1. Get Stronger
Strength for endurance sport is not the same as strength to be Mr. or Mrs. Universe. The primary goal should be to build a solid platform that allows you to maintain form, handle load under increasing levels of fatigue and avoid injuries. Focus on core, back and hip stability. These muscle groups allow you to maintain good posture and good form particularly as you get deeper into a long race or a long training session. Focus on your posterior chain muscles- gluteal group, hamstrings and back. These muscles are some of the primary drivers when you are running and cycling. Focus on muscle imbalances that develop over time due to the very linear nature of most endurance sports- balancing muscle groups out will help you avoid injuries.
2. Increase Range of Motion
Focus on the areas where range of motion will help you move faster and avoid injuries. Swimming is the sport we usually pay the most attention to in this regard. Increased shoulder mobility will usually lead to faster swim times provided you build strength and coordination at the far ends of your range. Increased shoulder mobility can also help you stave off injuries in the water- if the shoulder has an easier time moving through the range you are asking of it there is less chance it will be compromised with high degrees of repetition. We can also increase our range of motion for cycling and running with a few simple exercises. The ability to do a deep squat is often limited by the range of motion in our ankles and the muscles in our lower leg (front and back- Calf/Achilles tendon, Tibialis Anterior). In cycling, a similar position presents itself when the foot has to clear the top end of the pedal stroke. Increasing your ability to deep squat will help you move through this part of the pedal stroke more easily. Hamstring flexibility or more range of motion through the hamstring may also allow you to achieve a lower position on the bike increasing your aerodynamic profile.
3. Make Technical Changes
Technique is something you should work on all year but during the fall and winter months you can apply more emphasis. Technical changes often result in short term speed loss because we may not be able to engage and coordinate muscularly with the same effort when we are refining new movements. Now is the perfect time to take this loss if it points to a higher ceiling in a few months. Technical changes should always point towards either increasing speed, becoming more efficient or decreasing the likelihood of injury.
4. Shift Emphasis
Throughout the year it’s important to stay in touch with all of the primary energy systems but in the fall and winter months you can shift the emphasis to less race specific intensities and work more on different intensities. If you are a short course athlete who spends a great deal of time training and racing at higher intensities with lower volume, now might be a good time to dial things back on the intensity scale and build in a bit more volume. On the other hand, if you are a long course athlete who’s season comprises a great deal of high volume, lower intensity stress now might be a good time to shorten things up and get faster.
5. Be Non Linear
Most endurance sports are very linear in nature. Now is a great time to move in non-linear ways. You can still do this in a sport specific way. Water polo for example is a great way to incorporate some non-linear swimming and will give you mad skills and confidence being in close quarters with others in the water. Likewise, trail running is a great way to include some non-linear running, as are games like soccer, football and field hockey. Mountain biking is an excellent way to include some non-linear bike riding. All of these examples have the added bonus of tapping into intensities that we rarely use in endurance sports most notably, intensities that are very high end and explosive.