To perform at the highest potential in your sport, the majority of your time needs to be spent practicing that sport. If you want to be a 3:30 marathon runner, then the majority of your time needs to be spent practicing the specifics of running. In the case of training for a marathon you would include a series of long runs, short runs, fast runs, speed work and so forth.
For triathletes this dynamic changes a bit in that there are three sports that one has to practice in the swim, bike and run. Keeping to the concept of specificity, the largest part of a triathlon is the bike, followed by the run and the swim. Thus the majority of triathlon training will be focused on the bike followed by the run then the swim.
One of the benefits of triathlon training is the natural cross-training that is the product of training for three sports. Getting in several swim, bike and run sessions each week can be a challenge. At the same time the change of pace and benefits of utilizing the muscular and cardio systems differently will have a positive impact on performance and recovery while voiding mental staleness.
When I work with athletes that are training for one specific sport such as endurance running or bicycle racing, I often encourage them to consider a cross-training program to supplement their base training. The body responds differently to different stimuli with the end result making one more effective and efficient in their sport of choice.
One of the best cross-training activities I recommend is swimming. Swimming has minimal impact on joints and muscles and can be added as a second workout to most days and serve as an excellent recovery activity. Another benefit is the excellent cardio workout it provides if done correctly. I have found that when I work on speed in the pool, the rhythmic nature of the breathing required has dramatically helped improve my running and cycling fitness.
One area that most people struggle with in swimming is establishing quick hand turn over to generate enough speed to experience cardio fitness. Water is relaxing and it’s easy to fall into a nice and easy swim stroke that is comfortable but not taxing the system.
One of the best workouts to improve arm turnover and learn to be comfortable pushing the pace in the water is the Hypoxic Drill Set. The set is 2000 yards in total taking one breath every two strokes per 100 yards, then one breath every 4 strokes per 100 yards escalating to a ten to one ratio. The improvement in arm turn over comes from the need to get a breath. Do this 1800 yard set with no resting, ending your session with a 200 yard cool down of your choice.
HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast. He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. He is a member of the 2015 QT2 Systems Advanced Team.