In Endurance sports like cycling, running and in particular triathlon, athletes must train a remarkable amount of volume to improve in all 3 disciplines, the swimming, cycling and running.
At the elite Ironman or Olympic Distance level it is not uncommon to exercise over 28hrs each week – that’s about 5 to 8 hours of swimming, 15 to 18 hours of cycling and 8 to 10 hours of running. In Germany we have a saying that “der Athlete wird im Winter gemacht” or “the athlete is made in the winter months”. It is clear that in order to achieve better performances we have to build a bigger aerobic foundation that enables our athlete’s body to tolerate, recover and absorb gradually more training volume and high intensity training as well.
The more we train the more we need to be careful and pay attention to recovery and injury prevention. We need to focus and concentrate continuously on the little things as much as we have to priorities every single training session. Training for Triathlons is pretty straight forward and yet a lot of things can go wrong and not done the right way.
We always want to make sure that we understand what we are trying to achieve before we set out to train, understand why we do the things that we put in our workout and then also realize that it is possible to do the wrong training at the wrong times, train too little or train too much, train too easy or too hard.
Pay attention. Focus. Concentrate. Do it and then repeat. Simple.
Pre-season training (or winter training as I like to call it) is not all about building a base but also about vital strength and conditioning work in the gym and outside on the field.
We, as triathletes, need to develop stronger movement patterns, work on improving economy of movements by minimizing energy loss therefore maintaining efficiency of movement.
Now, it would be a mistake to assume that we hit the gym, load up on weights and bulk up with muscles. Have you ever seen a world-class runner look like HULK? Probably not. Carrying excessive upper body mass increases oxygen requirements substantially and, of course, is slowing us down.
We are looking to improve triathlon performances with exercises that develop strength, agility and flexibility (elasticity) in our lower & upper body muscles through which training performance will be facilitated and injuries prevented.
When we run we put our legs under enormous stress. A massive amount of force is moving through our legs which means we need very stiff Achilles and calf muscles to handle this stress and prevent energy loss. Strength drills (plyometrics) help us to develop stronger Achilles, stiffen soft tissue and improve muscle elasticity.
What I will outline concerns runners and triathletes who have been doing the sport for more then one year. Beginners and people new to running need to take a different route initially and spend time running aerobically (easy) for 8 to 12 weeks to allow the soft tissue to stiffen. I encourage beginners to be patient and build volume of running carefully. Trust me that staying free of injury leads to uninterrupted training which yields great gains eventually.
Lower leg strength drills (ply0):
- Double or Single-leg calf raises with BW initially then progress to adding weights
- Hoping (two, single leg), bouncing, jumping (skipping rope)
- Skipping exercises
Later on if you want you can progress from working with bodyweight to adding weights and changing speed of movement to challenge muscles in new ways.
Most triathlon injuries tend to be running related due to it’s high-impact and the fact that we carry fatigue from cycling training. The injury risk tends to go up even further when we don’t run with good running form. When you run 6-8mile just think for a minute about the total count your foot strikes the ground, the total amount of impact and movement. Now, you can see how easy it is to get injured.
A strong posterior chain will help us to perform better in training and races. The goal is to develop a stabile & solid posture for smooth upper body mechanics, improved energy transfer between lower & upper body and the absorption of vertical impact forces.
- Lower back
- Pelvic (hip area)
- Hamstrings and
- Upper body.
I quickly came up with a short list of great exercises you might want to try in your next core workout:
- Side planks/Leg raise
- Mule kicks
- Back extensions
- Planks (moving hip up and down)
- Side planks (up/down)
- Glute bridge
- Single leg Romanian dead lift
- Push ups
- seated row with cable
- Medicine slams (explosive)
- single leg squats, single leg bouncing, single leg jumps
- seated squats…etc
I think it is important to recognize that when we talk about core strength it is not only about working on abdominal muscles but a broader range that begins with stiff achilles, strong soft tissues, robust leg muscles, gluts, pelvis (strong hip that’s functions as a bridge between upper and the lower body), a strong lower back and is completed with a robust upper body.
Thanks for reading and happy training,