For most of us, triathlon season ended in September, unless you went on to race World Championships in Kona or a late-season Ironman in Arizona or Cozumel. Most of us take time off after our last race of the year to reflect on the season, set goals for 2012 and establish some objectives to help reach those goals.
Now it’s December, and time to start preparing your body physically for the 2012 season. What does this mean? For me, this preparation phase is more about what it does not mean. I won’t jump into cold water, ride my bike with multiple layers or run much more than I have to to keep the dogs from getting cabin fever.
The preparation phase consists of both general and specific training. Generalincludes functional strength training, resulting in increased stability, mobility, balance and muscle/core strength. Specific preparation involves improving your efficiency in the pool and on the road through skills and drills. Keep workouts short and focused on technique.
Before you focus on sports-specific training, consider strength training, which enables you to control force loads without the variables of your sport. This is not only safe and effective, it’s also time efficient. If your gym is in your house, negating all travel issues, the time element is further enhanced. For me and the athletes I coach, general preparation includes training with a TRX or BeachBody home-based fitness DVDs.
- The TRX system, originally created by a Navy SEAL, consists of adjustable straps with two handles that you connect to an overhead anchor. The portability of the suspension straps allows you to train anywhere – from your home, the gym, a hotel room, or on the beach. This system is unique in that it simultaneously trains and develops strength, balance, flexibility and core stability. Athletes of all sports can benefit and gain improved performance by strengthening and stabilizing muscles in functional movement patterns. Use the TRX and your own body weight to perform many of the classic exercises (lunges, squats, push-ups, abs, etc.), but with the added component of instability, and every exercise incorporates core strength and balance.
- BeachBody’s newest home-based fitness DVDdesigned for endurance athletes is P90X2. Physiological P90X2 focus areas include improvements in strength, speed, agility and quickness. The phases in P90X2 are much more diverse and specifically targeted than those in the original P90X. Phase I creates the foundation, Phase II improves strength, Phase IIIincreases power.
Once strength training helps your tendons, ligaments and bones become stronger, sport-specific preparation includes skills and drills before you start to build volume and intensity.
When it comes to swimming, patience with technique and endurance will lead to strength and speed. There are 5 phases of the stroke I look at.
- Body balance, rotation, kick
- Recovery phase
- Hand entry phase
- Pull phase
Schedule a few private lessons. Find a coach that has access to an underwater camera to film you both under and above the water. If you can see what you are doing wrong, that will help you understand what you need to change. Based on your technique limiter, your coach can give you specific drills to help you improve your recovery, hand entry and under water pull, instead of just doing the same drills that your masters swim class does.
When it comes to the bike,pedaling drills will help you to learn to how to efficiently apply forces throughout all four phases or your pedal stroke, as outlined below.When pedaling, fully focus on moving one pedal through each of the following four distinct phases: downstroke, backstroke, upstroke, and over-the-top stroke.
- Downstroke. This part comes most naturally when riding. Focus on exerting a strong downward push of the pedal, but be smooth – don’t mash them.
- Backstroke. As you feel your foot approaching the bottom of the downstroke, focus on pulling your foot backward parallel to the ground. This is often equated to the sensation of scraping mud off your shoes.
- Upstroke. Don’t focus on pulling the pedal up. Rather, as soon as your foot approaches the end of the backstroke, focus on rapidly driving your knee towards your handlebars. Think of it as driving forward rather than pulling up. Driving your leg forward moves it in the optimal biomechanical pattern for this phase of the pedal stroke.
- Over-the-top stroke. Focus simply on feeling the transition point where the momentum from your drive towards the handlebars just begins to cease. At this point, initiate the strong downward push of the pedal in the downstroke. All you are doing in this phase is creating a quick, seamless transition from upstroke to downstroke.
When it comes to running, the basic technique variables are cadence, foot strike and forward lean. Aim for between 85 to 95 foot strikes a minute, landing on your midfoot (not heel or toe) with a slight lean forward from your ankles. As with swimming, it is helpful to get someone to film you so you can see how you actually run.
- Your head should be erect, with eyes focused forward to a point on the ground about 20 to 30 meters away
- The shoulders should be square and level. Do not round your shoulders or swing them forwards or backwards
- Arms should be swinging freely but in a general forwards/backwards. Elbows should be bent approximately 90 degrees with forearms remaining roughly parallel to the ground
- Hands are held in a relaxed fist with the thumb resting on the forefinger
- The torso should be erect, with chest up and plenty of room for the diaphragm to move for proper breathing actions.
- The hips should be square and level with no sideways movement
- The leg action should be relaxed, with pendular movements and moderate knee lift
- The feet should be pointed straight ahead and land directly under the hips
In the preparation phase, frequency of workouts is more important then duration. As you get tired often your form gets sloppy so keep sessions short, 30 minute swims and runs, 30-60 minute rides. Depending on your schedule aim for 2-4 sessions per sport per week. More sessions in your weaker sport. Most people like to swim and run on the same day and bike on alternating days. Keep intensity low and practice with a purpose.
Example of swimming workout: Warm up 10 minute include then do a drill set 8X50 (25 drill one for recovery phase, one for entry phase and one for pull phase) with 25 swim incorporating the focus of the drill into your stroke. Swim a main set upto 1000 yards then cool down.
Example of running workout: Best to run on soft surface. Warm up 10 minutes then high knees, butt skips, skip drills for 20 feet at a time. Then run run for 15 minute alternating 2 minute easy, 20-30 seconds quick feet leg turnover. Cool down 5-10 minutes.
Example of cycling workout: Warm up 10 minutes then 4 x (30 second one leg only / 30 second both legs) then 4X (30″ fast spin/30″ ez). Main Set 4X4′ alternating big gear standing for 1 minute with little gear seated fast spinning 100rpms Cool down
After about 4-8 weeks of strength, skills and drills you will be ready to build up your yardage/miles with good form.