Triathlete On Indoor Trainer Bike Focusing On Winter And Spring Training For Triathlon

Winter/Spring Triathlon Training: Key Areas of Focus

BY Adam D’Agostino

Late winter/early spring is the best time to work on your weaknesses. Here's how to identify and correct weaknesses in swimming, cycling, and running.

For most triathletes, late winter/early spring is the best time to focus on your limiters. Commonly referred to as weaknesses, limiters are most effectively targeted months before a race/event. 

Everyone has limiters, but those of us who are willing to acknowledge and address them usually see the most success. As humans, we tend to devote more time to areas where we excel and avoid areas that need the most work, making it even more important to deliberately set aside time to focus on our limiters. 

This is the perfect time of year to focus on your limiters for each leg of the race, but be advised: Check your ego at the door!

Swimming Focus Areas: Form and Anaerobic Power 

Form & Technique 

Take time to identify and correct inefficiencies within your stroke. Video analysis (above water and underwater) or working with a qualified coach/instructor in person is often very helpful with this. Because interval times are not crucial for every workout right now, take a step back and break down your stroke to see if any glaring issues come to the surface. 

Anaerobic Power / Short Intervals 

Since the focus isn’t on building volume or longer tempo sets yet, it’s a great time to incorporate short bouts of high intensity with moderate rest (25-50 yd sprint intervals with adequate recovery) to improve your anaerobic power. Anaerobic means  “without oxygen,” so we use different energy systems within the body aside from the aerobic “with oxygen” system. Take the time to build this energy system now – you’ll be thankful you did come summer.

Cycling Focus Areas: Handling, Imbalances and Anaerobic Power 

Bike Handling & Balance 

If you have trouble accessing your water bottle while riding, it’s a good idea to start working on it now. While on the trainer, try riding with only one arm for short periods (10-20 seconds) at a time. Switch arms and notice any differences on either side. If you aren’t able to do this on the indoor trainer, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to replicate it outside on the road. 

Alternatively, if you find this easy, try riding without holding the handlebars at all. This is a great way to engage your core on the bike and improve your balance on the bike. Take note of any strengths/weaknesses on one side or the other.

Muscle Imbalances 

It’s extremely uncommon to be exactly even on both sides of your body. Usually, one leg is slightly stronger than the other, or perhaps your quadriceps dominate your hamstrings. 

What muscle groups are most fatigued when you finish a hard bike workout? If your answer is your quads, then you may be pushing too much and not pulling enough. If your answer is your hamstrings, the opposite would be true. 

Are you using your glutes enough? Maintaining consistent power into the pedals throughout the entire pedal stroke is key for efficient cycling. This requires using ALL leg muscles at the appropriate time. If you have trouble maintaining even power and cadence, identify where you feel imbalances. 

If you really want to go the extra mile (pun intended), give this at-home movement test a try to help you identify muscle imbalances: Identifying Movement Imbalances At Home

Anaerobic Power / Short Intervals

Similar to swimming, the focus during this time of year is not usually on building volume or long work sets. Athletes who’ve been working with me for a while know firsthand we incorporate high-intensity intervals on a regular basis (Z5-Z6 efforts). These sessions are typically about 45-60 minutes long and provide a great bang for your buck. You can really boost your neuromuscular capabilities while also tapping into different energy systems within the body.

Bike Fit

If your last bike fitting was more than two years ago, it’s probably wise to schedule one soon. This isn’t something you want to do during the racing season or even leading up to it. You usually need some time to get acclimated to any adjustments made during your bike fitting, which means winter is generally the most appropriate time for this to be done. 

Running Focus Areas: Form & Breathing 

Form & Technique 

If your running form could use some work, this is a great time to identify potential problem areas and work on modifications. A gait analysis is a great way to identify inefficiencies in your running form. 

On the other hand, if you have good running mechanics, focus on efficiency and strength instead. Improving cadence, hill running, and working on some drills after your runs will pay dividends come race season.


Are you a chest breather? If you’re not sure, then you probably are. Diaphragmatic breathing (basically, into the belly) is more efficient and controls heart rate better than traditional chest breathing. If you’ve never tried this breathing method before or have struggled to utilize it, this is a great time to practice. It’s best to try it on easy/recovery runs before attempting it during harder sessions. You can even work on it during easier cycling sessions first and then transition over to running when you feel more comfortable.  

Strength & Mobility Focus Areas 

Strength Training 

If you typically don’t include strength training in your program, start now. Try to complete two strength sessions per week. This can be total-body for both days or split up as upper body and lower body days. 

You don’t need to dedicate a lot of time to reap the benefits of strength training. A lot can be accomplished in only 30-45 minutes. If you have been strength training two times per week regularly, you may want to add an extra session during the winter months. If it doesn’t fit into your schedule, consider varying your routine instead. Different exercises, muscle group splits, sets/reps scheme, repetition speed, and varying weight/resistance can be very effective ways to improve your overall strength program.

For a few tips on how to get started, check out this article: Strength Training for Performance

Mobility & Flexibility

Perhaps the most neglected area of training, mobility and flexibility is paramount throughout the year (not just winter). Flexibility is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to lengthen passively through a range of motion, and mobility is the ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion. If you aren’t dedicating time to routinely work on this, then you need to start right now. 

For example, if your running warm-up is simply running slow at the beginning of the run, then you aren’t properly preparing your body for the session. While it’s not always crucial for short, easy recovery sessions, it can make a huge difference for your key workouts. Active and/or dynamic stretching is best used BEFORE training, whereas static stretching is appropriate AFTER. 

Dedicate the time now to explore ways in which your body feels the most recovered, whether it’s foam rolling, myofascial release, or massage. You might even consider giving one (or all) of the techniques mentioned here: 5 Methods for Faster Muscle Recovery

Whether it’s in the swim, bike, run, or general strength, there are several key areas you should focus on now. Devote the most time to your most significant limiter and work down from there. 

The winter and early spring months are the best time to turn your weaknesses into strengths. It won’t happen overnight, but with time and dedication, you’ll definitely notice a difference on race day.

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About Adam D’Agostino

Adam D’Agostino is a USA Triathlon (USAT) Level 2 Certified Coach, IRONMAN Certified
Coach, TrainingPeaks Level 2 Certified Multisport Coach, & US Masters Swimming (USMS)
Level 3 Coach. Adam is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal
Trainer (CPT) and has additional certifications from NASM as a Corrective Exercise
Specialist (CES), Mixed Martial Arts Conditioning Specialist (MMACS), & Nutrition/Weight
Loss Specialist (WLS). In addition, he holds TRX certifications in Suspension Training (STC)
& Functional Training (FTC). Adam competes in triathlons of all distances and qualified for
the USAT National Championships 10 times (2012-2019, 2022, 2023). He is a multiple-time
IRONMAN, as well as a two-time qualified athlete on Team USA for the ITU Multisport World
Championships in Long-Distance Triathlon (2017 & 2019). Adam is the owner and head
coach of Next Level Training & Performance in NJ, where he specializes in Triathlon
Coaching, Personal Training, Nutrition, & Athlete Performance.

Visit Adam D’Agostino's Coach Profile

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