From Triathlete to Warrior

Triathlete running through transition of an Ironman
January 20, 2017

D3 Staff



I have always struggled with the concept of the off-season because I believe that it is not physiologically economical to take a couple of months off training and lose the hard-gained fitness. I absolutely understand the need to reboot, recharge, and restart the fire needed for hard work in the main season. However, there are more efficient and productive ways to spend the time after a big season than to let oneself turn into a couch potato.

The off-season is a perfect time to draw the line under the big races and analyze the good, the bad, and the ugly. While most athletes avoid facing the bad and the ugly, I find the off-season a perfect time to address those issues. The bad and the ugly are typically weaknesses such as poor mobility, muscle imbalance, poor strength, and coordination. Endurance athletes, in particular, also tend to lack explosiveness that is needed to surge around a buoy, attack on the hill during the bike portion, or to sprint for the finish line.

My favorite mainstream methods to correct poor mobility and muscle imbalances are yoga and Pilates. For strength and explosiveness, I would recommend CrossFit and kickboxing as well as group exercises that combine weight with cardio.

There are many kinds of yoga with different emphasis. "Vinyasa" is a kind of yoga that focuses on linking poses and as such represents a functional way to open up the body in the areas that are typically restricted in triathletes. Sun salutation, for example, lengthens the posterior chain (hamstrings and calves), opens the hip joint anteriorly, and activates the scapular stabilizers throughout the movement sequence.

Pilates is also a good choice in the off-season because it was developed precisely to address chronic health issues stemming from core muscle weakness and muscle imbalances. Pilates was designed to teach proper muscle sequencing and activation as well as strength and control of the body. A strong core is essential for triathletes to generate power in all three sports and to prevent injuries.

**Crossfit Type Classes**
CrossFit and similarly structured classes are beneficial in the off-season because they challenge the endurance athlete who is used to moving in one plane (forward) at 75% – 80% of capacity. These classes not only utilize their body as a whole through powerlifting movements but they also force them to get out of their comfort zone and perform at close to maximal effort through an array of short burst workout routines.

Kickboxing is considered a hybrid martial art formed from the combination of elements of various traditional styles. Kickboxing is a great example of a sport that applies the components of a properly functioning neuromuscular system. Here is what I mean: a healthy athletic (in our case) body needs mobility, stability, strength, and power in that sequence for maximum performance. For example, a strong kick cannot be delivered without stability on the stance side, mobility on the kick side, and of course, the strength and power itself to deliver the kick.

The off-season is the time to start tackling new goals with a more flexible, stronger, and powerful body. Do not shy away from the array of fun alternatives to the swim, bike, and run routines. Other sports and programs are beneficial in developing a more rounded athlete and an unbreakable warrior in the water and on the road. With some research, find out what excites you and make it a challenge for yourself to try something new this fall.

Coach Martina is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and USAT Certified Coach. She believes that if you have specific goals that you want to reach in triathlon, a coach is a good place to start – but it’s not the answer of and by itself. Desire, Determination, and Discipline (the 3 D’s!) all play a role. When you’re ready to do the work to get to the next level, then you’re ready for a coach!

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