By nature, triathletes love to swim, bike and run. That is our sport. That is what we do.
However, if there is one area that I have found many age group triathletes tend to overlook it is strength. Adding gym time to an already busy life of swim, bike and run can seem impossible. Now, as an age group athlete with responsibilities outside of our sport I completely get it. There simply aren’t enough hours in a week to do everything. This is where periodizing your strength work must become a priority.
As an athlete I always looked at the winter (what was once off season in our sport) as the time to “get strong” again. I always found I came into the season a very “strong” athlete. I may not have been at my fastest, that was reserved for end of season races, but I was strong and I was very aerobically fit. As a season would roll by and my training intensity and racing would take priority I always felt that my strength would slowly diminish. I would arrive at that last race of the year fast and fit and (due to all the strength training I had done in the off season) I was still strong enough to get one last performance out of myself. However, I always felt that I was at the end of what I could successfully do with the strength I had built up over the off season.
This is why I encourage my athletes to take the time over these winter months to get back in the gym. Make your body strong. The benefits are numerous; increased efficiency, power and speed in all three sports due to better body mechanics, injury prevention, bone health, weight management and overall health. Plus, it is just nice to do something different that doesn’t involve distance.
One of the things that holds many triathletes back is the unfamiliarity, and in some cases, intimidation of a gym setting. This is common and don’t feel that you are alone in this fear. The fact is many strength programs are designed with limited equipment needs and can be done in the comfort of ones house using mainly body weight. Many of these programs can be found online with a simple google search.
Another option is to hire a personal trainer for a few sessions to set you up with a triathlon specific program. Again, there is a cost involved and often times these routines will require the equipment found in proper gyms. The great thing about this route is that you will have a strength coach right there monitoring and correcting your form which is an integral part of getting the most out of your program.
Recently I have found an alternative for those that have some experience in the gym, but may lack some of the motivation or desire when they arrive there. There is an application called VOLT that can be put on your phone. This “app” not only periodizes a training plan, it gives you video examples of each exercise as you are using it. Volt also monitors and adjusts the weights with the feedback you give after each set. One of the other features that is very beneficial is that it allows you to replace exercises with similar ones if you don’t have the available equipment. Having done variations of the same strength routine for a number of years, I have found that having this new way to train has been a great motivator. There is a small monthly fee, but so far it has been well worth the investment.
Whatever route you decide to go, there are really no down sides to getting in the gym and increasing your overall strength. In the end you will likely end up a faster, better athlete and healthier human in the long run.