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I want to do a Tri – what next?

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I want to do a Tri – what next?

So you’ve decided to do a triathlon – congratulations, this is a big step even if it’s only a mini-triathlon.

The whole concept of completing the event can be daunting even before you’ve put on your goggles or sat on your bike.

So where you begin should start with getting your body right?

The first thing you should do once you’ve decided to do a tri is to invest some time into yourself (ie not the bike – yet). The most expensive bike in the world won’t correct your posture, strengthen your core or improve your biomechanics, nor will any exercise program if it doesn’t address your body’s specific needs.

Poor posture (eg from sitting at a desk all day), weak core & lack of control/instability won’t get better without it being addressed first.  The dynamics of swimming, cycling, running & brick sessions for umpteen hours each can even do more harm than good & is most likely to lead to injury. At the end of the day, you won’t achieve what you’ve set out to.

A physio who understands the body as well as triathlons, like at Paddo Physio, can help you get ready for the training that comes with a triathlon. Having them on your team will also help to prevent pain & other injuries from flaring up.

Ultimately, together you’ll achieve the best outcome & performance.

How cycling legs become running legs in a triathlon or duathlon?

The transition from cycling to run in triathlons & running to cycling to running in duathlons is the age-old question for most triathletes & duathletes alike.

Let’s just say, it’s much more than simply “racking your bike” & heading off for a run.

The run leg after the cycle actually starts well before the bike leg has finished.

You should start to shift the mindset & gears towards the latter half of the bike leg so that you’ve got a higher cadence & less resistance. This helps to shift the lactic acid that has built up in your cycling muscles & also starts to switch on muscles for the run.

While you use all of your body & muscles in a triathlon from your shoulders to your toes, each phase of the event uses different muscle groups as primary, supporting & auxiliary muscles & uses these in different body positions (aka different muscle lengths). For example, cycling relies heavily on your gluts & hamstrings (the big muscle groups in the back of your leg) in a practically seated position (lots of hip flexion) & running uses much more of the front of your thigh (quads), hip & calf muscles in a more upright posture. (This isn’t to say that the backs of your legs don’t play a part in running nor the quads in cycling– they do but this is another story in itself).

So when training for a triathlon, you should aim to strengthen all of your muscles (especially where opposing groups are used) & all the different muscle lengths that you’ll need. You also need to practise the transitions accordingly. And don’t forget to work on your core strength & pelvic control in the different positions so they can be engaged correctly for the task at hand & the one just around the corner.

Too often triathletes are unable to finish the event or run strongly because they were ‘spent’ in the bike leg or they just ‘cramped up too much’ when trying to power off after T2.

Adding some brick sessions to your training schedule should minimize the chance of this occurring. It doesn’t have to be a long run off the bike (or bike after the swim in terms of T1), just enough to help your muscle memory & patterning. When used as primary muscle groups, your leg muscles are very powerful & adaptable – more so if you teach them what they need to do.

Your core strength & pelvic control also needs the endurance to not only last the distance of the whole event but to do so in the different postures (from lying to seated to forward lean/standing).  Your physio can give you the tools with some simple exercises to incorporate into your day so that you build this up without too much effort.

A triathlete’s secret weapon is behind you!!!

Forget all the latest whiz bang training tools, the secret weapon for success in triathlon is your butt. Your butt aka “gluts” are often forgotten about despite being your powerhouse muscles that also help with pelvic control & core strength in the different body positions a triathlete goes through.

Our physios regularly see triathletes (newbies or well-seasoned triathletes) with weak gluteals who  wonder why they’re not progressing as well as they should.

These are muscles that will get you through every part of the triathlon. For example, in the swim, strong gluts will work with your core to help keep you in the optimum position in the water as well as give you that powerful six-beat kick to glide in front of your competitor; On the bike, strong gluts will help you dig deep with better power output through the whole pedal stroke, as well as controlling your pelvis to avoid unnecessary energy ‘waste’; On the run, strong gluts help with better core control & allows more energy to be used by your running muscles rather than having to think about keeping your trunk upright & hip extended.

While it’s a powerful weapon to have in triathlon, it’s also something that you shouldn’t have to really think about switching them on/off once you’ve trained them ie they should switch on automatically as needed.

The simplest way to get this powerful weaponary stronger & engaged, regardless of whether you’ve signed up for a mini, sprint, Olympic, half or full ironman triathlon, is to start with sets of butt-squeezes every hour on the hour. You can also make improve your gluts by doing holding a butt squeeze every time you change position from sitting to standing.  Think about it, there are hundreds of times throughout every day.

Your physio can help you work in other simple exercises & strategies throughout your day to improve your glut strength & its staying power for you.