From the BarryS Coaching Training Library

What is Your Weakest Link?

by Cara Gains

Triathlon is defined as an athletic contest consisting of three different events, typically swimming, cycling, and long-distance running. Although there are three distinct sports to triathlon, few of us truly love and enjoy all three equally. There is usually one of the three that you drag yourself to perform, leaving it more as a job than an athletic pursuit. It is the ugly step- child of the triathlon. As you toe the line, there are foreboding thoughts in regards to your weakest link, and you say to yourself, I just have to get through that, then I'll be fine or it may not be pretty, but I'll finish. Do not toe any line feeling unprepared, if it can be helped. As we enter the off-season in a couple months, there is a way to become proficient in your weak link. But which should you focus on to provide you with that goal time in 2017?

Let's look at the three. Swimming is often an obstacle for many triathletes to overcome, especially open water swimming, more due to fear than inability to swim. And thankfully for some of us, including myself, the swim is the shortest of the three. But with the right coach, many can become proficient swimmers with practice. No, you won't ever swim like Michael Phelps, but you will at least resemble a swimmer and tackle any swim course in the Olympic or Ironman distances. The bike is more of a mechanical fear in shorter races. True it does comprise the most time in a triathlon, and thus, many coaches and athletes devote majority of training to cycling. However, it is the run that is crucial to overall fitness and your finishing result. There is no other activity that gives more of a cardiovascular workout and trains your legs to overcome fatigue. A runner can be morphed into a cyclist. As I have said, If you can run, you can ride. But it doesn't necessarily flip the other way. With a strong run base, an athlete can get off the bike and do the passing, as opposed to being passed. Essentially, without a respectable run, you just had a great Aquabike.

The secret to enhancing your run time is to devote a block of training to running. This does not mean you have to refrain from swimming and cycling all together during this period. Instead, you lessen the intensity and duration in the other two in order to allow recovery from the run. The block of training should last approximately 3 months and consist of 4 to 5 days of running per week. Each run should be performed prior to any swimming or cycling. This will build a base of mileage that will allow strength in the run throughout the year. As you begin workouts and concentrate on triathlon training for upcoming races, 3 runs per week will sustain your fitness and sharpen your run. I also strongly suggest finding a running group to train with during this period. Surround yourself with those that perform the sport exclusively, and you will only improve and learn from those around you. This goes for any of the three disciplines. If you truly want to improve upon any sport, submerse yourself with those individuals that run daily and have for years. It will not only challenge you physically, but also open your eyes to a different kind of training.

It is understood that some may not be able to increase mileage significantly, secondary to issues such as osteoarthritis, previous injuries, etc. But there exists other options, such as pool running, the AlterG treadmill, and grass running. ProRehab, a sponsor of the Landsharks, has an anti-gravity treadmill to be used for exactly this purpose. It is surprising to see how great one would feel running at just 10% less body weight. If you need motivation to lose that extra 15-20 lbs after Christmas this year, go get on the AlterG at 85-90% your body weight. The difference is phenomenal.

Another plus to a run block of training in the winter months is the ability to run outside. The run is easy to get done. No equipment involved. Sign up for a local half marathon in late winter or the Triple Crown. You will not regret it and be shocked as to how easy your run feels off the bike next summer. Happy running!


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