1. Resistance Bands: With the off-season coming into full bloom, one area of training that many triathletes will want to work on is core and articulation strength. Core strength would be the parts of the body pertaining to the trunk i.e. abdominals hipflexors, pectoralis, latissimus, rhomboids and lumbar groups. The articulation strength that can be benefited is any muscle group that aids in joint articulation...this would include muscles surrounding the knee, shoulder, hips, and elbows. As athletes increase volume and intensity through the winter months it is vitally important to have good strength built so that as these variables increase the body is able to withstand these added stresses without injury.
2. Pool Tools: I would include in this grouping any products that help an athlete perform drills, technique, or general swimming training, in the pool. Examples of equipment that I regularly use would be fins, paddles, kick-board, pull-buoy, and drag suit. A pull-buoy goes between the legs and allows one to swim with proper body position by eliminating the need to kick whilst keeping the body in proper horizontal alignment on the top of the water. A kick-board allows one to utilize just the kick for forward propulsion. It should be noted that too much kicking specific drills, for a triathlete, can often be problematic due to the added stress it can put on the knees. Fins can similarly add unnecessary stress if used too much and/or with too high of intensity. A drag suit is simply a swimsuit that is designed to be slightly less hydrodynamic. It might have added mesh or not fit quite as tight to the body the way a typical swimsuit would. Many swimsuit manufacturers have fun with these types of suits and offer unique patterns and styles that can be kind of 'loud.'
3. Multi-Vitamin w/ Vitamin D: Although I am not a pharmacologist or dietitian, I have strong feelings and pseudo-evidences that the vitamin D deficiency that many mid-westerners experience in the winter months caused from decreased exposure to the sun, may have negative impact on seasonal mood disorders, and metabolic efficiency. On numerous occasions family members, my spouse, or friends have shared with me about low vitamin D levels during the winter months as being evidenced from blood test results by a medical practitioner and/or laboratory blood tests. The vitamin D deficiency paired with seasonal mood issues, and seasonal weight gain, often times associated with no changes in exercise is where my suspicion that the three are interrelated comes from. There are some studies that suggest that there is likely more than just a positive correlation here. Similar studies reveled curious relations between suppressed immune functioning and vitamin D deficiencies. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/80/6/1689S.full
4. Bicycle Trainer: Many athletes will already own one of these, but I mention it because it is important, and also important to have a good quality trainer if a rider is using it more than 3 days per week or is sharing it with a spouse or friend. Trainers vary in price and are significantly different in feel and quality. There are several types of trainers based on the type of resistance and the durability of the trainer. CycleOps for instance, one of the larger brands on the market sells a magnetic resistence trainer for under $200 and has a magnetic/fluid resistance trainer for over $475. It all depends on what kind of resistance; the style of flywheel (a large disk that allows the bike wheel to keep moving when the rider stops pedaling)-which enhances the ride quality to make it feel more like riding on the road. Features like electronic remotes are optional on some models, but can take the price well over $1500.
Two trainers I work with on a regular basis and have had great success with are the CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer which uses magnetic and fluid resistance and has a very adequate sized flywheel and costs around $315 and the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine which also uses a very similar fluid and magnetic resistance and costs around $380-(on Sale for $349 for Thanksgiving-New Year). Both manufacturers provide a lifetime warranty, which I have seen utilized by customers and clients I have worked with; in both cases with each company, Kinetic and CycleOps were very supportive and replaced the defective units.
5. Studded Tyres: Can handle the cold?!? If you can handle cross-country skiing, then riding in the blistery winter cold won't be a too big of a deal. No two studded tires are created equal. Tires are designed for 26" wheels or 700c wheels, which can sometimes be interchanged with a 29er mountain bicycle. There are a few studded tire companies that make a really phenomenal tire, and there are a couple that don't make such great tires. I won't trash-talk any specific companies, but make sure to talk with your local bicycle dealer to see which ones they recommend and have had good luck with. I have personally had really good success with Kenda, Suomi/Nokian, and Schwalbe studded tires. Specific models of each that we have sold and have had great reviews from are the Kenda Klondike, which are made for 26-inch, 29ers, and 700c-cross versions; Suomi, who was formally known by the name Nokian, has a tire called the Hakkapeliita, which comes in several versons, the A10's are the ones I ride on my bicycle through the winter and are a 700x32c tire with 72 carbide tipped studs per tire.
6. Bicycle Fitting: I will only briefly mention this, but don't want to under emphasize the importance of a professional bike fit. Many riders come to me looking for solutions to problems of various kinds that they're facing on the bike and I am stuck by how simple of fix various adjustments can be and are real world changers for my riders. A good bicycle fit doesn't have to cost a fortune, and in most cases if adjustments or components are recommended, there will be a discount on those products.
7. Stroke Analysis: This is another area that I can't over emphasize. Many of the injuries that triathletes and swimmers experience could have been easily avoided by corrections in their stroke. Most triathlon or swimming coaches can offer a swim analysis that focuses on one stroke with a specific purpose. For example, if you are a triathlete who primarily open-water swims, there will be slightly different technique focus that will help you swim more efficiently and effectively in open water as opposed to a normal lap-swimming or speed swimming stroke for pool usage. It is good to do some research on any coach you might work with. Get to know what their technique philosophy is and make sure that they have a good understanding of the bio-mechanical movement patterns that are necessary for good triathlon-specific swimming. Also it is helpful to work with a coach that also has strength and condition expertise and can recommend dry-land training exercises to help your technique and swim-strength in the water.
In the off-season it is essential to have a good time so don't get too crazy, just yet. Ponder your previous season; the successes, and the failure, the challenges and the breakthroughs.
Train Smart, Keep Balanced.
Tri Coach K