XTerra Training: Where to start?

A prior version of this article, was published in October 2015. I’ve updated the article to reflect my current views on training. While the article is geared for XTerra, the concepts apply to any endurance sport.

I like titles that have more than one meaning. As the title of this article suggests, I’ve been thinking about how and where to start this series. However, you too should be considering where to start, because for most athletes, the season wrapped up over a month ago. Even if you raced XTerra USA, you’ve already had plenty of time to recover from the season. So to kick off this series, I’m going to discuss the first steps to building a successful season next year, while outlining where this series will go over the next 6 months.

What have you been doing with your time?

Having already discussed periodization in several prior articles (updates coming soon), I am going to assume you have already started building that plan; if you have not, then start now! The off-season is here and you if you want to raise your game next season, you need to build your fitness now. It does not matter what what activities you like to do, you should do them all; some more than others. Idle hands may do the devil’s work, but idle bodies are a devil to get back into shape! So get out an enjoy the fall weather and colors.

Training with unstructured structure

Over the years I have often been asked if you had to rest in the off-season; i.e. take a break. My short answer was no. My long answer is that it depends on many factors, but the basic idea of resting after a “long season” is outdated, unless you’ve raced one or more grand tours, or 70+ races. On the flip side, many of us race far less than that and train 10 hrs or less each week, making a break of 2 weeks or more a detriment to next seasons goals. A few exceptions include nagging injuries, or a mentally draining season of stress or poor race performances.

So getting back to that question of rest, I say that if you enjoy running, or riding, or swimming, then do it! Long rides, short runs, and maybe a race here or there are great ways to stay fit and have fun, without the pressure of goals. The fall is also great time to target some of those weak links without doing too much structured goal driven training. If power on the bike is lacking, then add in a block of intervals on a long ride. If you fade in the run, add in some long progression runs. Nothing too specific, but definitely train with a purpose.

Do the training, skip the races

A common theme for many athletes is to move from one season to the next without a thought on the big picture. If you are aiming to make a big gain in the next season by minimizing a bottleneck, then you will need to step away from many of your favorite fall races. Racing drains valuable time and resources that you will need to move forward into the next season.

Train Less to Train More

The off-season, particularly the fall, is an ideal time to build a foundational base for the next season without worrying about compromising other aspects of your fitness. If you’re a cyclist or runner, that means long rides, while for a triathlete, it means cutting back on at least one sport. For most of us, that means cutting back (and focusing on technique) swimming, while alternating between cycling and running. For XTerra, you can build your run fitness while honing your MTB skills; I recently signed up with the Ryan Leech Connection, which I’ll be reviewing in the not so distant future.

And for those racing XTerra…

Stay tuned in to the blog and podcast as I release new training tips and podcasts geared specifically for off-road triathlon. In the meantime, start analyzing your old races (Strava segments work great for this) and get out and train. The work you do this fall will pay huge dividends in the spring!

Upcoming XTerra Tips include:

  • Analyzing your races to find your bottlenecks
  • Swimming tips for XTerra: know what you’re getting into
  • Want a faster bike time? Get on the road!
  • In-Form: why running form matters
  • Running fast off the bike means you need to run fast…off the bike!
  • XTerra running: strength or speed?
  • Race tips

Written by