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Ben Hoffman’s cold weather preference

Ben Hoffman
Ben Hoffman

You would think that pro triathletes always seek warm conditions to prepare for their season. Not Ben Hoffman, who captured fourth place at the 2016 Ironman World Championship in Kona. The 32-year-old American lives and trains a big part of the year in Colorado where the temperatures drop significantly in winter. TMC contributor Marcia Jansen spoke with Hoffman about the challenges of training in winter.

Ben Hoffman lives in Boulder, Colorado, located at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 1,655 meters above sea level. The sun shines 300 days a year in Boulder, but it can get pretty cold in winter. The city is not only popular with snow seekers, but also with endurance athletes who like to train at altitude. Unlike most other triathletes, Hoffman stays in Boulder for a part of the winter too. “My family lives in Colorado and I do enjoy having the seasons,” says the Bahrain Endurance Team athlete. “As a triathlete, I have a self-involved lifestyle that can push people away. So I try to keep balance by spending time with my friends and family in the offseason. That gives me a lot of energy.”

Hoffman grew up in Grand Junction, Colorado, a four-hour drive from Boulder. He was into athletics, basketball, and soccer, and undertook bicycle tours with his parents. Hoffman discovered triathlon at the age of 21 when he moved to Missoula to study at the University of Montana. In Missoula, where the temperatures plunge in winter as well, he learned to be creative about his winter training. “I have no swimming background and the cold winter weather gave me the opportunity to focus on my weakest discipline. Now I am a decent swimmer, but it took me a lot of hours in the pool to get there. Biking was a challenge, but when it was too cold or just too much snow to go on the road I rode my mountain bike. And I ran a lot on the trails as well. I love it when everything is quiet and feels fresh after a new snowfall.”

Hoffman learned to adapt to the circumstances, but now embraces the cold winters back home. “At the start of my career it was sometimes hard for me when I couldn’t follow my training plan because of the cold weather, but now I just take it the way it is. The winter is a time to take it a little bit more easy, to focus on other things so you can start the new season with new energy.”

Ben Hoffman’s tips for training in winter

Cross training

“Cross training – training in different sports – brings you physical and mental advantages. It gives you the opportunity to take a break from swimming, biking and running alone, and to try something new. It’s smart to choose activities which benefit you as a triathlete. You could start strength training, go skiing; or just following a different class in the gym can give your body a boost. I personally enjoy occasional skate skiing, downhill skiing, some hiking, and more time in yoga class.”

Strength training

“The winter is a perfect time for spending more time in the gym. The primary focus for me is on building strength in the legs and core, with significant time spent on squats, leg press, lots of mobility exercises, and core focus. I also do some work with light dumbbells and stretch cords for swim strength.”

Biking in winter 

“I’m really not good at spending much time on the trainer, so I try to go outside as much as I can. I love mountain biking; in the forest it’s less cold and I love the variety it brings.  If I can’t avoid the trainer, I usually do a variety of single leg drills, then work my way into intervals when I am warmed up. A typical ride could be a 30-minute warm-up, 10 minutes alternating single leg, 5 minutes low cadence big gear work, then into 10×5 minutes at Ironman power with equal rest, then a cool down.”