Your Winter Strategy

Did you think you were in your off-season? Ha!

Somewhere in between a 12-month, full-gas, assault on training and a complete collapse on the couch exists a low-stress maintenance program. Or, a targeted focus on a race weakness. The Good Lord has a plan for your life, some do say. We can't offer that, but we do have a plan for your Winter.

I'm going to break this down into swim, bike and run, and also into Stationary versus Mobile. Mobile in our parlance means you're making forward progress; you're going somewhere; even if that progress is simply going back and forth in a pool. Stationary means training-in-place. Let's start with what we have in store for Mobile.

100/100 Run Challenge

We host this every year. It is controlled, recorded, contested, conducted in a format we call a "challenge" and we have specific functionality on Slowtwitch for this. We typically have 400 to 600 people join the 100/100 Run Challenge every year. This is never without a little controversy. The idea could be, or maybe originally was, interpreted as the attempt to run 100 sessions in 100 days and your shortfall meant failure to achieve the goal.

I see it differently. I look at this as a 3-month-long aspirational occasion, using the Slowtwitch community as the push. Speaking just for myself, I never will run 100 times in 100 days, but last year I ran 62 times in 100 days during this challenge. That was plenty for me, and I was happy with that. This challenge forces me to value consistency over quality. It is a clinic in how to stay disciplined with a focus on sidestepping injury.

This challenge can be mobile or stationary (on a treadmill), or a mix of each. It begins every year on the 15th of December, and is always spearheaded by longtime Slowtwitcher Dev Paul. On the assumption he's up for it again Dev will urge, exhort, appeal, husband us through another 100/100 Challenge. If this is something you'd like to take part in, best to begin the habit of running short and easy leading up to December 15th so that you will, literally, hit the ground running come that date on the calendar. Watch the Reader Forum for a thread on this once we get into December.

Guppy and Tarpon Challenges

On the 7th of December we'll commence a pair of swim challenges. We've conducted these in the past. Every year we tune these workouts, to improve them. The Guppy Challenge is calibrated to true landlubbers, so, if you worry a bit about the swim cut-off whenever you race, the Guppy Challenge is for you. The Tarpon Challenge is for the next level up, as in, turning 1:40 Ironman swimmers into 1:20 swimmers.

Each week I will give you workouts to perform. December will come at you quickly. Remember, you have Thanksgiving between now and then, and holidays and holiday shopping is (while rewarding) a training and preparation time-suck. If you need new swim apparel or goggles; if you need to know your pool's Winter or holiday hours; get your ducks in a row before we start. Your first set of weekly workouts will be posted on the Slowtwitch Reader Forum just prior to the 7th of December, which is a Monday.

Stationary Swim

In the true spirit of triathlon, can I pivot the conversation now, and make it all about me?

I stop swimming around November and I start in February. I don't plan it this way, it just seems always to happen. I lose so much in that 3-month layoff it's July before I get all the swim speed back. I don't know why. It's not that way in bike or run for me (I don't need 4 months of cycling to get back what I've lost after a 3-month cycling layoff). Maybe it's because bike and run are grunt sports; maybe it takes me so long to get my swim speed back because it is a finesse and technique sport. I've got a lot of swimmer friends who retrieve their speed in 3 weeks. I call them friends but, in fact, I hate these people.

Time to try something new. I'm going to get in as many swims as I can over the Winter, bearing in mind that I live in an area just warm enough so that our pools are outdoor, but just cold enough so that the trip from pool-to-locker-room is a race against painful frigid death. Today it is windy, humid and 35°F outside my door and no friggin' way am I going swimming. No problem. Tomorrow it will be 50°F and I own a swim parka, the only job of which is to take me from pool to locker room.

The key (I hope) to keeping swim-fit over the Winter is a Vasa Ergometer. It's not just the sport-specific muscular workout for those days like today, it's the habit. The practice. The routine. I'm horribly bound to routine, which works to my advantage when I'm in the routine, but it's a mental block to overcome when I'm out of it. My regime-killer is not 9 days out of the pool, it's 9 days out of the habit of a swim workout of some sort. What I hope for in supplementing with Vasa Ergometer is the continuity of a daily swim regime. Below is my Winter swim secret sauce, with idiosyncratic mods.

I recently performed a pool workout that will serve as my default. It's a gauge of my current speed and fitness. I'm going to see if I can continue to perform this workout from time to time over the Winter, and see if my daily swim-plus-Vasa regime tides me over.

I'm going to blog my results, at least twice a month between now and the end of February. Interested Slowtwitchers can spectate my success or my spiral down to failure. If you have a Vasa Ergometer, a Swim Bench, a swim-specific strength regime – something serving as the daily proxy for the swim you didn't do – you are invited to follow along with me and I'll be posting on our Reader Forum.

Stationary Run

Last year we produced reviews of treadmills. We'd never done this, but it was clear from our Reader Forum that a lot of you use these, especially during the Winter. Look for these reviews between now and Thanksgiving.

Stationary Bike

As is our habit we'll be reviewing products that allow you to cycle nowhere. We'll start with a discussion of direct drive versus standard trainers, which we've covered in the past but we always have an influx of new Slowtwitchers. These two types of trainers aren't the only ways to cycle nowhere. Rollers are the other way to nowhere quickly, but we'll overview rollers separately.

Then we'll talk about the differences between smart and dumb trainers; and about trainer software and community riding – what we might call basement racing. BKOOL, Tour de Giro, Zwift, Sufferfest, CycleOps Virtual Training, TrainerRoad are of specific and ardent interest to Slowtwitchers. We'll write about them all.

What we hope to do – we'll see how this goes – is engage Slowtwitchers in virtual events. We've never hosted the virtual Tuesday Night Crit or Saturday morning group ride, all from our basements and garages, and nobody knows how that's going to go. We'll see what catches and what doesn't. Our Reader Forum will be the nexus for these efforts.

Lastly, I just got a trailer for my gravel bike. November through February is a great time to venture forth on pointless journeys in foul weather. I once gauged the interest of Spencer Smith's late, great British dad in camping. "You mean sleep? In a bag? On the ground?" Okay, it's not for everyone. Still, throw food at me if I haven't reported here on at least one trip using this rig.