John Snow was right: winter is coming. And with it, shorter days, colder temps, and less weekly training volume. Usually, this would mean a loss of fitness. This winter though, I challenge you to actually emerge from the off season lighter, stronger and potentially faster without having to the do summer, in-season volume.
The key to do this is to focus on strength, form, and intensity. For strength, I would recommend implementing a good weight room regimen consisting of squats, deadlifts, lunges, and plyometrics. I have found great success with a 5×5 heavy lift routine doing squats, deadlifts, and one upper body exercise of choice three times a week. The heavy weight but less reps builds strength not bulk and does not leave me sore so that I can still nail my other workouts. For upper body, I rotate between barbell, overhead press, bench press, and bent over rows. I then supplement with 3×10 of TRX lunges, atomic pushups, and pistol squats for core strength and hip and shoulder mobility.
The strength work will help you improve in many ways beyond just making you stronger. It will help keep you lean in the holiday-party-packed winter months, prevent injuries when you do start building volume again, and mitigate the effects of lower volume. In the pool, strength-focused workouts include doing drills like clinched fist, switch/doggie paddle freestyle, and water polo sprint. These drills work your shoulders while improving form.
Resistance work like with bands and the Vasa Swim Erg is also an excellent way to build form and strength and makeup for reduced swim volume. 30 minutes on the Swim Erg is more like an hour in the pool because you keep perfect form with added resistance for extended sets without breaks on the wall, flip turns, or over kicking. I am personally doing only two swims a week in the pool and two short Vasa workouts, which I usually do before bike ride on the Wahoo Kickr trainer to get the added benefits of a good warmup and the swim-bike transition. These workouts are very intense, which makes up for the less time.
If you cannot go long, go fast. 30 minutes of intense swimming, biking or running will be more effective than 60min of “zone 2” work. Instead of doing easy workouts for time, which have their time and place, do short intense workouts. Hills or track repeats on the run, over/under cadence torque work on the bike, or sprints in the pool (or even better with a high resistance on the Swim Erg) will burn more calories in less time and improve your overall fitness and speed.
Winter does not mean you have to go into hibernation. By focusing on strength, form, and intensity, you can prime yourself for a record breaking spring season.
Coach Chris and Kev