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.

In The Zone

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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In the world of endurance, it seems that you cannot discuss fitness without discussing VO2 max. Ask any endurance athlete about it, and you will hear epic stories with names like Indurain, and LeMond. Many of you, however, may find yourselves wondering what exactly VO2 max is and why is it so important. To better understand this concept; let’s take a little trip back to school, specifically back to physiology class. According to the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning textbook, VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen in millilitres one can use in one minute per kilogram of body weight (ml/kg/min). In other words, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) is the greatest amount of oxygen that can be used at the cellular level for the entire body. VO2 max has been found to correlate well with an individual’s degree of physical conditioning and has been accepted as an index of total body fitness. Numerous studies show that one can increase his/her VO2 max by working out at an intensity that raises the heart rate to between 65 and 85 percent of its maximum, for at least 20 minutes, three to five times per week. The estimated mean value of VO2 max for male athletes is about 3.5 liters/minute and for female athletes is about 2.7 liters/minute.

By richard watson 14 Sep, 2016

It is ironic that in this age of information, people continue to be confused about supplements. While in The UK alone, billions of pounds sterling are spent annually on vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and other nutritional products, studies still show that people in all walks of life (including fitness professionals) need a good foundation in basic supplement information to help them make informed decisions about which products might best suit their individual needs. Because of this, the following is a list of what I feel are the top 10 supplements facts that can help save you time and money - and get the most out of the products you use.

By richard watson 27 Jul, 2016

Caffeine is one of the most heavily researched and beneficial ergogenic aids available. It is mostly consumed in coffee, with 1 cup containing around 75mg of caffeine. The understanding of the performance effect of caffeine has increased and this has widened its use. Most people know that “caffeine may improve performance” but what does it actually do and how can we make the most of caffeine?

Caffeine is classified as a stimulant and is the most common drug used in the world. Caffeine crosses the membranes of all the body's tissues. It can wield effects on the central nervous system and the peripheral tissues that result in physiological effects. Studies have shown that caffeine can help an athlete perform better. It has been shown to be a powerful ergogenic aid that is beneficial in athletic performance and training. Caffeine has been shown to increase speed and power output, improve the length an athlete can train, and assist the athlete in resisting fatigue. Caffeine has also been proven to stimulate the brain which contributes to an athlete's clearer thinking and ability to concentrate harder on the task at hand.

By richard watson 08 Jul, 2016

You’ve seen it before, and you’ll see it again. You have been intensely training for months, but you start to mention that you haven’t slept well for weeks, and the stress is starting to get in the way of your performance. You may suspect you’ve overtrained, which is quite common among competitive athletes. While overtraining can occur in a variety of different ways, it typically results from a combination of hormonal, neuroendocrine, and nutritional imbalances, secondary to heavy training (Kreher, 2012).

Learing Objectives:

  1. Identify the signs and symptoms of overtraining.
  2. Determine ways to help your clients recover from overtraining.
  3. Understand the importance of training breaks in the prevention of overtraining.

By richard watson 10 Jun, 2016

Hamstring injuries are prevalent in many sporting and training environments. They are the curse of many top athletes and urban warriors alike and have a horrible tendency to recur with monotonous regularity.

In the past, rehab specialists and trainers may have fallen prey to the hypothesis that "if it keeps tearing, it must be tight and therefore needs a stretch."

In this article I would like to pose a different hypothesis. One that looks at the length-tension relationships between the hamstrings at the back of the pelvis and quads and hip flexors at the front of the pelvis. We’ll look at how this relationship can contribute to these types of injuries.

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