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March 26th, 2010
07:15 PM ET

In triathlon training, seek consistency above all

By Ian Murray
Host of Triathlon Training Series
Triathlon Coach to Rickey Williams, CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge Participant

When Rickey and I began our coach-athlete relationship, one thing radiated from him above all others: his commitment to triathlon. Here at TTS we see that desire in many triathletes and we all have to be careful not to translate that passion into going too hard too soon. An injury is the worst thing that can happen to a triathlete in training and it’s critical to measure out the duration of the workouts, the frequency of exercise and the intensity of each effort. Rickey’s greatest gains will come from consistency, and to sustain that we have to avoid all injuries. Here’s how you can join Rickey and me on our injury-free triathlon training program.

Job One: Progress slowly: Muscles can build a bit faster than the tendons that anchor them to bones. By increasing your training in a slow and progressive manner you can welcome the body to the sport with ease.  The swim distance for the race might be long but start by swimming in small pieces, even a single length of the pool, stop, rest, repeat.  Rather than a 20-minute run, make it a 20-minute “walk/jog.” 2 minutes walking, 2 minutes running. 5 rounds of that will give you a safe and effective 20-minute starting run.  Cycling on flat roads or trainer/spin bike with light resistance will allow for the skill of fluid circles to begin gently rather than mashing up long or steep climbs.

Do it perfectly! Let technique in your training be the top priority.  Triathlon is an endurance sport, and efficiency is key. Good form is most efficient.

Invest in a lesson from a professional to make sure your swim/bike/run are on target.  Give every workout a technical focus point so that you are mentally present for each effort.   Watch videos of excellence, visualize and then reproduce those movements. There are some great DVDs out there and one that is specifically designed as an educational tool for new triathletes is http://triathlontrainingseries.com/

Body maintenance: The key areas to stretch are calves, quads, hamstring, and the iliotibial band (ITB).  These get used in both biking and running and deserve frequent attention.  Triathlon is all about moving forward in the same plane – that means hip stabilizers; lateral movers can be dangerously weak. Keep ‘em in balance with inner and outer thigh work.  Freestyle swim puts a lot of emphasis on the front of the body; strengthen the rear shoulder area with rear deltoid raises to maintain balance and a healthy, happy shoulder.  Core, core and more core – this isn’t just the “six pack ab” fetish that launched a thousand infomercials; this includes lower back, twisting movements and deeper core muscles. Mix it up.  Massage, and not just any massage; make calls and find a sports-minded healer who can untangle knots in their earliest stages of development.

Know you're not alone. The three steps set out above are right for any beginner but they are also common threads that carry through to triathletes at all levels. No matter the stage of your athletic career, these are the keys to success.

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Filed under: 2010 Fit Nation Challenge • Exercise

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Bill Abramowitz

    Great article. Great to read a logical way to approach triathlon. When I began I was floundering...big time. LOL. It wasn't until later that learned (the point that the author made) that technique will improve everything. Thanks for posting.

    March 31, 2010 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Milton Abramson

    Dr. Ornish states that a half hour of walking 10 minutes at a time is just as healthy or better for metabolic reasons. What are your thoughts regarding this.?

    April 15, 2010 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.