Training Tip of the Week
Training Tip of the Week


To continue the discussion last week about improving your bike time trial, we should expand on speed/power training that compliments the hill repeat workout.  Speed/power intervals and hill repeat workouts are both important and should be completed at least once each week ideally in an alternating format.  If you have not read the tip from last week on interval training for cycling, take a few minutes to do so now as it is critical to understand the importance of this type of workout for enhancing your cycling performance.

Speed and power intervals that are appropriate for a Sprint- to Olympic-distance triathlon training program should be at least one minute and no more than three minutes in length.  Intervals for a program leading to a Half-Ironman or Ironman event should be between three and nine minutes.  The basic setup is the same; however, choose either a one to three minute, three to six minute or six to nine minute progression depending on the upcoming event at which  you plan to peak in performance for the year.

To perform an effective power interval workout, choose a route that is safe and does not have stop signs or lights.  You will be more effective if you can focus on your effort and not on the route.  I use a route that is an 8-mile loop with only one turn that requires a slow, controlled pace for a few seconds.  Also, be sure to complete an easy warm-up of at least 10 minutes that increases your core body temperature enough to produce some sweat and get the knees and back ready for intensity.  Complete the following intervals until you have been riding about the same amount of time you will be riding in your event:

Sprint- to Olympic-distance Intervals
*Choose a gear that feels tight but not sluggish.  You should feel smooth and fast in your cadence during the intervals, but your legs need to "burn"; otherwise, choose a heavier gear.  Do not make the mistake of many triathletes and choose a gear that is slow and encourages inefficient pedaling.

1 minute:  80% effort
1 minute:  recover, easy

2 minutes:  80% effort
1 minute:  recover, easy

3 minutes:  80% effort
1 minute:  recover, easy

3 minutes:  85% effort
1 minute:  recover, easy

3 minutes:  90% effort
1 minute:  recover, easy

REPEAT until the you have reached the total time necessary as described above.

Remember, when increasing the intensity of your interval workouts, be sure to build the number of repeats and effort level gradually as this workout can be stressful to your knees.    By Kathy Redden


Most athletes are comfortable with running since it is an activity that is involved in almost every sport.  Getting in the water, however, is a completely different undertaking.  If swimming is intimidating and a seemingly impossible feat to achieve, don't worry, you are not alone.  Less than 20% of triathletes have formal swim training, and are just as challenged as you.  Swimming is so rarely a "natural" skill and requires years of training to master.   If you are not among the few that participated in formal or competitive swimming at a young age, then you are among the many that are accepting an impressive challenge that is going to be tough but rewarding.

When designing your triathlon training program, do not fall into the habit of overtraining in your strongest event and avoiding your weakest event.  Since swimming is frequently a triathlete's weakest event, it often does not get the necessary attention.  Swimming is a technique-intensive sport.  When you begin your swim training, you should start with formal lessons with an instructor that teaches the freestyle stroke from a basic and beginner level.  There are about 10 skills going on at the same time during the stroke, each very important to an efficient swim, and many of them are not even directly involved in the movement in your arms.  Breathing and the position of your body is the first skill you should be practicing. 

In the beginning, I recommend spending about 5 days each week in the water, each workout being only about 30 to 40 minutes long.  Time in the water and repetition of drills (training muscle memory) is more important than working on speed intervals or kickboard repeats.  When you are amongst 50 triathletes, in  the middle of a lake or ocean, with a mile of swimming in front of you, good breathing skills and being able to depend on muscle memory to kick in is what will get you to the swim exit faster and in a more relaxed state for your next two events.     By Kathy Redden



Most triathletes spend all of their training time on the three events, swimming, biking and running.  Some triathletes include brick workouts to improve their performance after the two transitions from swim to bike and bike to run.  However, good performance in the actual transition area (labeled as T1 and T2) including changing shoes, hydrating, and adding or shedding equipment for example, can put you in good spirits and in a good position or it can leave you struggling and frustrated as you try to make up for lost time that has little to do with your athletic condition.

Try a few of these tips for faster transitions, and save yourself some effort in the race:

1.  If you get to choose your position in the transition area, show up early and get a spot that is easy to find.  Once you get set up, go to the water and walk from the swim finish to your bike.  This will help you remember when you are moving fast and breathing faster after your swim event.  You won't believe how different everything looks when there are other racers, spectators and bikes all over the place...the pre-race walk from the swim area to your bike helps tremendously especially when you are fighting the dizziness that can pop up after you jump out of the water.  Also, be sure to choose a spot in the transition area that is at the end of the rack, closest to the transition exit/bike start.

2.  Plan to wear attire that you do not have to add to or change.  When you are wet, clothes are very hard to put on, ESPECIALLY bike shorts or socks.  Adding either of these can add minutes to your time.  Running without socks takes some time to get used to, so be sure to practice running (short distances at first) without shoes.  If you blister easily, you can apply vaseline inside your shoe in the spots that tend to blister.

3.  Running shoes are very hard to tie when you are fatigued and trying to move fast.  Purchase some elastic shoelaces that are already tied so you can slip your shoes on and go. 

4.  If you need to eat during the bike segment, wrap a rubber band or tape around your power bar or gu to attach to your handle bars.  You can take off and grab some snacks while you are riding instead of while you are standing in the transition area.

5.   Practice, practice, practice.  Set up your transition area several times before the race so each move becomes automatic, and especially so you don't forget anything on race day!     By Kathy Redden


As discussed last week, the bike to run transition of a triathlon is challenging and often labeled as the most painful part of a race.  However, let's not minimize the difficulty of the other transition -- swim to bike.  Since the swim to bike transition usually involves a short and very fast run to your bike, several changes in gear and equipment, and a transition period that can take one to three or more minutes, it is important to train for this segment as if it's just as important as your swim, bike and run.  Many races are determined by the athlete that has the fastest transitions.

Besides shoe changes, getting your helmet and sunglasses attached properly, and running with a bicycle (sometimes barefoot), the challenge of this transition is the quick change from intense exertion while horizontal to vertical.  In general, swimmers often feel lightheaded or dizzy when they get out of the pool after finishing a workout.  In a triathlon, this feeling might be enhanced since this part of the event is usually "chaotic" and at a very high intensity with limited oxygen.  Being horizontal reduces vascular pressure in the body, so when you stand up quickly and start to run, gravity takes over and blood supply to the upper body, specifically the brain, drops to the lower body.  In addition, the lower body muscle groups are now also demanding blood and oxygen to perform (run) which further compromises the needs of the brain.  This condition happens more frequently and intensely in athletes with genetically or exercise-induced low blood pressure.

As you become more skilled in your swim technique, you will begin to breathe more effectively during this segment, and you will most likely feel less faint when you get out of the water.  In addition, you might include a swim/run workout in your weekly regimen, especially if you are an athlete that experiences this effect more than most.  A swim/run workout should include short but intense swim intervals (about 300 meters), followed by a run interval of about a quarter-mile at an accelerated pace.  Immediately jump back in the pool and repeat these intervals three to six times.  Be sure to always include an easy warm-up and cool-down.    By Kathy Redden



One of the most challenging moments in a triathlon is the second you take your first few steps into the run following your cycle segment.  The “heavy” feeling in the upper legs can cause you to start your run at a very slow pace, and regardless of the distance of the triathlon or the bike event, most experienced triathletes say this condition typically lasts about two miles.

The feeling of heavy legs you have after cycling is caused by intense muscular activity producing blood and lactic acid in the quadriceps muscle group, specifically the inner area of the upper legs.  When you begin to run, there are areas in the quadriceps that feel overworked and “full”, while other areas might feel underused and numb.  So, you jump off the bike, the inner quads are tired and heavy, and you start jumping from one leg to the other, demanding stabilization from the inner quad and strength from the outer quad – OUCH!

There are two methods to a smoother bike to run transition –  you can train for a more efficient, faster and easier bike performance, and you can complete “Brick” training.  Brick training for triathlons is simply “stacking” the two activities, cycling and running, back-to-back.  It is wise to include two types of brick workouts in your regimen.  

First, practice intense repeats that include short intervals of cycling followed by short intervals of running.  An example would be to cycle at 80 – 85% effort (preferably in a large or “sluggish” gear) for three minutes, the quickly transition to running at the same effort for about 400 meters or a quarter mile.  Again, quickly transition back to the cycling interval and repeat 5 – 10 times.  Be sure to start and end with a low effort warm-up and cool-down.

A second brick workout entails a cycling effort that is close or equal to the distance of the event you are training for, followed by a run of at least two miles.  Equating the cycling workout to your upcoming event distance is a bit more important than the running distance in a brick workout of this type; however, be sure to train for the appropriate running distances on your other training days.     By Kathy Redden 



There is an ongoing flexibility battle for triathletes between swimming and cycling/running.  While swimming requires advanced range of motion in the shoulder and ankle joints, cycling and running tend to tighten these areas causing less efficient swimming actions.  If an athlete has not been swimming since they were very young, they are likely (not in all cases) inflexible in these joints and would benefit from focused stretching programs, or practices such as Yoga or Pilates, to improve their swimming technique.

An effective swim kick is enhanced when the ankle has good plantar flexion.  This can be tested by sitting on the floor, facing a wall, with your legs stretched out in front of you.  Point your toes as hard as you can at the wall and measure the distance from the floor to your toes.  If the distance is 2 inches or less, you have excellent plantar flexion!  If the distance is closer to 4 or 6 inches, your swim kick can be greatly improved with flexibility work on the front/top of the foot.  The goal is to be able to shape your feet like swim fins.  We all swim much faster with our fins, right?

Restricted range of motion in the shoulder joint prevents you from getting into the streamline position that allows you to glide through the water with ease and less drag.  In addition, good shoulder range of motion makes the high elbow position, which is effective during the recovery stage of the freestyle stroke, easy to master.  The catch phase of the stroke (when the hand enters the water and the elbow bends to pull you through the water) also requires excellent range of motion in the shoulder.  Shoulder flexibility can be tested by reaching behind your back with both hands, one reaching down behind your lower back, while the other is reaching above your shoulder and behind your shoulder blades.  Try to touch your hands.  Usually one shoulder is more flexible than the other, so be sure to switch positions and test both sides.  If you can touch hands, you have better flexibility than most of us in your shoulders.  If you cannot touch the fingers of each hand to the others, you should focus on stretching the front of your shoulders and your chest.      By Kathy Redden


Neck and back pain is a common complaint among triathletes, particularly those that focus heavily on training for the bike segment of the triathlon.  There are several factors that lead to this condition including core strength and flexibility and riding position.  It is important to address these issues before they cause discomfort and pain, chronic conditions, dysfunctional biomechanics, injuries or impaired performance.

The body's position and posture when riding a bicycle is probably the main cause of issues with the neck and back.  Since the neck is extended and the back is flexed for prolonged periods of training, and the chest and anterior deltoids (front shoulder area) are flexed or shortened, small knots can form in the muscles around these areas causing  tightness and pain, mostly in the back of the neck and upper back muscles around the shoulder blades.  A training program that includes flexibility work on the front of the torso (chest, shoulders and neck) as well as strengthening work on the back of the torso (back, shoulders and neck) can help to prevent this from inhibiting bike training.  

Proper bike fit is critical for placing your body in the most optimal position for maximum output and decreased hyperextension of joints causing poor posture and improper biomechanics.  Be sure to have a professional adjust your bike to the most ideal position for your body size focusing on frame length (fit to your torso length and flexibility in the hips and back), handlebar height (fit to place your spine in correct position without causing hyperextension) and seat height (fit to avoid over-extended hip movement and hyper movement through the pelvis and tailbone).  Likely, if you wear quality cycling shorts with adequate padding, but you still feel uncomfortable on your bike (especially pain in the seat area), your fit needs adjustment.       By Kathy Redden


As discussed last week, muscular imbalances often occur in the lower body, specifically the quadriceps and the (or "against" the) hamstrings.  However, triathletes often have the same issue in the upper body's muscle groups that support and work with the shoulder joint while training in the pool.

The freestyle stroke motion tends to overdevelop the anterior deltoid (front shoulder) and the trapezius muscle (upper back directly behind the neck).  Overdevelopment of these upper/front areas, without corresponding work in the posterior deltoid (back shoulder) and lower areas of the back, can cause pain and injury from impengement of bursa and nerves in the shoulder joint and muscles of the rotator cuff.

Be sure to focus on flexibility in the front of the upper body by stretching the front of the shoulders and the chest.  Just as important, focus on developing strength in the back of the shoulders and the middle to lower areas of the back (latissimus dorsi and scapular area) to counter-balance the hours of training for your freestyle stroke.  By Kathy Redden 


Many aches and pains are caused by muscular imbalances.  A muscular imbalance is caused by a tightening of one muscle group and a weakening of the opposing muscle group.  Most of us cause this condition with regular daily activities since we spend lots of time sitting at a desk, driving and watching television, causing the hip flexors to remain contracted throughout the day.  Triathletes further this condition with three sports that predominantly develop the quadriceps muscle group and again, put the hip flexors in a contracted and shortened state for hours and hours.  Since these areas are tightened, and there is a lack of use in the opposing areas (hamstring and gluteus muscles), there is a high frequency of issues associated with muscular imbalances in triathletes.

Picture a triathlete standing, with shortened muscles in the front of the leg (hip flexors and quadriceps).  Since the muscles in the back of the body are under-developed in training, the opposing sides are in a muscular tug of war, and the stronger side will pull on any muscle and joint it can to overpower the weaker area.  A shortened hip flexor can pull the pelvis down and back, causing an excessive arch in the lower back.  Imagine the pressure this places on the knees, muscles of the lower back and discs in the spine.

Muscular imbalances can be tested fairly easily in a gym.  Compare the weight that can be completed with 15 leg extensions (quadriceps) versus 15 leg curls (hamstrings).  Most likely, you can complete much more weight with a leg extension.

Be sure to focus on flexibility in the front of the body and strength in the back of the body to prevent issues associated with muscular imbalances.

by Kathy Redden



Flexibility training is perhaps the most undervalued component of conditioning.  This is perhaps due to some of the "old school stretching" that we used to see in some gym classes.  It might also have something to do with improper technique that has LED TO instead of prevented injuries.  However, there is no question that flexibility (or as defined, the range of motion in a joint and its surrounding muscles) is important to enhancing sports performance and reducing the risk of some potential injuries.

Imagine an athlete with very tight hamstrings (the muscles behind the knee that run lengthwise up the back of the leg).  If the athlete was to slip during a run, and fall with one leg extended in front of the body, the hamstrings would be drastically forced beyond the muscle group's range of movement.  This will likely lead to a muscle tear, which can involve several months of recovery.  By increasing the range of motion in a joint, the limbs around that joint can move further before an injury occurs.

The most important rule to follow when beginning a flexibility program is this:


Historically, stretching was completed at the beginning of a workout.  However, research shows that stretching should be completed at the end of the workout when the core body temperature is increased, and an effective WARM-UP is more important before the workout.  In fact, many pre-workout flexibility routines include only about 5 - 10 minutes of moving (such as light jogging) to cause the body to become warm enough to sweat, followed by 5 or 6 exercises that put the muscle groups in a slightly lengthened, not stretched, position (such as knee lifts, squats or lunges).  Triathletes would be wise to jog or sit on a stationary bicycle to get some sweat pouring, then complete movements that mimic swimming, cycling and running for a few minutes before their workout begins.   By Kathy Redden


As discussed last week, proprioception and balance training should be part of a triathlete's training plan as it can have important effects on coordination, stability and strength.  Scientific research shows proprioceptive skills can also significantly lower the risk of injury and increase your chances of performing at your highest-possible level.  As an endurance athlete, if you have been lucky enough to avoid injury, good for you!  However, keep in mind that activities requiring repetitive movements, especially at high effort levels, often lead to conditions that can inhibit your training and therefore, your fun!  Balance training that improves proprioception can prevent such conditions from reappearing or perhaps ever happening to you at all.

Important rules to follow when developing a proprioceptive exercise program:

1.  Proprioception training efforts should begin with simply learning to balance yourself one-footed on firm ground.  As your coordination improves, add movement such as catching a medicine ball, swinging your arms, swinging your non-weight-bearing leg, and pulling on your weight-bearing leg with a stretch cord to challenge the stability in the joints of the balanced leg.
2.  Once you feel progress and confidence on firm ground, begin to add training devices like "squishy" exercise mats, mini-trampolines, balance discs, BOSU balls, and  wobble boards.  When using the unstable training devices, start with two-leg stances.  Progress to one-leg positions when good balance is achieved.
3.  The next progression is to employ squats, lunges, step-downs, hops, and other exertions which force your balance and proprioception to operate during dynamic actions.
4.  Stable joints in the upper body are clearly very important to triathletes, so be sure to include exercises such as balancing on one arm in a push-up position.  Progress to throwing a small ball with one arm while the other is balancing in this position, and finally placing an unstable device under the balancing arm.
5.  When you think your balance is really progressing, attempt to carry out each exercise with your eyes closed. 

By Kathy Redden


A strength routine for triathletes should be comprised of exercises that are functional, triathlon-specific, and predominately closed-chain.  Functional training and sport specificity are becoming common terms when the topic of strength training is being discussed; however, closed-chain exercises is less understood and critical to a resistance program that is truly applicable to triathletes.

Closed-chain exercises are movements that more closely replicate normal function by providing compression to several joints, causing the various muscle groups surrounding those joints to engage simultaneously, and ultimately increasing multi-joint stability.  For example, think of the biomechanics involved in running, and picture your leg as a chain.  The links would be the joints in the foot, followed by the ankle, knee, hip, spine and opposite shoulder.  A closed-chain exercise would be a plyometric one-legged squat, while a similar open-chain exercise would be a seated leg extension.  The closed-chain exercise promotes strength and stability in the muscles around the foot, ankle, knee, hip, spine and shoulder joints.  The open-chain exercise provides tension in only the quadriceps muscle group.

Examples of Closed-chain exercises include the following:

Running - One foot lands on the ground, the knee bends, the foot produces force against the ground and the ankle, knee and hip extend to  move the body forward onto the other foot, all with much impact to all joints mentioned above.  This is a similar motion to the walking lunge or a plyometric one-legged squat.

Cycling - The foot produces force against the pedal using ankle, knee and hip extension.  An exercise similar to this movement is a one-legged squat without impact.

Swimming - When the hand enters the water, elbow extension and flexion create the "catch", followed by spinal rotation and additional elbow flexion and shoulder rotation, ALL WHILE HORIZONTAL!  Cable pulley or rubber tubing equipment, with movements that reproduce the full swim stroke, while on one leg or a balance disc that provides instability, transfer well to the water.

By Kathy Redden 


As you progress through the middle to end of your triathlon season, you might be experiencing the typical nagging aches and pains that are often associated with heavy levels of training and racing.  Overuse injuries are common topics of interest to any endurance athlete; therefore, since a triathlete participates in three endurance sports simultaneously, it is wise to treat injury prevention techniques with great importance in your overall triathlon training plan.

Some common pains that result from muscular imbalances and are exacerbated by repetitive movements in swimming, cycling and running are:

*Shoulder Cuff Tendonitis
*Patellofemoral Pain (knee pain)
*Iliotibal Band Syndrome (ITBS)
*Plantar Fasciitis (heel pain)

...any of these sound familiar?  Unfortunately and all too often, endurance athletes continue to train through their pains until they are unable to continue.  Proper resistance training creates strength and injury prevention effects that can:

*Increase bone density and strength,
*Reduce risk of osteoporosis,
*Improve strength of connective tissues - tendons and ligaments,
*Improve joint stability,
*Correct muscular imbalances,
*Increase functional strength, AND

By Kathy Redden


Many triathletes believe strength and resistance training should be completed with relatively light weights for a high number of repetitions in an attempt to build endurance.  However, endurance is built during an athlete's swim, cycle and run training sessions, while strength training should be treated with a completely separate focus.  Muscular endurance is very different than muscular strength.
For example, a cyclist averaging 90 rpm for a three hour ride will complete 16,200 repetitions. In that context, are we really going to improve our muscles’ aerobic system with a set of 20 or 30 repetitions? Not likely.  Research consistently shows that a triathlete incorporating high repetition weight training into his/her program will not increase aerobic conditioning at all.

Therefore, using heavier weights is a necessity to achieve the goals of a triathlon or athletic strength training program.  The muscles must be overloaded by a heavier weight, not by fatigue from acid buildup generated during high repetition strength training. Build your ENDURANCE in the pool, on your bike, and in your running STRENGTH in the weight room.

By Kathy Redden 



Strength and conditioning exercises that best suit triathletes are those that mimic the movement patterns that are performed in swimming, cycling and running.  Since most people think of strength training as something that can only be accomplished with weight machines, it often prevents triathletes from participating in a properly designed strength and training program.  This is likely because traditional strength training (bodybuilding) does not "feel" like the sports involved in a triathlon.

The majority of weight machines limit the muscle groups being challenged at one time, and they only allow movement patterns in one dimension and/or plane.  When you swim, cycle and run, your body is called upon to produce power from several joints simultaneously and in more than one plane of motion.  In addition, the typical machine provides stabilizing tools such as a chair, bench or even a knee pad that locks your legs in place while completing the exercise.  Propelling horizontally through water, balancing on two very thin wheels while pedaling forcefully and hopping from one foot to the other for several miles are all multi-planar movements in extremely unstable environments.  Stabilized resistance exercises (weight machines) are effective for producing muscle definition; however, unstable resistance exercises that mimic the sports in triathlon are effective for producing muscular balance, joint stability and increased performance.

Be sure to incorporate exercises in your triathlon strength-training program that include the following guidelines:

1) Mimic the movements in swimming, cycling and running.
2) Challenge several joints simultaneously so they become strong together.
3) Work in various dimensions and planes of motion.
4) Utilize machines without stabilizing tools (try medicine balls, balance discs and tubing) 


The term "strength training" is often associated with muscle hypertrophy, or growth and increase in size of a muscle or muscle group.  However, an actual gain in true strength, as opposed to a gain in the amount of weight being pushed, pulled or lifted, is more associated with neural factors than muscle size.

Strength training causes changes in neural recruitment and the firing frequency/efficiency of neurons and the muscle fibers they activate.  Therefore, although strength training as a triathlete should be focused on training muscle groups to function with more power in the specific movements you perform in your sport (Sport-Specific training, as discussed last week), there is a second and extremely important reason to strength train as a triathlete. 

Stability in a joint is compromised when a muscle group is imbalanced and not firing (ineffective neural recruitment) optimally.  Instability in a joint is the main cause of aches, pains and eventually injuries that prevent athletes from participating in their sport.  Therefore, including sport-specific strength training in your regimen should not be thought of as something that will cause weight-gain, muscle size development or inflexibility.  Rather, think of it as a practice that will train your muscles to perform more effectively and for many years to come.  Be proactive and include sport-specific exercises in your program to improve neuromuscular function and keep you on track with your triathlon goals.       By Kathy Redden


Strength training for any sport is most effective when resistance exercises are similar to the sport or  activity in which improvement is sought.  Sport-Specific Training is the term used to describe exercises that are designed to build strength in the exact motion that is being completed in the activity of interest.  Since swimming, cycling and running all demand unilateral force production (power from one side of the body at a time), unilateral training is an effective technique for building triathlon-specific strength.  Choose exercises that mimic the movements used in swimming, cycling and running.

However, be prepared to be challenged.  Many athletes can perform a traditional leg press (on a machine, using both legs) with hundreds of pounds, but lack the strength and control to perform a single leg squat (using body weight, involving balance and challenging core strength).

To improve unilateral force production specific to triathlon events, the following exercises that focus on single-leg and single-arm control may be helpful:

Single leg squats
Split squats
One-arm Tricep extensions
One-arm Lat Pull Down using cables


Repetitive movements in athletics such as the swimming stroke, pedaling a bicycle and the running stride create potential for muscular imbalances as well as repetitive stress syndrome.  Muscles that are stressed over and over in the same motion can create an imbalance between the two sides of the body.  The difficulty with imbalances is that it can be tough to detect until an injury or pain occurs. 
Unilateral training, or training one leg, arm or side of the body at a time, can help to detect strength imbalances.  This method can easily help you note differences in strength between areas of the body.  A certain amount of strength is acceptable; however, when the differences are more than 20 percent, it might be time to evaluate for correctove measures.  Complete your current exercise regimen in a unilateral format to assess the potential muscular imbalances you might be promoting with high levels of repetitive exercises.  For example, if you can complete a leg extension on your right leg using 50 pounds, you should be able to complete a set on your left leg with at least 40 pounds (20 percent less).   by Kathy Redden


Most triathletes notice significant progress in the first two or three years of triathlon training.  Especially those that were not highly-trained athletes in adolescence and perhaps are "athletes" for the first time in their lives, as adults.  This is an exciting time as your body is becoming more aerobically fit, more coordinated and noticeably stronger with almost every workout.  What happens though when you experience your first plateau in training?  It is inevitable, so read on to learn more about this very normal part of becoming a more advanced triathlete. 

As discussed previously, adding Interval training and Plyometric exercises to your triathlon training program are two ways to break through a plateau.  Another consideration that is often undervalued is the dominant vs. weak body side and the effect of training unilaterally (one leg, arm or side at a time). 

We all have a dominant, stronger body side.  You use one leg more in the pedal motion on your bike, one leg is better at stabilizing or balancing when you run and one arm is more effective and efficient stroking in the water.  Your dominant body side can leave you with weakened, underdeveloped areas of your body preventing consistent and balanced muscle and strength gains. 

Unilateral training targets the non-dominant ("weak side") areas of the body and activates under-utilized nerves and muscle fibers to force muscles to adapt and grow.  Without focused unilateral training, the strong muscles get stronger and the weak muscles get weaker.

During your next resistance workout, try everya new challenge.  Complete each exercise in your regimen with one one leg or one arm at a time.   You will most likely notice significant strength differences; however, try to use the same weight for each side until you become more balanced.  To determine the weight to use, take half of the weight you use for the bilateral version of the exercise and drop by an additional 10%.  In other words, you will be able to complete about "less than half " of the weight unilaterally as you can bilaterally.    byKathy Redden


Plyometric exercises are usually completed using the lower body and therefore develop power for running, cycling and the kick in swimming.  However, plyometrics can be used to boost performance both on the land and in the water.  In addition, injuries in the upper body, specifically the deltoid (shoulder) area, from overtraining in the pool can ruin a triathlon season for 3 - 6 months.

How do you develop strength and power for your stroke without hours and hours of swimming laps?  Upper body plyometrics will contribute to your swim stroke efficiency by increasing distance per stroke, conserving energy, and preventing overtraining injuries.

Complete 20 repetitions of the following plyometric exercises, followed by 30 seconds of rest.  Repeat each exercise 5 times total before beginning the next exercise.

1.  Medicine Ball Slam: While standing, hold a medicine ball of 6 - 10 lbs above head.  With as much force, and as fast as possible, throw the ball onto the ground about 1 - 3 feet in front of you.  Quickly squat to pick up the ball and repeat 20x.

2.  Medicine Ball Partner Toss:  Sit upright with knees bent, pointed at ceiling, and feet flat on the ground, approximately 2 feet away from a partner sitting in the same position.  You will be facing each other.  Engage your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button into your spine without holding your breath.  This will support your spine since this position requires some lower back strength to perform.  Throw a 6 - 10lb medicine ball to your partner, extending through the elbow joint, but with force and speed.  Throw the ball so that the partner catches the ball above their head.  Complete this until each partner has completed 20 throws, then have each person back up 12 inches.  Repeat the throw set and continue to distance partners 12 inches between each set, 5 sets total.

by Kathy Redden


Many triathletes favor heavy volume training performed at relatively low intensity, often called aerobic, endurance or base-training.  This type of effort often seems effective since triathlons are labeled as an endurance sport and often performed at lower effort levels. However, reducing volume and increasing the intensity of your workouts gives your body a chance to be challenged at a level of strength and power that cannot be achieved with long base-training sessions.  In addition, more work, and therefore gains, can be completed in a shorter amount of time, decreasing training time and helping to prevent overtraining injuries.  
Plyometrics exercises, as discussed in my last article, performed in an interval format, are an effective way to complete this type of training.  Interval training can be best defined as high intensity bouts of exercise alternated with short rest intervals.  Rest is very important to the overall goal of pushing yourself to a higher level than you can attain with continuous training.  Keep in mind, if you do not feel you need the rest between efforts as suggested below,  you are not performing adequate intensity to achieve the described training effect.

Complete the following exercises as follows: 

Compete 20 repetitions of the following Plyometrics exercise, followed by 30 seconds of rest.  Repeat each exercise 5 times total before beginning the next exercise.


1.  Box jumps:  Using a box, platform or step, ranging from 10 to 30 inches in height, jump up and down on equipment with both feet landing simultaneously.  Be sure to land with knees bent in a half-squat position, both on and off of the equipment.

2.  Lateral ski jumps:  Stand with one foot on a box, platform or step, ranging from 6 – 20 inches in height, while other foot is on the ground, lined laterally with each other.  In one motion, jump in the air and switch your feet quickly.  Continue as rapidly as possible with good technique.

3.  Step ups:  Step up and hop off of one leg on a bench or step, (full foot on equipment, not heel hanging off), ranging from 10 – 30 inches in height.  The other foot should land "lightly" on the ground after each step up, only balancing your weight (not supporting all of your weight).  

By Kathy Redden


To complete the series of training tips focusing on core strength, it is important to include a discussion about two of the most effective exercises that will engage and develop the entire core area in connection with the rest of the upper body.  Once you have developed this complete area, you will have a strong structure that will add to proper posture and contribute to the efforts you make to prevent injury. We are going back to the basics.  Just like in PE class...remember Pull-Ups and Push-Ups?  These two exercises, when performed on a regular basis, and in addition to other suggested core exercises, are ideal for optimal functional upper body strength. It is very important that these exercises are completed with perfect technique.  Both are performed at a slow rate with good alignment through the entire spine (lower back all the way to the upper neck). Pull-Ups are challenging when first attempted.  Be sure to start by modifying so you are able to complete the range of motion of an advanced pull-up; however, you should have a piece of equipment under your feet that you can push off of during the exercise.  As you become stronger, you should choose equipment that is lower to the ground and a further reach for your feet; therefore, causing your core and upper body to create most of the movement. Push-Ups are not core-intensive when the knees are on the ground.  Attempt your push-ups with your knees off the ground (balancing weight on hands and toes).  BE SURE to not hold your breath, and keep your chin off of your chest.  Complete the range of motion that you feel you can with good form, and work toward bigger movements as you become stronger. Always keep your belly button "pulled in", as if you are putting on a pair of tight jeans, WITHOUT holding your breath.  Engaging the core muscles in this way will lend to the connection between your core muscles and your upper body muscles. The number of repetitions to complete will depend on your current fitness level.  It is only important to complete reps that you can do with good form, and to consistently work to increase your number of repetitions. 
By Kathy Redden


The core muscles are just like any other muscle group in the body, they adapt to the same training stimulus over time; therefore, in order to continue to gain strength, you should progressively challenge the muscles to work harder within the same amount of repetitions, as opposed to longer or just increasing reps. 

In other words, to avoid hitting a strength plateau, you need to periodically make a change in the intesity of the exercises you are performing.  This is accomplished by adding weight or range or motion to your exercises.  I don't recommend doing 25 different exercises, 50 reps each.  Rather, it is more effective to repeat 4 or 5 exercises for a particular muscle group, in a progressive format, so that you are maximizing a particular area to it's fullest potential. 

Core exercises for this week:

1.  SIDE PLANK - with weight: 

Perform the Side Plank exercise from the previous workouts; however, add a 10lb weight plate or medicine ball (place weight on your hip bone facing the ceiling).  Lift hips 15 times, rest, and repeat until you have completed 3 sets.  Switch sides.

2.  PLANK - with weight:

Perform the 60 second PLANK hold; however, add 6 - 8 lbs to the back (balance a medicine ball or weight plate on the lower back, just below the tail bone).  Try to complete 2 sets of this exercise.  If necessary, you can remove the weight for the second set.

3.  PLANK - with rotation:

Perform this exercise as described previously at a slower rate.  Slower movements in each direction throughout the rotation should be, as I describe it, "annoyingly" slow.  Perform 30 repetitions, 3 sets total.
 by Kathy Redden