Off season training plan: Three-time Norseman winner Allan Hovda

By Chris Knight | 6 Minute Read

As part of our off season training series, we're looking into the training plans of elite athletes with PH in their bottles.

We've already spoken to pro triathlete Scott DeFilippis and two-time Olympian Eilish McColgan to find out how they're approaching the next few months, and next up is the three-time winner of the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon, Allan Hovda...

 

Hi Allan, great to meet you. Let's get started by taking a look at how you approach the off season - is there a particular discipline that you'll be working on specifically?

Hi PH, good to be here. I have one physical coach. He’s my main coach, and I also have a mindset coach, who helps me with analysis. She's quite new into triathlon, so she doesn’t know more about the sport than me, but she's good at asking the right questions. So we go through the races, and break everything down to see where I really need to improve. 

Swimming is my number one priority this winter. So, to nail the swim is the most important thing.

My priority number two is nailing the sleep, because I’m not a great sleeper. I have had some issues with my sleeping pattern because I'm a 'night owl'.

I could have longer periods where I’ll be sleeping between 6 and 7 hours, which isn’t horrible, but for a professional athlete training 20 hours, it’s not enough. 

I found my sleeping pattern is probably not good enough, because I measure it with my watch. But then how can I improve? I’ve been reading the book Why We Sleep, and after reading it, I'm like, "sh!t, I’ve got to get this together".

There’s no way out of it. I have to do what it takes to get that sorted out.

It’s also advice I give to other triathletes if I don’t think they’re doing it right. Nail the basics of training, nutrition and hydration, and sleep. That accounts for 90% of your performance. 

 

Allan Hovda, Jonny Tye and Andy Blow
Source: Andy Blow ©

 

So, how will you be looking to nail those basics during this off season? 

We’re going to do a slightly longer off season because I was starting training a bit too early in years gone by. I’m not too good at having complete rest, so my trainer has to force me to do a longer off season!

Now we’re at 10-15 hours of training. We’ll probably then move up to 15-20 hours, and we’ll start with strength training, which is something completely new to me this year.

I’ve never done systematic strength training in my life but I’m hoping to get better power.

When you’re early in your twenties, you get a lot of strength training from just doing the sport, but this is a way to improve it even more. When you’re getting older, I'm 33 now, it’s more important.

So actually, I hope to gain more power, and maybe improve my swimming with an increased core stability.

 

And how will those training hours be divided? I imagine you'll be spending more time in the pool then? 

We’re going to go 'all-in' on the swim, so we’ll probably do maybe 6-7 hours swimming each week, which will involve five sessions. Then we’re probably going to have 4 or 5 hours on the bike and maybe 2 or 3 hours on the run.

 

Excellent, how would a typical day of training look like for you? Is there even such a thing as a 'typical day'? 

It does depend. When I was working full-time, I was up at 5.55am, on my turbo five minutes later and doing threshold intervals. That was super hard, but I had to do it to get the sessions done

But now I work part-time I can train in the daytime, so I can have a nice breakfast and morning with my son and wife. Usually she has to go to work earlier than we have to do our things, so then we just play and do fun stuff, and then we go to the nursery and I go swimming.

So, typically, I go for a swim first, and then I have something to eat post-swimming, and then I either go and do grocery shopping or some house cleaning, or just some administrative work. It can be writing blog posts or following up with sponsors and stuff like that. Then I’ll do my second session maybe an hour or so after my first.

When I’m finished with that session, I usually go to the nursery and pick up my son again, so then we’re having quality time. Often we can go to the pool so he can play and I can recover! Other times we’re just outside, experiencing the world.

 

Allan Hovda
Source: Allan Hovda Instagram ©

 

Sounds like a lovely balance, although does living in Oslo, Norway, make it difficult to get out and train during these harsher winter months?

I do have a mountain bike with winter tyres, so I can ride outside in the winter, but it’s only something I do for a long endurance ride and if it’s good weather.

It can be a nice experience, but I would reckon that at least 80% of my training will be done indoors. It’s quite time-efficient to get on the turbo and I enjoy the process of it.

I like to watch documentaries to keep myself occupied and it's also a nice time to catch up on shows like the Global Triathlon Network or watch the YouTube channels of Sebastian Kienle and Lionel Sanders. 

We don’t have a TV, so I have Netflix on my computer, but I never watch it unless I’m on the turbo. It’s the only time I can watch anything. And I don’t do Zwift, or at least I haven’t used it yet. I just control my power manually.

 

Really? How much of a challenge can it be manually controlling your own power? 

I ride with the Tacx Neo Turbo, and they’ve got their own app. So I just put in my own numbers. I haven’t tried anything else, so I can imagine it may be more entertaining to use Indoor Training Platforms like Zwift.

I have a range of power goals. If I’m riding, it can be like hold between 320 and 340 watts for X amount of minutes. If I’m just doing it manually, then I’m better doing it by trying to feel the right intensity.

 

What's your approach with doing so much of your training alone? Do you enjoy the solitude or do you crave interaction with other athletes?

If I’m doing long rides outdoors, doing it alone is fine. Doing it with someone else is better, but three's a crowd!

So, either I do it alone or with some other guy, or someone I know who is able to keep the pace I want and doesn’t go way too hard at the start, which is quite common.

Also, doing my training in the normal work hours means it’s difficult to find someone to train with. My local gym is in the basement in the apartment building where I live, so it’s quite practical to just go down there and train instead of meeting someone.

So I do most of my training alone, but now actually my local pool is going to close, so I have to change and I’m going to join a swim squad. 

I think the swim is probably a beneficial place to train with others, because when you're on your own it's easy to avoid forcing yourself to go at your maximum pace when you're supposed to be.

But if you’re on the turbo and you say, “I’m going to push 400 watts,” then you have to push 400 watts, unless you’re not able to turn the pedals around.

And if you set the treadmill on 18 kilometres per hour, you have to run 18 kilometres per hour.

But in the pool, you don’t have to do anything unless you’re swimming with others and have to keep up. So that’s something I’m looking forward to.

 

Allan Hovda bike
Source: Allan Hovda Instagram ©

 

The off season can be viewed as a monotonous, necessary evil by some athletes, but how do you keep yourself motivated?

Being very self-motivated of course helps a lot, because at the end of the day, triathlon is not your work.

As a professional, it might be your work, but for most people it’s not. And even as a professional, you have to enjoy it.

If you need to train with others to find motivation and find it fun, then that’s obviously something that you should do.

But also be training at the right intensity, at the right moments. I know a lot of people who are training with others and training in clubs, and every easy Sunday ride is turning into a pure race. 

 

And finally, what's in store for you in 2020? Is the racing calendar taking shape? 

It’s quite similar to 2019. I’m doing the North American Championship, which this year was in Texas and in 2020 is in St George. Some of the top pro athletes are normally racing there, so hopefully it's a competitive field which gives me the best chance of having a good swim, and the rest I can sort out.

Then I’m doing the Norseman again, and then I’m doing another Ironman in the fall. I might do Ironman Frankfurt in between St George and Norseman, but it’s a bit undecided because we've just had a new baby! 

I think it’s more than six months until my next race, but I’m feeling in a bit of a hurry already. So I’m super motivated to improve and find those gains before starting racing again.

 

Congratulations on the new addition to the Hovda family and good luck with improving those sleeping patterns in 2020... I'm sure a new baby will help!

Chris Knight - Marketing Manager

Chris Knight

Marketing Manager

Chris has an MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the University of the West of England, Bristol and is an NCTJ-accredited journalist. He's had work published in The Guardian, The Sportsman, All Out Cricket magazine and more. He's particularly interested in the mental side of sport.

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