By Coach Steve
Improve Swim Technique: Improve your form. Let your times
slip a little as you change your focus to perfecting various components
of your swimming. If you improve technique you'll be going faster
while using the same amount of energy. Focus on holding the water.
Keep in mind that the more effectively your hand/arm holds the water,
the farther you'll go with each stroke. In swimming, it's your body
that moves over your hand as your hand/arm unit attempts to hold
the water for the pull (think of climbing a ladder, holding on to
a rung without moving your hand). Focusing on reducing strokes by
gliding is like focusing on coasting skills while cycling...instead
focus on going farther with each stroke by holding the water effectively.
The "secret" to holding the water effectively is keeping a high
elbow position throughout the stroke cycle and pulling straight
back with no lateral or vertical movements (this is slippage; forget
about the 'S' pull). Keep your elbow higher than hand/wrist on entry,
don't lock your elbow in front to glide, start your pull immediately,
keep hand close to body as you pull, finish with arm close to your
body with elbow nearly locked. Modifying your hand position in relation
to forearm throughout the stroke is critical, flexed at the wrist
just after entry, to in-line with your forearm, to pronated (bent
back at the wrist) at the finish -- so it's always perpendicular
to the direction you're moving. Commit to keeping your head and
shoulders low in the water as this will help your hips and legs
ride higher, giving you a more hydrodynamic position.
Improve Cycling Technique: Improve your body position and
your pedal stroke during winter. Much energy can be lost to poor
aerodynamics and an inefficient pedaling action - "pedaling in squares."
When we ride at race pace on a flat road, reducing our drag coefficient
will have by far the most positive impact on our speed. Optimal
body position (the smallest possible frontal area as the wind sees
us) demands a back parallel to the ground, with elbows and knees
tucked in. Take time to focus on form off-season; don't worry about
going fast for a few months. Stationary trainers are great for maintaining
cardio cycling fitness, but ineffective for improving balance and
the kinesthetic awareness of optimal pedaling action. Learn to ride
rollers and use them to work on your spin. Spend a portion of each
workout increasing the cadence you can maintain without bouncing
on the saddle. Most accomplished bike racers can pedal up to 140rpms
for short bursts (counting on complete revolution with one leg)
and still maintain smoothness without bouncing on the saddle!
Improve Run Technique: Winter is a great time to improve
your odds of staying injury free. Look back at years past in an
attempt to determine why each of your running injuries happened.
Here are some likely causes: Increasing mileage too quickly, back-to-back
hard days, too much running on pavement, and not taking the time
to stretch before workouts. The off-season is also the time to resolve
ongoing issues that restrict our training like leg length discrepancies,
leg and foot alignment problems, bad stride habits, or excessive
upper body movement. Few of us have perfectly symmetrical bodies,
and some of these problems can be solved with a switch to more suitable
running shoes or perhaps orthotics. Consider beginning run drills
in the off-season to improve your stride and strength.
Plan Next Season: First determine what races you'll do and
which will be most important. From that, figure the time(s) of the
year you want to be at your best. Then make a plan based on a six-to-twelve
week buildup to each period of peak fitness. If you have more than
one target race per year, plan a week or two of easy training post
target race before you begin the buildup cycle again. If you're
taking the first race of the season seriously, then you may need
a full eight to twelve weeks of steady training with intensity for
the first peak of the year. This is especially true if you stopped
training anytime during the off-season.