Priorities for the Triathlete
Ken Mierke - Evolution Running
time of year, most triathletes are winding their seasons
For the most part, your racing season has ended, and the smart
athletes are taking a significant break from training to
recharge their bodies for next year.
What else can an athlete do during the next few
months to improve next year’s performance?
a transition period of two to four weeks of very light,
completely unstructured training, our top priorities
should be to increase our muscular strength, improving
our technique in all three sports of the triathlon (the
swim, bike and run), and maintain our basic
greater muscular strength during the off-season should be
a priority for almost every triathlete.
Incorporating strength training will improve
efficiency in all three sports, improve workout recovery,
and reduce the frequency and severity of injuries.
Next week’s article will provide details on the
optimal off-season strength training program for
perform better next year, most athletes need to make a
significant change in technique.
Despite what many athletes believe, simply training
more than you did this year isn’t really the key to
success next year.
Many athletes, even advanced ones, should
significantly alter technique to perform more efficiently.
Right now, early in the off-season, is the optimal
time to undertake changes to technique.
the racing season, the pressure of racing well prevents
athletes from successfully making major changes.
Adjustments in technique almost always cause a
check-mark shaped change in performance.
Immediately following the change, performance
usually declines in the short term.
Mastering a new skill requires time and frequently
emphasizes different muscles, which may not be conditioned
for optimal performance.
After the athlete has had time to fully master the
new skill and his muscles have been trained using the new
technique, performance improves significantly.
Making such a change early in the off-season gives
the athlete months to perfect the new techniques before
they will be tested in competition.
technique changes early in the off-season also decreases
the risk of injury.
Putting new stresses on the body’s tissues during
periods of high volume and/or high intensity training is
asking for trouble.
This time of year, most endurance athletes have
reduced training mileage considerably and training
intensity is the lowest of the year.
By the time training volume and intensity are
increased for pre-season training, the tissues will have
adapted to the new techniques.
future articles in this series will discuss technique in
all three triathlon segments.
Following are some basic technique changes that
triathletes could begin to learn now to improve next
Torso Rotation in Swim Stroke
swimmers rotate their torsos further and faster than less
Maximizing torso rotation allows easier breathing,
generates much of the power for propulsion, and puts the
body in the water in a position to cut through the water
instead of lowing through it.
More details about swim mechanics will come in
future articles in this series, but this off-season, work
on rotating your body more on every stroke and you will
swim faster and more efficiently.
Lance Armstrong drop his competition so easily at the Tour
de France using his high cadence pedaling style, many
cyclists and triathletes decided to try increasing cadence
for themselves each July.
Many of them find that increasing cadence leaves
them out of breath instead of in front of their
cadence will help improve most athletes’ cycling
performance, but to do so requires preparation.
Increasing cadence is a long term project.
Start now. Once a rider has practiced it, high
cadence pedaling will be easier on the legs than grinding
in a bigger gear.
Regardless, sustained high cadence pedaling
requires many hours of practice before it becomes more
efficient than pushing a bigger gear.
Begin adapting your body to higher cadence riding
now by using smaller gears at higher cadence for all your
Increase gradually and give your legs time to
Purchasing a bike-computer with a cadence function
is important as it will allow you to monitor your progress
for just a few dollars.
Running Stride Length and Increase Turnover
runners ignore technique, but I have found that even elite
runners can improve performance significantly by changing
to more efficient techniques.
In the past month alone, two athletes I coach have
won World Championships.
Even at their level, we consistently work on
perfecting running technique.
The benefits are even greater for beginners and
and quicker strides lead to faster running times.
Start incorporating these techniques into your
running now to allow your legs to learn to run this way
efficiently before next season.
Shorter strides require less force at push-off and
reduce the need for vertical displacement (up and down
to pull the leg backward faster increases both turnover
and stride length.
The result is such a high running speed that it
will not be sustainable.
That is sprinting, not efficient distance running.
A better strategy for learning higher turnover
running is to concentrate on quick leg recovery.
This increases turnover, but allows a slightly
Remember that you can decrease stride length by 15%
if you increase turnover by 20% and still run faster (and
be able to sustain it).
Make sure that there is no pause at the completion
of the follow through and drive the knee forward quickly.
metronome is a small electronic device that beeps at
whatever speed you set it to.
Timing your foot-strike with the beeping can be a
great way to monitor turnover and gradually accustom your
legs to higher turnover.
information about running technique is available in my
book The Triathlete’s Guide to Run Training or on my
video Evolution Running: Run Faster with Fewer Injuries.
Both are available at www.EvolutionRunning.com
off-season, keep volume and intensity low for your swim,
bike, and run workouts, but prioritize easy workouts
concentrating on developing efficient techniques and
strength training workouts.
When the season starts next spring you’ll be glad
Mierke, two-time World Champion triathlete (Disabled
Division, 1997,1998) and exercise physiologist, coaches
cyclists and triathletes, from beginner to pro.
Ken is Head Coach of Fitness Concepts (www.Fitness-Concepts.com),
developer of Evolution Running, and author of The
Triathlete’s Guide to Run Training.
He can be reached at CoachKen@erols.com