Winter Triathlon Training

By adding the following in to your winter triathlon training, you will be taking big steps to become stronger, fitter and faster for your racing in 2017. First of all  get an MOT for yourself, then armed with this information you can improve your training and racing with better mobility, improved individual discipline technique whilst building the all important foundation of endurance, strength and speed.

The MOT

Just like a car, your body benefits from a check over to identify imbalances and potential injury risks. Starting your winter triathlon training with a screening by a physiotherapist who has an understanding of the demands of triathlon or a with a DIY version. The DIY version whilst not as thorough as a physio, will give you a great starting point, helping to identify any imbalances in balance, muscle strength and or function, which have been shown to be a cause of injury in triathletes (McHardy et al 2006; Gosling et al, 2008 Migliorinin 2011;Vleck and Alves, 2011) along with over use injuries, or more simply put, doing more training than your body is able to cope with. More is not always better!

For the DIY MOT use exercises that isolate a single side, or muscle group to build a check sheet of your current state and what you need to work on to redress any imbalances in flexibility or strength..  The list below are some of the exercises that you could use to work out your hot spots.

  • One legged standing – balance.
  • Deep Squat – lower body range of motion.
  • Single leg squat / skater squat – isolating each leg.
  • Side plank – side stability / strength.
  • Hip Flexors – Spiderman / Couch Stretch.
  • Frog Stretch  – adductor / groin flexibility.
  • Hamstrings – lying on back raising a straight leg.
  • Calf / Achilles – single leg  raises for strength, knee to wall for flexibility.
  • Chest & Shoulder – doorway shoulder stretch.
  • Latissimus dorsi (Lats) – side bends.

Mobility

If you haven’t got the necessary range of motion and a good level of general body conditioning, your at a higher risk of getting an injury and missing out on the power generating ability your body has. Triathlon is simple enough, you swim, bike and run. Each of the disciplines works different parts of the body, which in turn effect the other disciplines. Swimming tightens up the upper body and the calves, which without stretching back to normal levels will effect your running. Cycling will tighten up shoulders and chest, particularly if you spend a lot of time down on the aero-bars, along with the hip flexors and Iliotibial (IT) band, again having a detrimental effect on your running. Running unlike swimming and cycling is an impact sport, placing high levels of stress on  joints and muscles in the lower body, which is an area where triathletes have a high incidence of injuries, such as in the  Achilles, Calves,  and IT band. Stretching out after each session for a few minutes is advisable to bring your body back to a normal flexibility range and spending a little extra time on area of imbalance.

Aim to spend two minutes working on each area that you  need to improve,  for a least 10 minutes a day. This may also include foam rolling areas that need attention. If you’ve got a long list then break it up by working on upper body one day, lower the next.   A great place to start if your not sure is with your hip flexors, hamstrings, groin/adductors and calves for your lower body and chest, shoulders and back.  You can break this up, with 5 minutes post training and another 5mins in the evening whilst catching up on a little TV.  Advert breaks are perfect for a little stretch or some foam rolling.

Technique

Improving technique in any of the disciplines is going to help you become more efficient, helping you maintain your speed for longer and or enable you to increase the power you can generate through better movement. So potentially a win, win situation. Improving technique is best done with expert guidance and needs patience and persistence. Swimming is a skillful sport and the time savings that can be made by improving technique and becoming more efficient can far out way the marginal gains from £££ spent on aero bike parts. Don’t forget the skill and technique on bike and  run though, learning how to corner or descend more confidently and faster will save you time on race day and becoming  more economical will help prevent injuries and allow you to maintain your speed when the fatigue towards the end of the race starts to kick in.

Endurance

Improving your aerobic engine over the winter months, or to coin a phase, ‘putting miles in to the bank’ is great advice. Our bodies can not operate to 100% race readiness all year around. This doesn’t just have to be long slow miles, but making the aerobic sessions and overall aerobic volume of your training week a focus you will improve your aerobic ability and durability. An honest aerobic intensity is where you can have a conversation, or sing to yourself whilst exercising, this then raises to a tempo or threshold training level when you could only answer question with a single word answer, rising further to full on concentration and no speaking when hitting maximum oxygen uptake or interval training.

Winter is also a great time to go mountain biking, a long walk or hike. You are still being active and challenging your body in a different way, providing a different stimulus to the muscles, improving skills and hopefully adding some variety and fun.

Strength with a sprinkling of speed

To build strength you do not need to hit the gym and the weights. Emphasizing sports specific strength workouts, such as using paddles in the pool, over gearing on the bike or running up hills  will help improve your strength. This is not only time effective, but also builds your aerobic engine at the same time. If you have time, adding a short circuit  once or twice a week that works all major muscle groups, with 2-3 sets will also hep improve your general conditioning and all round body strength. The circuit bellow is an example, which works the whole body.

  • Press ups
  • Single leg Romanian dead lifts
  • Right side  planks
  • Glute bridges – single or double leg
  • Pull ups
  • Single leg squats
  • Side plank right
  • Tricep dips

You could do the circuit for a set amount of time for each exercise, say 30 seconds or a set number of reps.

Ian Piper conditioning coach to the medal winning Team GB Triathlon team has some great advise in this Daily Telegraph interview.

A sprinkle of speed in the form of fast 25s in the pool, 15-30s fast pick ups cycling and running with a full recovery has a number of benefits including to help keep the neuro-muscular memory in place, build power whilst helping improve co-ordination and efficiency.  Once or twice a week in each of the sports is enough. Don’t force the effort, aim to stay relaxed, holding your best possible form throughout and make sure to be fully recovered for your next rep. 4-6 efforts is plenty.

Conclusion 

  • Get an MOT for yourself be it professionally or the DIY version and make a plan to fix your imbalances.
  • Spend a minim of 10 minutes a day working on  your mobility, focusing on those imbalances.
  • Add a little conditioning and strength work to your warm ups and downs, which is effective and time efficient.
  • Work on your technique to become more efficient and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Build your endurance by focusing on overall aerobic volume and sprinkle with a little speed work.

References

Gosling, Cameron McR., Belinda J. Gabbe, and Andrew B. Forbes. “Triathlon Related Musculoskeletal Injuries: The Status Of Injury Prevention Knowledge”. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 11.4 (2008): 396-406. Web.

Migliorini, Sergio. “Risk Factors And Injury Mechanism In Triathlon”. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise 6.2 (Suppl.) (2011): 309-314. Web.

“Triathlon Injuries: A Review Of The Literature And Discussion Of Potential Injury Mechanisms”. Clinical Chiropractic 9.3 (2006): 129-138. Web.

Vleck, V. and F. B. Alves. “Triathlon Injury Review”. British Journal of Sports Medicine 45.4 (2011): 382-383. Web.