We’ve all heard and read that specificity is key. Heck I’ve said it before in this column. But I’m beginning to think that the majority of triathletes have taken this a little bit too far. Which is kinda like saying your local radio station played “Achy Breaky Heart” a few too many times in 1992.
Recently I had a triathlete tell me that he didn’t want to swim any stroke other than freestyle, because that’s all he’ll be doing in his race. Seriously? Are you really so Type A that you can’t consider that something other than freestyle might be of some benefit?
I’m thinking of making a movie called “The Athlete in the Iron Bubble” (today is apparently the day for obscure, dated pop culture references). Seriously people, there is a wide, wide world of sports out there (I crack myself up). Not only might you enjoy these activities, but they will, gasp, make you a better triathlete.
As a terrestrial animal, humans just don’t do well in the water. Almost any time you spend moving through water is going to benefit you, if you pay attention to feel for the water, the “catch” and drag. You can actually learn a lot about freestyle from the other three strokes if you’re paying attention. If you’re a one-trick pony, teach yourself backstroke and breaststroke. They are far easier to learn than freestyle, an easy way to relieve a little boredom from the typical freestyle set, and good for stretching and strengthening neglected muscles. Heck, they might even help you out in an open water swim sometime.
I actually don’t even know where to start here. Cyclocross. Mountain Bike. Dirt road riding. Any of those will help your handling, which, let’s face it, most triathletes need. And they’re all fun. Triathlon is a challenge, but riding a bike is fun, especially on dirt, and especially with other people. (It’s also safer; trees are softer than cars, and they don’t text) It’s okay to cheat on your tri bike, really. At the very least, get a road bike and ride with other people.
We might just skip this part, since running is really, well, running. However, like cycling, there can be a great social aspect. And, like cycling, it’s a lot more fun off road, and good for you too. Trail running improves balance, proprioception, forces speed changes and hill work, emphasizes different muscles; basically all things that will make you a better runner. Plus, there’s less stress when running on softer surfaces, so you’re getting a bigger training benefit at a lower cost. That’s a win-win. If nothing else, hit up your local running store for a group run, and for pete’s sake don’t wear calf sleeves, tri shorts, and a visor!
Steen Rose is the owner and Head Coach of Athletes On Track and an Elite Coach for Training Bible Coaching. He has been competing in cycling and multisport events for 16 years with 13 state titles and 3 national medals to his name. He has been coaching since 2003 and works with all ages and abilities of athletes locally, nationally, and abroad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org