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.

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