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January 6, 2011 | Triathlon Training Blog

Pro Triathlete Lesley Paterson Talks About the 'Off-season'

Professional triathlete Lesley Paterson is somewhat of a ‘trickster:’ With her tiny build, electric smile, and striking good looks, she seemingly fits perfectly into the world of her other career as a writer-producer/actress/coach.

Peel back the layers and you’ll see a very different side.  This ‘chick’—no insult, just Lesley’s own Scottish translation for female—is one mighty, hard-charging force on the race course.

Last spring, at the Rohto Ironman 70.3 race in Oceanside, Paterson placed 2nd female overall (4:02) behind Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrea’s 4:20:29 finish.

In 2009, at the Xterra World Championship, the Scotland-born San Diego transplant also finished second behind  the 70.3 World Champ Julie Dibons. This year, her plan is to revisit the Rohto 70.3 Oceanside race while also competing at the 70.3 Xterra and Ironman World Championships.

When I asked Paterson to talk about what off-season training looks like for a Pro triathlete, she didn’t hesitate to share her thoughts. Warning: What’s good for this ‘chick,’ could hurt you!

In her own words:

Isn’t it funny how people use the terminology ‘off season’ when talking about the winter.

Let’s just say that most triathletes by nature are neurotic, obsessive, over-achievers (or in more polite terms, Type A personalities). So how can we reasonably expect them to partake in anything that contains ‘off’ in the title? Add being a professional into the mix AND being a chick (Scottish for female), and you’re guaranteed a winter ‘on season.’

So while it is extremely important to have some down time once your race season is completed, you can’t get complacent. In the words of someone more famous than me, ‘medals are won in the winter and collected in the summer.’

Base Building


Following the lead from my coach Vince Fichera (slowstepcycling), I am now converted to base building at low heart rates. Efficiency and strength is everything in triathlon (especially in the longer 70.3 and full Ironman distances), so in each sport across the winter we focus on drills, form, long miles and weight training.

For swimming, I get video analysis, incorporate lots of drills, do long sets (200s, 400s, 800s, 1000s), and focus on strength by wearing a T-shirt for drag, tying up my ankles with an inner tube, swim bench work and using paddles for increased ‘feel for the water' and application of strength. Add in a sprinkling of butterfly and I’m good to go!

Swimming hours are between 5-9hrs per week, depending on the emphasis of a week.


Biking is the most labor-intensive of the three sports. Big miles means a lot of time in the saddle, with a few tubs of Vaseline to get you through. Pedal drills and big gear work is the order of the day: Climbing at low RPMs for strength and single leg drills to ensure efficiency and good form. Let’s just say you better have some great tunes on your iPod or some super hot riding partners to keep you occupied!

Biking hours are between 15-20hrs per week depending on emphasis of week.


As for running, this is the strongest of the three sports for me. So I spend less mileage and time on it. I’ll do long runs at a low heart rate on trails for strength, stability and agility.

Having grown up in the moors of Scotland, I know all too well the benefits of running off-road to keep the mind alive, the body versatile and injuries at bay. Finally, I add in some low-intensity form-based hill repeats to build on the strength and encourage good form on tired legs.

Running hours are between 4-7hrs per week, depending on emphasis of week.

As you can see, I don’t really have an ‘off season.’

But then again, if I had too much time to think, it could actually make me go crazy, wondering why the heck we do this to ourselves.


Next week, read about my interview with Justin Trolle, USAT elite Level III triathlon coach, to learn about the "dos and don'ts" of off-season training.  

By Marion Webb
Marion Webb

Marion Webb is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor. Webb has worked as a longtime award-winning business journalist, covering fitness, small business, health care and biotech issues. A competitive age-group triathlete and two-time ITU Long Distance World Championship qualifier, Webb competes mostly in the Half Ironman (70.3 miles) and (140.6 miles) Ironman distances.

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