Conditioning for Increased Speed in Triathlon

  • By richard watson
  • 27 Jan, 2016

Triathletes tend to over-train, ignore physical pain and over prioritize aerobic training over gym work.

In my experience, triathletes tend to be self-disciplined, highly motivated and intelligent. They pay very close attention to detail and are very good at planning, many of these traits are required to prepare and adhere to a grueling training regime. Most triathletes are very knowledgeable in increasing aerobic and anaerobic endurance. However, experience has shown that most triathletes tend to over-train , ignore physical pain and over prioritize aerobic training over gym work.

There's no doubt that the longer the event, the more challenging it becomes to schedule strength training into the training plan. This is especially challenging when moving up from Olympic distance to half Ironman or half Ironman to Ironman, as it requires a large increase in training volume and therefore time.

However, a correctly periodized program should include a progression of base conditioning, strength and power training while also combining regular sports massage to help with fatigue just like for any other sport.
Mel Siff suggests that the energy requirement for marathon running is 95% from the long-term energy (aerobic) system and 5% from the intermediate energy (lactate) system. 1 This indicates that the majority of triathlon training should be based on aerobic capacity and the ability to use fat as the major source of energy. While this is very true, the role of strength, power and the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) should not be underestimated.

An increase in strength for the triathlete will reduce the relative effort required for each stroke in the pool, revolution of the pedal and stride on the road. For instance, if two triathletes weigh 65kg and one has a split squat 1RM of 60kg and the other has a 1RM of 100kg, clearly the relative effort required to cycle uphill will be much higher for the athlete with the 60kg 1RM.

The same would also be true for power and the SSC. Many studies have indicated conservation of energy with increased SSC mechanics.

The SSC is the loading of a muscle eccentrically followed by a rapid concentric contraction. An example would be the calves stretching during the heel-strike phase of running and then contracting during the toe-off phase.

The elastic quality of muscle means it stores energy in the tissues during the eccentric phase, just like when you stretch an elastic band. The subsequent concentric contraction uses the stored energy to contract more forcibly than it would without the prior stretch.

The stretch reflex of a muscle is activated when a muscle is lengthened very quickly. Upon activation of a rapid stretch, the muscle spindles send an afferent nerve impulse to the spinal cord, which then sends an efferent impulse back to the muscle to contract to prevent over-stretching and tearing. This impulse, along with the release of elastic energy as kinetic energy, produces the increased force production in the SSC.

The conversion from eccentric to concentric, the amortization phase, lasts just a few hundredths of a second. The shorter the amortization phase, the greater the force production and the more power advantage gained via the SSC.


It is therefore suggested that, during the pre-season and in-season phases, power and plyometric training is included for triathletes. This type of training must be preceded with adequate phases of strength training (minimum one to two years) to reap maximum benefit and reduce the likelihood of injury.

Technique should always be the main priority during plyometric training and intensity should only be increased to a level where the athlete can maintain perfect form. Due to the high volume of training for triathlon, plyometric training should be limited to one or two 20- to 45-minute sessions per week and 60-250 foot contacts per session. Rest periods should be three to five minutes in duration to allow full neurological recovery.

A well-designed periodized strength and conditioning program to run alongside your triathlon training and regular sports massage treatment will enable a triathlete to improve strength, power and energy efficiency, which will ultimately improve their performance.

Hiring a dedicated triathlon coach is one way of taking the stress and confusion out of your training scheduled. A coach that has the ability to analyze your performance during training and competition is probably the best advantage to your triathlon sport, a cycle coach, run coach and swim coach will be able to plan and deliver the right level of intensity and recovery so your performance will be at optimum when competition time comes round.
Sports Therapist Richard Watson

Richard Watson

Sports Therapist

Richard is a leading sports therapist in the Coventry and Warwickshire area, he has worked at the Olympic and Paralympic games 2012 treating the many athletes competing. Richard has been involved in many major sporting projects including treating and training a team that took on an accent of Everest. He currently runs his own Sports Therapy company providing local athletes with sports massage and personal training.

In The Zone

By richard watson 29 Nov, 2017

The weekend is the time when we all get relaxed, and maybe a little too relaxed with our diets, but it's important to realize that you can still enjoy yourself and keep on track by making a few slight adjustments.

During the week, it is much easier to maintain a healthier lifestyle because you slip into a routine that you get used to and many of us are on autopilot – gym, work, eat, sleep, repeat; but the weekend is a different animal altogether.

The problem is that on the weekend, the textbook simply goes out the window.  It’s the weekend!

You’ve been waiting all week to cheat, but what you need to realize is that you’re doing more harm than good.

Being proactive about your health and making every day count means that you need to iron out all of the creases, and when it comes to your diet and training that normally means prioritizing the weekend and stopping yourself from bingeing.

By richard watson 17 Nov, 2017
Having a shaped, toned body is the primary goal for many gym-goers. However, many are fed countless ‘guaranteed-not-to-fail’ strategies on how to quickly shed fat and attain the perfect look. Such mixed advice often leads to confusion, frustration, and a general feeling of ‘back to the drawing board.’ we understand that every one of us is different, and a ‘one size fits all’ approach just won’t do. So, we’ve designed a healthy, sustainable and evidence-based guide filled with tips to help you efficiently and safely get the look you want.
By richard watson 04 Oct, 2017

Strength training comes in all shapes and sizes, and if you incorporate slight adjustments to your gym routine you’ll find that it’ll be both rewarding and beneficial.

If you have plateaued and you're not  seeing results any more; this will lead you to frustration and in the end you will start having negative results and thoughts.

But it doesn’t have to be that way…

Strength training comes in all shapes and sizes, and if you have slight adjustments to your gym workouts you’ll find that it’ll be both rewarding and beneficial. We have listed 7 different ways in which you can alter your training workout to suit your needs and the needs of your body, which will help you adapt and in turn you will start to see gains in your training.

By richard watson 24 Aug, 2017

What if we told you that top athletes suffer from the same thing as you do? Inflammation happens to everyone; it is part of our body’s natural response to training and damaged tissues and also plays a role in the immune system response. With modern day advances in sport science we are now able to see just how much inflammation you’re likely to feel from a strenuous bout of activity through the analysis of your genes.


A DNA Kit test will look at four genetic inflammatory markers - IL6, IL6R, CRP and TNF. Variations in these genes give us a clue if you are predisposed to suffer significantly higher levels or slightly lower levels of inflammation. Knowing your predisposition of this biological phenomenon can make big alteration to your training and even more so to your recovery strategies which dictate your training schedule and ultimately your goals.


Acute inflammation is important for healing; however excessive inflammation can result in prolonged feelings of soreness, tenderness, swelling, and also in a loss of function (reduces ROM or range of motion) and could even result in allergies and chronic diseases. There are various strategies that can be used to help decrease acute and chronic inflammation like sports massage therapy , but for the purpose of today's blog we will be looking at foods that can help in the role of decreasing inflammation in our body:

By richard watson 18 Aug, 2017

For those people who know me will tell you I am the most skeptical person out there when it comes to new products and fad diets to aid fitness training and weight management. I go to lots of trade fairs and seminars and see lots of new products, most of the time I have made my mind up within 20 seconds. Science has to prove it works for me to believe in something, it’s the way I run my business as a sports therapist and the way I train myself.


I first saw the DNA fitness tests in 2013 at a trade show; it was not something I was interested in at the time so I walked on by. However, after seeing these tests repeatedly pop up on trade and fitness magazines I started to take more of an interest.


Over the years I’ve personally battled with injuries from playing sport and had to deal with my own weight issues while being off sport recovering from injury. It’s what got me in to my now profession as a sports therapist; I help many athletes recover, prepare and condition their bodies ready for their events.


As a sports person you are always looking for that extra legal edge, that extra bit that will gain you a few seconds off your personal best or just be able to train and diet better for a healthier lifestyle. So I felt that taking the DNA Diet Fitness Pro test was really worthwhile.


The reports included an abundance of manageable and easily understandable information about my DNA and also provided focused and implementable advice, which wasn’t just based on eating less and exercising more. I was particularly impressed with the strength of the connections DNAFit made between my genetics and the practical implications the results might have in terms of my diet and fitness.


I would recommend this test to anyone interested in improving their health and fitness, regardless of whether you’re a complete beginner or training for a marathon.

By richard watson 10 Apr, 2017

There has been a huge increase in interest in cycling over recent years as more people become aware of the health and fitness benefits’ cycling achieves, as well as its advantages as a fast and economical means of transport. Studio cycling has also grown and has been identified as one of the most popular group exercise formats in clubs worldwide.

By richard watson 01 Mar, 2017

Good bacteria can help you lose weight

For every probiotic evangelist there are several that sneered at the idea that these ‘good bacteria’ products did anything other than leave a big whole in your pocket. But according to a recent study, probiotics are very much more than a health food gimmick.

Probiotics, which are available as yoghurts, drinks and pills, contain so called ‘good’ bacteria that manufacturers claim aid digestive health and boost the immune system.

But the jury remained out – until now when a study has found that they do have many health benefits, including proving effective medicines and helping to control weight.

But you need to need to use the probiotics every day to see any benefits and you should be mindful of the sugar content (it’s best to opt for a pill over yoghurt) which will negate any of the benefits.

By richard watson 06 Feb, 2017

The definition of motivation is that which gives the impetus to behaviour by arousing, sustaining and directing it towards the successful attainment of goals. Abraham Maslow (1954) proposed that we all have a hierarchy of needs, the most basic being physiological needs such as food, and the highest needs being those related to self-fulfillment. Motivation directs behaviour – it organizes behaviour towards a particular goal state. It maintains behaviour until that goal is achieved.


The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 26 miles and 385 yards that is usually run as a road race. The marathon was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896, though the distance did not become standardized until 1921. More than 500 marathons are contested throughout the world each year, with the vast majority of competitors being recreational athletes. Larger marathons can have tens of thousands of participants.

By richard watson 05 Jan, 2017

Although, all of the information that is presented in this article is geared toward the benefits and/or effectiveness of anaerobic high intensity interval training (HIIT) vs. low intensity aerobic training with regards to fat utilization, there is an understanding that some reasons for aerobic training supersede the outcomes. For the sake of pure enjoyment, personal goal setting (training for a triathlon, marathon, road race, etc), and the challenge of competition are all viable and respectable reasons for interacting with long slow distance (LSD) activities. For many people these types of activities are suitable for their lifestyle and enjoyable means of living an active life. The goal of this article is not to discount or diminish the value of physical activity in all its modalities, but to merely present data with regards to optimum fat loss, hormonal indicators, and other factors of cardiovascular and cardio respiratory markers as they pertain to exercise intensity prescription.

By richard watson 01 Nov, 2016
Cancers are classified as a family of related diseases that result from uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells5 that usually become a tumor. The most common causes of cancer related deaths in the United Kingdom are seen in Figure 1 below.The evidence linking low levels of physical activity and an increased potential for development of cancer is growing. More studies are focused on determining if physical activity can be used as a preventative measure in the incidence of cancer.

Figure 1: The 9 Most Common Causes of Cancer Death in 2014

Number of Deaths per Year, All Ages, UK

Cancer Site                Male           Female       Persons
Lung (C33-C34)       19,563       16,332         35,895
Bowel (C18-C20)       8,566          7,337         15,903
Breast (C50)                       73        11,360        11,433
Prostate (C61)          11,287                               11,287
Pancreas (C25)           4,426          4,391           8,817
Oesophagus (C15)   5,213          2,577          7,790
Bladder (C67)              3,614          1,755          5,369
Brain                                2,881          2,342          5,223
Liver (C22)                    3,055          2,036          5,091
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