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Triathlon is one sport, not three!

Triathlon is one sport not three; I say this to everyone that I coach and I am always met with looks of disbelief.

Why do I passionately believe this is true when all the magazines and experts espouse a ‘smooth stroke’ when swimming, high cadence when cycling and landing on your toes when running? It must be right they are experts, and after all they’ve been to university and studied sports science.

It may be correct for individual sports but it’s not for triathlon. For after we have swum a minimum of 400m (which swimmers would call a distance event) then jumping on our bikes and cycling a minimum of 20km and finally, running a minimum of 5km.

Whilst elite athletes, who train more than 30+ hours each week, can do this in under an hour, the majority of age group athletes like you and me will take anywhere between 75 minutes to 2 hours to complete this.

So it stands to reason that we need a more joined up approach to achieve better results.

For most age groupers swimming is the hardest discipline. Even if they learnt to swim at school ,it was often only breast stroke and so the transition to front crawl, with all its fears is the most difficult to master; but that is the subject of another blog.

During the swim, if you are trying to achieve a 6 beat kick (as the magazines say) you will have taken around 2400 leg movements before you’ve even got out of the water. When we go to Olympic distance then its 9000 + synapse fires!

If you are a world class swimmer the kick only accounts for a maximum of 15% of propulsion; age groupers are not world class swimmers. It makes no sense at all to absolutely ruin your race by being tired out before you even get on the bike.

So, here at Animis we follow the tried & trusted TriSutto method of swimming with a pull buoy in training. Again this is the subject of another blog, but by swimming in the correct position, using paddles and band to develop the front end of the stroke we not only create better, stronger swimmers, they also enjoy training more and so will swim more. It’s not rocket science, it’s swimming.

So to the bike. Magazines recommend spinning at 90-100rpm, after all Tour de France cyclists do this over 3 weeks it must be right. NO! They have been cycling since they were 6 or 7 following a structured program often on the track where it becomes natural to spin with power at 100rpm. We are not professional cyclists, we also have jobs and families. We need to be able to complete the bike and run at least 5km off it. The most efficient way to ride your bike is at 72rpm pushing a big gear. This also helps disperse the lactate built up from the swim.

One of the greatest time triallers of all time, Graeme Obree, pushed a big gear. If you want to go fast in a time trial, push big gears.

We incorporate big gear efforts into our athletes training programs as its much more efficient to work at holding a cadence that feels comfortable and makes you stronger for the duration of the bike segment. You can make sustainable gains with less time in the saddle over a much shorter time span than by spinning.

When it comes to the run, again we are a little bit different. After cycling, it’s much easier for the legs to go at a cadence a little faster than taking big long strides. Short snappy strides landing on the heel (the body’s shock absorber) is a better and more efficient way to run in a triathlon. The majority of athletes will have already been competing for an hour before they start the run so this has to be taken into account.

We advocate running tall with a heel or mid foot strike and a high cadence. Look forward. We need to hold our arms higher and move faster as this dictates our cadence with no high knees we are looking for little back lift as possible.

Putting everything together we aim to have a triathlete capable of achieving the best they can be. If you would like to be part of our team then drop us a message and we will set up a call to chat things through.


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