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Triathlon Training: 7 Ways To Maximize Your Off-Season

Triathlon Training: 7 Ways to Maximize Your Off-Season via @familysportlife #triathlon #training #endurance

depositphotos (c)/warrengoldswain

As endurance athletes, autumn typically signifies the end of our race season.  We’ve worked hard and put in ridiculous amounts of volume and mileage for several consecutive months.  We also might be experiencing some physical and mental fatigue.  The 4AM wake-ups, 95 degree bike rides and 3 hour runs have taken its toll on our bodies and minds.  For many, the “post-big-race blues” may have also set in, leaving us unmotivated due to the lack of a specific goal (race).  We look forward to taking some time off to rest, recover and recharge.

The off season is the perfect time to build yourself into the athlete you want to be next season.  I’ve learned a few things about making each off season pay huge dividends the following year.

7 Ways to Maximize Your Off-Season:

Rest- But Not Too Long

I’ve come out of a race season so spent from swimming, biking and running, my planned 2 week hiatus became a 2 month training vacation.  My lack of MOTIVATION in week one grew to a lack of DESIRE in month 2.  I simply took too much time off from structured training.  I got used to sleeping in, enjoyed eating everything in sight and became complacent with my lack of performance in the little training I did.  It took a Herculean effort for me to get off my butt and start training with a purpose again.  I was able to do it, but it wasn’t easy.

Take a few weeks off after your last event, but keep it limited to a few weeks.  If you go too much longer, fitness is lost at an exponential rate.  It could then take months to regain the fitness you had, making the buildup period before your first event next year much shorter and more panic stricken.  A few weeks off will do everyone some good (including your family), but understand that when you restart your training, you won’t be picking up where you left off.  That leads us to the next part; consistency.

Train Consistently

The best bang-for-the-buck is training consistency.  Running for an hour, three times a week will yield greater benefits and build lasting fitness much more than one three-hour run each week.  The off season should be a time of reduced volume and intensity, but your frequency should remain close to mid-season numbers.  It’s not really about the number of swims, bikes and runs you get in, rather it’s the time BETWEEN sessions of each discipline.  I am currently in midst of proving this point.

After IMLP, I began a marathon-focused training block in preparation for the NYC Marathon in November.  My plan was to bike and swim only once per week, but making those sessions fairly long and intense.  Within 2 weeks, I couldn’t even come close to my pre-Ironman power numbers on the bike and my swim was just a mess.  I was engaging in quality training sessions, but it was the 6 days off between sessions that stripped me of my ability to perform.  Each successive week got worse until I revamped my plan and now train 2-3 times per week in each discipline.  I decreased the length of each session and reduced the intensity a bit.  I have built back some of my fitness but more importantly, I’m not losing any more.

Even if you only train for 30 minutes at a time, keep the frequency and consistency up.  You’ll be much better served next year.

Include Strength Training

Lift heavy stuff.  This is the best time of year to ramp up your strength training and more specifically, your FUNCTIONAL strength training.  Throw around some sandbags and kettle bells.  Flip a few tractor tires and climb a rope.  Take your kids to the playground and spend some time on the monkey bars (yes, you should play on the monkey bars).  Do some body weight squats several times throughout the day.  Burpees at work are always fun!  Go heavy and go hard.  The benefit of heavy strength training in the off season is that if you go overboard, your next training session is probably not a highly critical one.  You can run on sore legs and not care about your pace.  The strength you build now can carry you into, and through all of next season.  Don’t miss the opportunity to build lasting strength.

Periodize Your Training

I have yet to come across a good argument against periodization.  Periodization is the training format where you start with slow(er), more aerobic-based sessions and build throughout the year to more race-specific training.  The workouts we perform in November should look nothing like the sessions we did in September.  Take a step back, build endurance, focus on form and create a nice foundation for next year.  But, don’t forget to do some hard stuff!  I generally keep my easy to hard ratio at about 80% to 20% in the first part of the off season.  By mid season, I will have a 60% to 40% balance.

Experiment With Nutrition

Now is a great time to make the changes you always thought about.  Play around with macro nutrient ratios, begin the process of becoming fat-adapted, try new types of fueling for longer sessions and do all of this with zero risk of tanking your performance.  It takes a long time for your body to adapt to dietary changes.  Since you are probably 6-8 months away from your next race, you have very little to lose if something doesn’t quite work.

Revamp Your Form

In between my 2012 and 2013 seasons, I decided I needed to start over on my running form.  I adapted a Pose/Chi/Minimalist running form over the course of the off season.  I had to take a huge step backwards when I began, but it paid huge dividends by the time spring rolled around.  Don’t be afraid to go out for a ridiculously slow run while you adapt a more efficient form.  You’ll have plenty of time between now and your first race to make it work.

Reconnect With Your Family

Although we put the physical stresses in our bodies, we also put some emotional stresses on our family and loved ones.  This is a great time of year to skip a workout so you can play soccer with your kids.  Date nights can be a little later because your alarm won’t be buzzing at 4am.  Our families supported our crazy obsession for the past several months and made sacrifices that enabled us to meet our goals.  This is the perfect time to say “yes” to anything they ask of us and support goals that may not include a ribbon and finisher’s medal.  No single workout will ever be the difference between meeting a race goal or not, especially with off season workouts.

Be present and engaged.  This can only lead to buy-in and a greater level of support when the craziness starts up again.

 How will you be maximizing your off-season?

12 comments - Latest by:
  • John Newman It may take about 2 months to get the full effects of EnduroPacks, but it is worth the wait. …
  • John Newman I've been told that the perfect amount of rest is when you get antsy and feel like a caged animal. …

Meal Plan Inspiration|October 19, 2014

Meal Plan Inspiration via @familysportlifeDepending on what time you are reading this we are either at Big A’s duathlon (Little A is doing the fun run), at Little A’s soccer game, or out for a late lunch to celebrate Big A’s birthday!  Whew! All good stuff.

Last weekend, Big A and I went on an outing with the Cub Scouts.  We slept over on a battleship, the USS Massachusetts to be exact.  It was a bit claustrophobic for me being two levels below deck and sleeping in a tiny rack.  At 5’5″ I can’t figure out how the taller folk manage sleeping like that.

The best part of the trip was going on a scavenger hunt throughout the ship which is set up like a museum.  We had to find the answers to to questions that were answered in the exhibits.  The ship was in operation in the 1940’s and all of the memorabilia was from that time period.  It was fascinating to see how these ships operated like mini floating cities complete with a machine shop, butcher shop, soda fountain/ice cream shop, tailor, post office, and the infamous brig.

Do you know what wasn’t so fascinating? The food! I made a colossal error and one I won’t ever make again – I didn’t bring my own food!  I don’t know why I felt self-conscious about being “that family” but I was.  I didn’t want to seem pretentious so I left the cooler home.  I figured it was only dinner and breakfast, we could make it work.  NOPE!  Dinner was Shepherd’s Pie served with milk, no water to be found except for in a vending machine off the ship.  Breakfast was “eggs.”  I didn’t eat much and Big A spent a good deal of time with a belly ache.

Always one to make lemonade when handed lemons, we turned this into a lesson on wellness and healthy food.  I will now have pride in being “that family” with the cooler in tow and Big A now has a valuable food lesson burned into his belly.  It was a light bulb moment for him where he suddenly appreciated all of our home cooked meals.  We spent a good deal of time comparing and contrasting the food from the ship to the food we eat at home.  So much so that he requested a healthy version of Shepherd’s Pie be made for dinner during the week.  Surprised by the request, I quickly jumped on finding a great recipe.  It will appear on this week’s meal plan again.  I encourage you to try it.  Plus, it’s kid approved!  It reheated well and can be taken for school lunch in a thermos.

Meal Plan Inspiration|October 19, 2014

Sunday: Late lunch for Big A’s birthday.  Dinner will be light.  Maybe some veggies and humus.

Monday: Shepherd’s Pie.  The cauliflower/potato topping makes a lot.  I would save some for a side dish later in the week.

Tuesday: Lemony Kale Quinoa Salad.

Wednesday: Curried Chicken Pad Thai (Gluten Free and Dairy Free).

Thursday: Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup with Salmon.

Friday: Date Night with Little A! The boys are doing their own thing.

Saturday: Breakfast for dinner or leftovers.  Anything easy.

What great meals have you been making lately?

Don’t forget to follow us on Pinterest.  I pin great recipes every week!

Visit Family Sport Life – Tara Newman’s profile on Pinterest.

19 comments - Latest by:
  • Dana Going to check a few of these out - I have tons of sweet potatoes in my pantry right now. …
  • Tara Newman The pad thai was great. I made some changes to it and it was still good. Made for …

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

What do you see when you look in the mirror? via @famiilysportlife #motivation #inspiration


What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Do you see love, hope, grace, peace, calm, intellect, beauty, strength, power, energy?

Or do you see imperfection, frenzy, lack, weakness, disgust, exhaustion?

For six years I have been struggling to lose the “baby weight.”  I have felt down on myself and have done things to my body that have been unkind.

I have pushed myself to exercise when exhausted.  I have pushed myself to run through injuries.  I have pushed myself to nail my training plan even when I have known my recovery wasn’t as it should be.  I have bullied myself, hurling silent insults at my battered body.

I would look in the mirror and see imperfection, weakness, laziness, and lack of willpower.  Because everything you read on the internet or see on social media would lead one to believe if you can’t lose weight you are lazy and lack willpower.  You should push harder and “suck it up buttercup.”

I would look in the mirror and see little progress despite my clean diet and exercise regime.  What was wrong with me? What’s my excuse?

I didn’t see strength or love or any positive attributes.  That would take a level of confidence that was distinctly missing.

 If I lost these vanity pounds, I would find confidence.

Over the past six years, the pounds have fluctuated.  Yet, I still hadn’t found confidence.  I did find labels.  Lots of them.

Fat.  Tired.  Lazy. Slow. Less than.  Not good enough.

Or what about those other labels? The ones I chased because I thought they would heal me.

Vegetarian.  Vegan.  High Fat/Low Carb.  High Carb/Low Fat.  Keto.

All those labels didn’t heal anything, they just added up to a whole lot of noise.

After running myself into the ground with the stress that comes with feeling less than, I realized I only needed to do one thing.  I needed to silence the commotion and focus inward on myself.

If I tuned into my body and tuned out the noise of others – doctors, friends, social media, and the not so motivating FITSPO, I could find my own way.

I could begin to listen to what my body was saying.  To ask myself the right questions.  To regain my confidence so I could seek the “right” advice for me.   I could start to define what wellness means to me. I could define my own personal wellness code.

There is a crack in everything

I would like to tell you this turn around was immediate but it hasn’t been.  It has been a long and arduous process with many ups and downs.  It’s a process that requires intense focus and diligent reframing of thoughts on a daily basis.

With the havoc I have wreaked on my hormones, I am still struggling to shed those vanity pounds.  I know when I have paid the proper deference to my body and I have healed physically, mentally, and spiritually, the weight will come off.  I know this.  I am confident.

I know I am not my body.

This weekend I went shopping for some fall clothes.  I splurged on lovely basics that compliment my easy going style – plenty of t’s, skirts, plaid button downs, sweaters, jeans, and dress pants.  Comfort was key.  I want to be graceful and authentic in my skin (and my clothes).

I had to size up in the pants.  I am not sure if my body has shifted, if I went up a couple of pounds or if it is the cut of the pants.  It doesn’t matter anymore.  It would be easy to fall back into old patterns of behavior and degrade myself with labels.

What did I see in the mirror?

Instead of all those labels, I saw gratitude and love.  I am grateful for comfortable, well fitting pants.  I have been thinner.  I have been heavier.  I am a work in progress.  I am not yet where I want to be but in this moment, I choose to look in the mirror with a different set of eyes.  Eyes that see beauty and imperfect perfection.

I choose self-love.

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

29 comments - Latest by:
  • Tara Newman Thanks Ashley! You are gorgeous and 40 looks good on you!
  • Tara Newman Congrats Kelley on your weight loss! I am with you on healthy not skinny!

Our Trader Joe’s Shopping List|October

Our Trader Joes Shopping List via @Familysportlife #traderjoes #realfood #healthylivingBig A is almost nine years old and has a passion for art, music, outdoorsy stuff, and all things Captain Underpants.  He has recently agreed to cut out dairy to see if it helps his dry skin.  We are training him and his sister to be Wellness Warriors who have the confidence to define their own wellness code.  Big A is a diligent pupil as proven by his most recent question.  “Mom, where is the best place to shop for healthy food? And don’t say the farmer’s market.”

He probably expected my answer to be “Trader Joe’s.”  Instead, I asked him “What is healthy food?”  Without missing a beat, Big A started to rattle off fruit, vegetables, organic dairy, eggs, fish, and food without High Fructose Corn Syrup and “weird” oils.

After a few more well positioned questions, he decided it isn’t WHERE you shop but HOW you shop.

When I asked him HOW do you shop for healthy food, he gave me two great take aways:

  • Read the labels and look for the fewest ingredients.
  • Shop the perimeter of the store.

As I walked in to Trader Joe’s these last few weeks with a keen eye on what would be on my October list, I was assaulted with everything pumpkin spiced!  As a former Pumpkin Spice Latte addict, I was intrigued.  That is until I read many of the labels and saw how much sugar was in some of the items.

My point isn’t to stop you from eating your beloved pumpkin spiced items or from  trying new ones.  I mean, ’tis the season, right?  My only plea is that you do it with knowledge and awareness.  I spotted a bag of pumpkin spiced pumpkin seeds and was all too eager to put them in my cart.  I flipped them over and read the label.  A quarter of a cup packed 12 grams of sugar.  I wondered if I could just eat the serving size or if I would keep sneaking back to that bag for more.  Sugar can be addictive.  Those 12 grams could easily become doubled.  With greater awareness than when I initially picked up the bag, I walked away.

It all came down to one of my favorite quotes that sums up my personal wellness code:

Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine via @familysportlife #traderjoes #healthyliving #realfood

Our Trader Joe’s Shopping List for October:

Olives with Garlic. On my list because the Naturopath asked me to include more garlic in my diet and to increase my healthy fats.

Ghee. Yes, Trader Joe’s sells Ghee! I was so excited to see this.  Sometimes I make my own Ghee but it’s nice to have an option for buying it.  It’s on my list for it’s association with gut healing.

Green Tea.  I have been a drinker of green tea on and off for a number of years.  This has found it’s way back in to my daily regime thanks once again to the Naturopath.

Coconut Creamer.  Dairy and I are in a relationship and it’s complicated.  Two weeks ago I cut dairy from my diet in an attempt to heal my gut issues.  I was trying to reduce my dairy for some time and started using almond milk in my coffee.  Out of frustration, I decided reducing my dairy wasn’t doing anything so I started taking heavy cream in my coffee again.  A week later I was told NO dairy.  HMPF!  At the same time, a new product hit my Trader Joe’s! In walks Coconut Creamer.  I am not a huge fan of these creamers because they do have a longer ingredient list.  I tried the creamer and thought it tasted fine.  However, I went back to good ole’ coconut cream (in the can) for the reduced ingredient list.

Coconut Creamer

Pumpkin Puree.  Like I mentioned earlier, I am a former Pumpkin Spice Latte addict.  Now, I make my own pumpkin spice latte by blending some pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice in with my coffee.

Pumpkin Spice. Pumpkin spice whatever you want with this great blend!

Pumpkin Spic

Pumpkin Cereal Bars.  These are for Little A.  I recently found a a bar recipe that I want to try.  Maybe I can make them pumpkin spiced.

All the fixins’ for an awesome roasted chicken.  Organic Brined Chicken.  Pre-cut and washed leeks.  Cremini mushrooms.  Organic carrots.  Kerrygold Butter.  Dump it all in a pan and roast for 90 minutes.  Don’t forget to save the carcass for homemade chicken soup!

Roasted Chicken

What have been your favorite food finds in October?

If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, don’t despair.  Check their website to find what stores are in development!


Our Trader Joe’s Shopping List|September

Our Trader Joe’s Shopping List|July

* We didn’t do a list in August.

PS. We will be offering our Trader Joe’s Shopping list in printable format each month to our newsletter subscribers.  It will be a cumulative list of all our Trader Joe’s posts.  It’s going to be super helpful so you probably want to giddy up and subscribe!

28 comments - Latest by:
  • Tara Newman I am sure it takes a while for the dairy or other stuff to get out of your system. My …
  • Tara Newman I love that you find it helpful :-)

10 Simple Ideas for Candy Free Halloween Fun

Candy Free Halloween: 10 Simple and Fun Ideas via @familysportlife #halloween #family #candyfree #healthyhalloween


When it was time to start celebrating Halloween with my family, I felt conflicted. As a health conscious Mom, I just couldn’t get on board with the piles of candy and I struggled to establish appropriate balance for us. I wanted my kids to enjoy the holiday and learn about moderation. I wanted them to be able to have a handful of candy and not become obsessed with the sack full of sugar. I began to feel like the Halloween Scrooge plotting ways to deny them the merriment that came with all that trick-or-treating. Totally flustered, I decided to take a walk down memory lane.

As a Mom, the first place I often look for inspiration is to my own childhood. My Mom was darn good at creating happy memories for my sister and me. As I stepped into the wayback machine, I realized my memories weren’t of sacks full of candy. My memories are filled with the different characters I dressed up as, making our own costumes, time spent trick-or-treating with friends, parades, carving pumpkins with my Dad and bobbing for apples (do people bob for apples anymore?).

Instead on dwelling on what I should or shouldn’t do with all the candy and what limits needed be established, I put my energy into creating plenty of candy free Halloween fun that lasts the entire month.

10 Simple Ideas for Candy Free Halloween Fun:

1. We read a ton of Halloween stories. Like these 7 Fun Halloween Books for Toddlers or these Chapter Books for Halloween.  Still not finding what you are looking for? Check out The Ultimate List of Halloween Books for Kids!!
2. Starting a week leading up to Halloween, we have a mini scavenger hunt before school.  We hide pencils, plastic spiders, vampire teeth, pumpkin erasers, and other fun items from the dollar store.
3. We play Halloween games.  Check out some of these 30 Awesome Halloween Games for Kids.
4. Make picking out costumes special. We pick a date and put it on the calendar. This year we celebrated picking out our costumes by going out to lunch first. Even better, MAKE your own costumes! I am not crafty but I have found a few easy to make costumes that I would try in the future like this DIY Storm Trooper Costume!  How about this DIY Robot Costume?
5. Check your local paper for Halloween parades, costume contests, and other harvest happenings!
6. Watch all the Halloween Movies you can find!  Make some homemade pizza and pop some popcorn.  Here are the 19 Best Halloween Movies for Kids.
7. Make pumpkin picking a family adventure and combine it with a day trip to farm with plenty of hay rides and corn mazes. This is a great opportunity to teach kids about the harvest and where real food comes from. Want some extra fun? Go pumpkin picking in costume.
8. Fill the month with Halloween crafts. They don’t have to be elaborate, last night Little A had fun coloring this cool Frozen Halloween Coloring Page.  Here is another great roundup of Free Halloween Coloring Activities.

9. Make Halloween about friends and not candy. Arrange to meet up with friends for a group trick-or-treat. And DON’T FORGET to Boo your neighbors!
10. Finally, the activity that is most anticipated every year – flashlight trick-or-treat. Nothing screams adventure like going out after dark on Halloween Night! Always follow proper safety precautions.

If you are like me and don’t feel like handing out candy on Halloween, check out these great Halloween Candy Alternatives.

Does the thought of  trick-or-treating with toddlers overwhelm you? Check out these 12 tips.

And here is my Halloween post from last year: 5 Easy Tips to Tame Halloween Chaos.

Looking for healthy Halloween party food? It totally exists and I pinned a bunch of it to my Halloween Board on Pinterest:

Follow Family Sport Life – Tara Newman’s board halloween on Pinterest.


What are your favorite candy free Halloween traditions?

18 comments - Latest by:
  • Tara Newman Like every other holiday, right? I hate that we are so food obsessed. It has always been about the …
  • Tara Newman Oh, we have major scaredy cats here! We have to do the not-so-spooky Halloween stuff.