March 05, 2018 - Fine tune all aspects of triathlon. Sometimes you have to go slow before you can go fast! Do not neglect the technique involved with each of the 3 sports!
Most triathletes are now well into a winter build phase with the goal of putting down the groundwork of base fitness. With that base fitness phase, many triathletes also are setting a foundation or improving on their weakest link. I tell athletes this all the time; your sport is to swim, bike, and run. Notice I did not say your “sports”, because we need to treat triathlon as one sport and not three. The first step to improvement is realizing that you do indeed have a weakness. Too many triathletes identify as a runner at heart / cyclist / swimmer, and devote too much time to be the fastest runner / cyclist / swimmer. By no means do you want to lose your competitive advantage, but you may need to allow your best discipline to take a backseat while you focus on the discipline that holds you back the most.
Figuring out which discipline is your weak link is the easy part. Each discipline has its own nuances and aspects you may need to work on the most. Within that discipline, what is holding you back the most? Do you lack: speed, strength, endurance, or is it biomechanical / technical? Depending on what aspect is your weakness, you will have to attack your training differently. Before we dive into some strategies for improvement, I will state that 90% of triathletes need to improve their swimming technique before anything else. ANY equipment is meant as a tool to ADD upon someone who already possesses good stroke mechanics.
· [Bike] Most triathletes don’t think much about technical skills on the bike, or much about their biomechanical efficiency in their pedal stroke. However, technical skills on the bike is a huge way to drop time in a race. First off, the biggest thing is comfort on the bike! If you are comfortable with your handling and pedaling, you will be able to ride faster with less effort. If you are tensed up the whole time or nervous about crashing, you are not going to be breathing normally, and you will feel incredibly tight when you get off to go run. The next aspect is cadence. I am not going to join the debate about what the optimal cadence is for triathlon. In fact, there is no optimal cadence, everyone has a different “sweet spot” for cadence. However, that does not mean you should not train higher and lower cadences. Low cadence work will show you if you are a pedal masher and expose the dead spots in your pedal stroke. High cadence is even more unforgiving. Learning how to become efficient at both cadences will allow you to be stronger and more efficient in your normal race cadence.
· [Run] Running is a lot more technical than most people think. But the main force you are fighting is gravity. Running is essentially a controlled fall in which you are finding your sweet spot to stay balanced over your center of gravity. Running drills and activation drills are KEY to not only running faster but staying injury free. These sessions are almost never utilized by most triathletes. Everyone knows that you want to land directly under your body, not to over stride, and to run with a higher cadence. However, most people do not know how to properly get to this point. AJ Baucco Coaching’s own Alex Libin has a fantastic approach to solve this issue. Using speed ladder drills and hurdle based plyometrics, as well as resisted and angular running to reteach your body how to run. We will be releasing an article to show you the activation exercises and running drills that will teach your body how to do all of these things. Our approach is as simple as this. Give the brain the tools it needs to adapt, and the body will follow. However, practice makes perfect, these drills need to be done on a consistent basis.
· [Swim] Swimming is arguably the most technical aspect of triathlon. Many have trouble with body awareness in the water, especially with the overhead motion. However, swimming is simply about moving your body THROUGH the water…not AGAINST the water. The first step to swimming well is finding your balance or your center. Keep in mind that in swimming your center of gravity moves up away from your hips and toward your torso. Your lungs are 2 big balloons that will float up! Learn to kick balancing on your stomach, then your sides then practice rotating from your stomach to each side without losing that balance point! Now add in some arms and that is really swimming in a nutshell. Your body position really doesn’t change much except for a side to side rotation. Worry less about your catch and your kick timing and all these extra breathing techniques. Find your perfect body position first. Then let everything else fall into place. The catch is highly related to feel and body position. BUT if you have poor body position your catch is basically useless, so before reading ahead FIX YOUR BODY POSITION! For your catch, learn to swim fast with your fists closed. Then flip a paddle upside down and place it under your forearm, holding the top of the paddle. Both drills will teach help you explore build a better “feel” for the water.
The most important thing is to have fun with it! Going fast is fun!
STAY TUNED IN AS WE EXPLORE OUR RUNNING TECHNIQUE/ DRILLS/ ACTIVATION ARTICLE COMING SOON!
Christopher J Lee
Triathlon Coach @ AJ Baucco Coaching
Former Head Coach CU Boulder Swimming
NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
FMS Functional Movement Systems Lvl 1
NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist
Stages Cycling Certified