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Coaches Blog

Off Season Options are Endless

Updated: Feb 14, 2020

by Mandi Kowal

For most, the cooler air has settled in, leaves have changed colors and our summer triathlon season has wound down. I always love this time of year because it means a change in my training. I enjoy running in cooler temps and getting out on a fat tire bike riding those crazy Level B roads. (Don't know what a Level B road is? See photo below!) It’s fun and very engaging for me mentally. I usually sign up for running events because there’s nothing like running on fresh legs.

This shift in my training provides a variety in training that keeps me consistent and active. So take this time to not shut down your workouts but to move in a way that will help you grow as an athlete and provide variety to keep your motivation alive.

The options are limitless. You just need to think outside the box. Here are few ideas that I have recommended as a coach, read about others doing, or taken part in as an athlete. See if any strike a chord with you or inspire other ideas.

Idea 1. Running Challenge. A few years back I took part in a Running Durability Challenge – run 30 days straight for 30 min. This was a great challenge - more than I anticipated. Not to mention, it provided some comical moments for our family. If you are interested in this I’d be happy to share the guidelines. (Note that even a modest running streak like this comes with risks and it should be discontinued at any sign of injury.)

Idea 2. Single-Sport Focus. As a coach I have put some athletes on an 8 Week Biking Power Program to boost their biking performance. On this program they bike 5-7 days a week. Athletes continue to swim and run but with cycling taking center stage.

Idea 3. Swim Challenge. Partake in a swim meet or Fitness Challenge. US Masters Swimming is an amazing resource. You can find area clubs to join, swim meets to race in or check out the challenges they provide throughout the year. There is an upcoming Fall Fitness Challenge (Nov 15-30th) which is a 1 mile swim. What’s great about these is that you can do it on your own or you can organize a group to complete it together. Click here for more information (

Idea 4. Rowing Challenge. Concept 2 ergs (rowing machines), oars, BikeErgs and SkiErgs are an another awesome resource. Wondering where to find one to use? They have a Rowing Machine (Erg) locater. They provide instructional videos, daily workouts, and challenges throughout the year. I partook in the Holiday Challenge more than once in my time. This takes place from Nov 22 – Dec 24. The challenge was to row 100,000 or 200,000 meters in that time. I found it to be a great challenge. Now they allow one to bike, ski or row to complete the challenge. It’s awesome and a great way to stay active as we approach the holidays. I know this is a great cross training activity for our sport. Check them out.

And of course rowing on the water is great, climate allowing!

Idea 5. Nordic Skiing. How about some cross country/Nordic skiing? This is another full body activity that is great cross training for triathletes. One fun event that Coach Chris and I have participated in is the American Birkebeiner. She’s a multiple finisher of the full distance and I did the Korte a handful of times. We love the snow and getting out on the skis is a way to appreciate and embrace the cold.

Idea 6. Gravel Rides. Preparing for and completing these rides is fun and different way to build your biking and have fun. I’ve recently done more of these. You don’t need a fancy bike. I used my 1987 mountain bike and even 100k and 100 mile rides fly by. If you get a fat tire bike (which I have rented) you have access to so many roads you can’t ride with your tri bike. There’s nothing like riding those bikes across harvested corn fields and other places that cars can’t go. I love it.

Idea 7. Pilates. One year I begrudgingly took a Pilates class for two months. Was it tough? Yes, but it was worth it. The instructor was amazing because she knew how to isolate and work the smallest of muscle groups. It was the best thing I ever did. Maybe I need to go back!

Again, these are only a few ideas. The point is to switch things up to make the improvements you need or just to provide variety. As my kids in my area running club like to say, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”

So go out on a limb and do something different an have some fun!

If you have any questions regarding a way to change up your off season feel free to contact me at

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