The New Year typically presents a renewed commitment to training for many athletes. Depending on your goals and the timing of your key races, you may be well into the groove of your training plan, however if you’re just getting back into the swing of things, improved performance starts now. Start laying the foundation for your season by following these fundamental terms to guide your training program.

Consistent
Any dedicated athlete is only as good as their ability to train consistently, which makes this the focus for most training plans. In order to train consistently, we must establish positive and healthy habits that will translate into a healthy and resilient mind and body. We all know you must be healthy and strong to adapt to any new training stress, and it’s the perfect time to commit to a new healthy habit. Remember, it takes approximately 21 days to establish a new habit, so determine which changes are necessary in your quest for health and be committed and consistent with your intentions. Each of the following terms also factor into your ability to train on a consistent basis.

Efficient
The body adapts and becomes stronger and faster in the way it is trained, making it increasingly important to ensure our movement patterns are as efficient as possible. This is a great time of year to assess your biomechanics in all three sports. Depending on your goals and respective strengths and weaknesses, it may be valuable to consider a single sport focus. If you’ve been really struggling with your swim year after year, remember that the same approach leads to the same outcome. Mix it up and train like a swimmer for a month, meaning the occasional 2x day sessions with increased frequency. Movement assessment can also be part of lessons and clinics. Check out your local clubs to find qualified coaches and instructors to assist with proper movement and anatomical assessments. Also, don’t forget the value and importance of a quality bike fit. Find an expert who’s trained in not only aerodynamics of positioning, but also in the biomechanics of the pedal stroke and what it takes to successfully run off the bike. Even slight changes in position can have a meaningful impact when it comes to efficiency on the bike and success on the run. As you’re working through your movement patterns and honing in on your efficiency, don’t get wrapped up on speed. Slow things down and really focus on drills to make the proper movement pattern stick for when you increase speed and volume later in your training program.

Strong
This is the prime time to set a strong foundation for endurance sports. If triathlon performance is your key fitness goal, then you need to strength train like a triathlete — not a bodybuilder. For example, instead of isolating muscles, use whole body actions such as dead lifts and squats for more extensive strength gains. In the weight room, focus on multiple-muscle movements that complement the sport of triathlon. We want to create a strong functional body for the movements you’ll do repetitively in your sport. We can achieve increased power by correcting muscular imbalances and working on core body strength and stability. This will ultimately decrease the likely hood of injuries as well. Pay special attention to the muscles of the core, including the hip complex and glutes — don’t be scared to bring back your 80s BUNS of Steel video! We must ensure the glutes are ready to do they work they’re designed to do. One to three weekly strength workouts can be combined with endurance training by extending the warm up and cool down. This can also be as simple as dynamic warm-ups such as side shuffles or monster walks with a band around your knees to get your glutes firing. Even just a few minutes pre workout can have a positive impact on the quality of your training session.

Healthy
While there are countless ways endurance athletes can improve their health, a few quick hits focus on lifestyle choices and addressing any existing health concerns or injuries. I can’t emphasis the value of quality sleep and eating a nutrient dense diet. Without this, you certainly won’t bet setting your body up to perform as its best. If you’ve been struggling with injuries, the causes of these problems should be found and corrected, which may require help from a professional. Get this resolved now for improved performance and resiliency throughout your season.

No off-season or winter plan is “one size fits all.” What you do this time of year should reflect your goals in the spring and upcoming season. This is such a fun time to define and/or examine your goals, select races, and create the action plan to make them happen! Over complicating training is the path to frustration, so when simplifying, remember to focus on being Consistent, Healthy, Strong and Efficient.

Cathy Yndestad is National Program Manager — Endurance Sports Training & Coaching at Life Time Fitness and an endurance coach for Life Time TRI TEAM. For information regarding training opportunities with Life Time TRI TEAM, visit www.lifetimeendurance.com.