“Below is some of the most valuable cross-training advice for triathletes. Interested to know what it is? Read on.”
The importance of triathlon cross-training is frequently drilled into the heads of runners, swimmers and bikers. Athletes from all three disciplines often cross over to different activities in hopes of strengthening different muscles or simply giving overworked body parts a break.
While triathlon cross-training advice is certainly valuable, it tends to be misconstrued by triathlon newbies. Often experts at one of the three big-name sports, these athletes sometimes assume that their new training schedule allows for unlimited work in all three disciplines. After all, high mileage certainly can’t be a problem if it’s split up between multiple sports… that’s called cross-training, right?
Wrong. When you add three different sports to your schedule, you need to take on a new approach. Whereas two of the three sports may have been approached casually in the past, you are now attempting to snag a decent time in these pursuits. This adds a new competitive layer to what was once a laid-back activity. And with that extra competition comes the potential for injury.
A study conducted at the University of Sydney shows that triathlons are certainly not exempt from the injuries that plague other athletes. After looking at 131 triathletes, researchers found that these competitors were every bit as likely to sustain injuries as runners. What’s more, triathletes were far more likely to get injured than athletes practicing swimming or biking alone.
How can the triathlete use cross training to improve performance? And what activities are the best to help running? Perhaps we should first look at activities that are not ideal cross-training substitutes for runners. Any high impact sports (with the ground or other people), and sports that involve a lot of lateral bounding, or stop and go movements, should be avoided. These include soccer, tennis, racquetball, handball, volleyball, rugby, and aerobic dance.
First, it’s doubtful that cyclists could improve their cycling by adding running to their training schedules. But it appears that cycling has a great impact on running. Unfortunately for triathletes swimming shows no correlation with improving running performance. To be effective, cycling should be done at a fast cadence-similar to your running cadence with the resistance being one you can handle for intense 5-20 minute workouts.
Deep-water Running (aka aquarunning)
Running in place in water can help your running. This is done with a life preserver or special belt or vest that helps keep the runner afloat. One study found that runners who did deep-water running for 6 weeks retained their racing times.
Use the Stairmaster for a no impact workout. According to one study, people who did stair-climbing workouts for 9 weeks improved their running performances. Not surprising really, as stairclimbing mimics uphill running, which consistently rates near the top in terms of improving VO2 max. The main criticism with stairclimbing is that it’s hard to set a fast step cadence on this machine.
Elliptical Fitness Trainers
The elliptical or oval movement can be used backwards or forwards, providing the opposing muscle groups some balance in the workout. It works the gluteals and hamstrings, two important muscle groups for runners. To date no research has shown this improves running performance, however common sense would indicate that if done at a high enough intensity, elliptical training certainly would not lose any running fitness.
Other Triathlon Cross-Training Advice
Try several of these recommended triathlon cross-training methods.
* Decide whether you are going to substitute any of your training runs with cross-training activities, or if you’re adding in one or two extra workouts each week.
* Cross training is best added to your training program on your easy running or rest days.
* Gradually add in your triathlon cross-training workouts, instead of adding 2-3 sessions in one week. But always allow at least one complete rest day each week.
* If you’re a semi-serious triathlete running 3-4 days each week, you can add in 1-2 days of cross training, or substitute 2-3 days with cross-training activities.
* If you’re a competitive triathlete, running 5-7 days a week, you can substitute 1-2 running workouts each week with cross training sessions.
* Make sure you maintain your long weekly run-this should never be substituted with cross training.
* If your running schedule calls for a 30 minute run, which you are trying to substitute with a cross-training workout, attempt to exercise for 30 minutes on cross-training equipment.
* It’s important that you work out at a high enough intensity to achieve improvement.
* Ask your fitness trainer to show you how to operate each piece of equipment before you use them.
* While you’re adjusting to the machines early in your workouts, you may not be able to complete a full 30-minute workout, so gradually build up your time on each machine or in the pool. Start at 10-15 minutes, and add 5 minutes on to each workout.
* As a general rule, you can substitute as much as 50% of your total volume (in minutes of exercise) from cross-training exercise in your off-season, and up to 25% in your competitive triathlon season.
* Use a heart rate monitor to ensure you get full benefit from your cross-training workout.
* Try to get your heart rate up into a similar zone to your normal running heart rate, or at least within 10 beats per minute. You probably won’t be able to get your HR right up to running levels because the cross-training exercises recommended here are non-or low weight bearing. Thus they don’t use the legs as much for anti-gravity work, and to support your body mass.
Of the studies done on cross-training most indicate it’s possible to improve your running and thus your triathlon running performance by incorporating or substituting other aerobic activities into your training program.
In addition, you may be able to squeeze one or two high intensity workouts in, on top of your regular running workouts, without the added impact trauma to muscles and joints. This should lead to reduced injury rates. But the devil’s in the details. Make sure you do high intensity cross training, rather than just “junk” time on the cross-training equipment.
More valuable triathlon cross-training tips on this video: