiters, and then doubling down on my weaknesses and training. Yes, after a few “re-set weeks,” my training shifts in focus and my weekly TSS does drop a tad as it should in a good periodized annual plan, but at the same time my focus does not. As the saying goes, champions are made in the offseason.
Now is the time to start making plans for next year and asking yourself where you want to be at the end of next year. Now is also the time for many to focus on your swim form because it is your biggest limiter. Instead of procrastinating until a week before your 2017 A race or aimlessly doing workout after workout without a plan and a vague hope you will find improvement, please please please put the time in now to do the form analysis and prescribed drills for your specific problems in addition to time in the pool since now is the time when it is ok to have a ratio of form work: intensity: endurance ratio that is closer to 2:3:2.
In an effort to make this the best, most transformative offseason, you’ve ever had, I have been looking for some resources to help you out. Below you will find Six books and a podcast that I highly recommend and have been transformative for both my mind and body. None of these authors have asked for our endorsement or paid us large sums of cash to get on this selective list. Rather they are great resources that stand out to me as the best, so let’s begin:
- “Ego is the Enemy” and “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday
Both of these books by Ryan Holiday are fantastic. While not related to triathlon directly, they nevertheless can easily be applied especially if you struggle with swimming. For many, swimming is the obstacle in the way of their triathlon dreams and thus needs to be addressed head on; these books can help with that. Having listened to both on Audible, they are those types of books that you finish and then hit the replay button. For me, they have helped me address what I need to work on, refocus my efforts, confront my fears, and reassess my goals as an athlete, teacher, coach, and husband. I would say there is nothing ground breakingly new in either books, they do slap you in the face with reality and give you the reminders that we all know in our hearts of hearts but occasionally forget. These books are not the type that can be read in one sitting. On the contrary, I actually like listening to 5-10 minutes in the morning then reflecting and meditating on the passage as I get ready to workout. They are easy but nevertheless inspiring reads.
- “The Well Built Triathlete” By Matt Dixon of Purplepatch fitness
I cannot list all of Matt Dixon’s credentials in a single post, but to summarize, he is one smart, inspiring, practical, and realistic author and coach. In this book, he outlines how he trains his own athletes and what he sees as the pillars of a successful triathlete program. He analyzes swimming, biking, running, nutrition, strength training, and recovery and how even the busiest triathlete can optimize each one. To summarize, his approach is looking at triathletes as not swim, bike, runners like many books do but rather, triathletes, who have to think more about how the three sports and training for the three sports relate to each other rather than in isolation. His nutrition section too is well worth the read. He gets away from the dogma and n=1 stories out there and gives his reader practical advice. His section on swimming is not anything new but he summarizes what he sees as the key points of a good swim nicely. If you are a self-coached triathlete or a coach yourself, this is a must read right next to “The Triathlete Training Bible” by Joe Friel, which I was going to include in this list but it seems pointless to because it should go without saying.
- “How Bad do you Want it?” By Matt Fitzgerald
This book looks into the psychology of some of the toughest athletes out there and how they got there. The book ties these athletes together and sees what makes these athletes tick mentally. The stories are interesting and motivating at the same time. It was hard for me to read this without wanting to jump into the pool or put on my running shoes to go for a run. I would often think about specific passages during hard sessions when I wanted to give up and found motivation to keep going.
- “Diet Cults” by Matt Fitzgerald.
Many people look at their nutrition and launch into a new diet in the offseason but before you do, read this book. It analyzes some of the most common diets out there and cuts through some of the claims that many diets make. He analyzes diets more from a sociological approach rather than scientific and in doing so makes you question your motives. He does not offer any advice or tell you that one diet is better than another, which a breath of fresh air in a market that is polluted with quick fixes and diet dejours.
- “The Sports Motivation Podcast” By Niyi Sobo.
Besides our own TSC podcast, this is one of my favorites and I am a loyal listener. Sobo does an amazing job at looking at common errors athletes make (perfectionism, self-doubt, fear, procrastination) and helps you specify your goals and motivations so that you can achieve results. Not a single episode has left me without not being fired up or ready to tackle my next workout. He offers advice on training, competing, and even marriage, all of which I have found useful. His background is very much in team sports like basketball and football, but his message can easily be applied to swimming and triathlon.
I hope you found this list helpful and if you have your own list of great resources that you continue to come back to season after season let us know.
Coach Chris and Kev