Triathlon Training: Do’s and Don’ts

With the recent break in the weather, many Western New Yorkers are tying their laces, pumping air into their bike tires, and digging the swimsuit out of the bottom drawer. For some, they are simply prepping for a day at the beach. But for an ever-growing community of athletes, the combination of sneakers, bikes, and swimsuits can only mean one thing: TRIATHLON SEASON! A triathlon is a three part race, in which participants consecutively swim, then bike, and finish with running. Triathlons are growing in popularity as people strive to become fit and fuel their competitive nature.

Signing up and training for a triathlon can seem like a daunting task. However, setting yourself up with a proper training program will lead you down the road to success. One of the most difficult things about planning the training program is where to start. The best way to ensure a successful and gratifying finish is to stay healthy!

Numerous researchers have reported that between 47% and 75% of triathletes experience injuries secondary to overuse (1). The most common discipline to see overuse injuries is running. Running involves greater forces, pressure, and stress on the body compared to biking and swimming. The common areas injured during running include the lower leg (19%), ankle (16%), and knee (15%) (1). Don’t let those numbers intimidate you. By improving flexibility, strength, and incorporating adequate recovery time, you can prevent injury.

What is flexibility?

Flexibility is more than just the muscle’s ability to stretch. It is how well the joint can move and its level of productivity during an activity. With the amount of training required for a triathlon, it is important to stretch muscles that are recruited the most during each of the disciplines.

1. Key Areas To Stretch

1. Calf Muscles
2. Hip flexors or quadriceps
3. Hamstrings
4. Latissimus dorsi
5. Pectoral Muscles (Chest)

What is strength?

A common misconception for strength training is that one must lift as much weight as possible for as many repetitions as possible. Thankfully, this isn’t the case. The key to strength training is targeting right muscle groups for their specific activity (think sport specific training). Your strength training will be different for each part of the competition, but one theme remains present; you want to dynamically load the muscles in multiple planes of movement.

1. Key Areas To Strengthen

Swimming: Back and shoulders – lat pull downs, triceps extensions, pectoral flies
Biking: Glutes – Squats, lunges, and single leg dynamic exercises
Running: Glutes & Core– multidirectional squats, single leg dynamic exercises, lunges, planks

What is recovery?

One of the most difficult things about triathlon training is finding a sufficient amount of time to allot to each training session. On top of organizing sufficient training times, most have to juggle when to “fit in” their work out between their work and family life. Athletes will rationalize cutting corners to fit in as much training as possible. These corners often include recovery, proper warm-up and cool down, nutrition, and sleep (2). As you increase the distance and intensity of your workout, your muscles, connective tissues, and joints require longer periods of recovery to ensure proper healing. If you don’t include an adequate amount of recovery time, you are more likely to suffer from an overuse injury (2).

1. Keys to Plan Recovery

1. Schedule lifting days 2x/week preferably the same day as swimming training
2. Sleep about 7-8 hours each night
3. Consume protein source immediately after a workout
4. Schedule training sessions with at least 24-48 hours recovery in between
5. Schedule 1-2 rest days per week
6. Hydrate (16-24 oz for every pound lost during activity)

The best part about a triathlon is that each of the three disciplines are not treated equally. Each discipline will give your body a different workout. Competing and completing a triathlon can provide you a host of benefits (physically AND mentally). Ensuring time for proper recovery, flexibility, and strengthening will save you time (and pain) from an injury. Use these tips to train smarter, not harder and I’ll see you out there!


References:

1. Joshua Burns, Anne-Maree Keenan, and Anthony Redmond. “Factors Associated with Triathlon-Related Overuse Injuries.” J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2003;33(4):177-184. Web.
2. Daniel Cipriani, Jeff Swartz, and Cynthia Hodgson. “Triathlon and the Multisport Athlete.” J Orthop Sports Phys Ther.1998;27(1):42-50. Web.
3. Kyle Herig. “Injury Prevention Advice for Triathletes.” http://www.triathlete.com/2014/06/training/advice-on-preventing-injuries-for-triathletes_78581

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