A few years ago, the findings of Dr. James O’Keefe and his team of researchers at St. Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute made endurance athletes sit up and take notice.
According to Dr. O’Keefe, an athlete could suffer negative impacts from chronic exercise routines. The study shows that triathlon training routines should not last more than 30-60 minutes a day. In fact, a 60-minute vigorous workout session may actually diminish the effect of exercise by worsening oxidant stress and increasing vascular stiffness.
Triathlon training plans that include 20 or more hours of strenuous workouts a week could actually have a detrimental effect on health in the long run. In this article, we’ve compiled solid advice from veteran tri-athletes, coaches and physiotherapists to make a list of 10 things a tri-athlete should never do.
1. (Never) Overdo the Runs
Iron man Triathlon veteran and Coach Ben Greenfield recommends “no long runs”. He says “while a long bike ride is a session from which you can recover relatively quickly, a long run (2+ hours) can significantly impact your joints and literally keep you inflamed and beat up for up to 2 weeks”. A few short runs each week that last 30 to 90 minutes are sufficient to prepare your leg muscles.
2. (Don’t) Skip the Stretches
Stretches add power and nimbleness to your muscles which increases the range of motion. This could significantly impact your performance and if not adhered to, it could become a chronic reason for muscle soreness. Marisa D’Adamo, who worked as a physical therapy coordinator for the ING NYC marathon says “stretching helps you get faster without speed work. You can’t work on your power or strength when your joint doesn’t have the range of motion it needs.”
3. (No) Strength Training for Muscle Gain
Strength training is a fantastic way to change up your triathlon training plan. Multiple research studies have shown that weight training improves performance by increasing neuromuscular recruitment, efficiency and economy. However, “for any athlete, the purpose of strength training is to gain strength,” says Jonathan Cane, exercise physiologist. That means doing the weight workout with less weight and better form to let your muscles grow stronger not bigger.
4. (Don’t) Train Alone
After winning at the 2012 London games, Olympic Gold medalist Alistair Brownlee included this in his top 10 tips. Check out his top 10 tips for Triathlon success on www.mirror.co.uk. While it is necessary to clock personal time and record progress, it is also essential to feel challenged and motivated. Train with people who have similar pursuits and turn training sessions into small scale competitions that leave you feeling tired, but thrilled.
5. (Don’t) Overlook the Process
In the hunt for the top prize, it is easy to overlook tiny details that contribute negatively to your progress. Should you run on your forefoot or mid foot? Rob Maschi, PT, of NYC’s Hospital for Special Surgery says “what’s important is where your foot falls underneath you. It should fall directly under your center of mass, not in front of it, or you’re basically braking with every step”. Similarly “staying aero” during cycling and conserving energy during swimming are critical parts of the process that each tri-athlete must build into their habits.
6. (Never) Ignore Your body
If your body feels off on a particular day, then listen to your body, not yourself! Over training the muscles without allowing enough time for recovery is like sabotaging your own success. Over training only causes muscle fatigue which hampers endurance in muscles. Pick easy work out routines for days when you don’t feel at the top of your physical fitness. Get enough sleep to recover from grueling training days. In short, while it is essential to push the body beyond its limits to increase endurance, doing it very often and without consideration will lead to more damage.
7. (Never) Miss Your Annual Check Up
Multiple time Ironman finisher, Jordan Blanco, records in his article “The Case of the Unhealthy Triathlete” that “it turns out that I should not have been skipping out on that annual physical examination. The questions and tests might have been an early indicator in my so-called decline” on active.com.
Triathletes should get regular checks up. Dr. Kiki Silver, MD, of Boulder Peak Health PC says, “It’s important to check vital signs like blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels.”
8. (Don’t) Ignore the Impact of Sports Gear
With three sports to prepare for, gear expenses can be taxing. Even so, it is imperative you use gear that lets you train comfortably. The “right gear” does not mean owning the latest and the most expensive equipment in town. It means having the right tools to help you achieve your goals. Tri-athletes should have a decent pair of running shoes, a well maintained wet suit and bicycle among other accessories.
9. (Don’t) Miss the Nicer Things in Life
Being a triathlete is demanding not only physically and mentally but socially as well. Training everyday while managing work and personal chores can add negative emotions that impact family or social life. Include work outs that are less time consuming and give you more value for your time. Everyone has their priorities and it is important to find a balance between all aspects of life that are valuable to you.
10. (Don’t) Jump the Gun
It is essential to build up your abilities to achieve the physical fitness to compete in a triathlon. As your training sessions gradually become more intense, enter competitions that allow you to test your abilities at every stage. Going for a full range Olympic triathlon in your first few attempts could leave you disappointed and fatigued.
These 10 tips give you an outline to prepare a minimalist triathlon training plan. Mastering them will help you steer clear of habits that could cause long term physical injuries.