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Strength, Stability & Core Training

Often we think of the fall or end of the racing season as the off season. It is true that we need to give our body some time off, especially after the rigors of an Ironman or multiple Half IM season. But too often we go from training our body to being the fittest it has ever been, to not exercising at all within a few weeks. Not only is this very unhealthy, it also leaves us with trying to play catch up early into the next season. Many of you are planning to improve at your next “A” race and the best race season starts with the smartest preseason.

What is the goal of a successful preseason plan? Here are the key points I consider:

Goals for the next season and what we want to improve on. If we determine that we want to improve the run, then we need to spend some more time running in the preseason but not necessarily a lot of miles, but maintaining a healthy frequency and focusing on improving our technique, efficiency, turnover and form. Similar to cycling and running.
Strengths & limiters. As I just mentioned, we want to use this time of year to improve our limiters, but not turn our strengths into a new limiter! Healthy base & muscle recruitment of each triathlon discipline.
Strength & weights. We are all working athletes, so the strength training often is sacrificed during the main part of the season. That means only this time of year allows for a solid focus on strength. Also, strength training and endurance training are in complete contrast with each other and therefore can’t be effectively “trained” at the same time. The Preseason is an excellent time to work on strength. This does NOT mean heavy lifting. There has been no (none!) scientific proof that strength training benefits the endurance athlete  only the exercise of swimming, cycling and running benefits the endurance athlete. But you will see most of the strength work revolves around balance, core, flexibility, stability and power.
Core & flexibility. Similar to strength, this often gets neglected during the main training phases. At this time of year we can work on re-integrating into our daily/weekly routine and hopefully it will “stick” for the next season in our daily/weekly routine. Core & flexibility are always beneficial in any training plan.
Starting late. Many of you have heard me say this time and time again: starting early allows for flexibility in your training and your lifestyle. If we do the preseason work, the ski weekends, the family trips, the holidays, the reunions and any sickness or injury are no cause for freakout. A well prepared athlete with healthy base of endurance will ensure a better racing season than the athlete that decides to pick up the training again in January. Don’t cram for the test because if you get sick or injured or have to travel for work, all of a sudden your plans for a strong buildup for the triathlon season are compromised. Every year I have plenty of athletes that start too late and then write off their result with  “I couldn’t train that much, work & family wouldn’t allow that”.
Well, consistent training for multiple months does allow that! You just need to know when to start.

The Preseason is built in 3 phases:

1. Phase 1 is designed to prepare the body for the rigors of strength training by improving stabilizing muscles and activating the neuromuscular system. This Phase has little endurance training included, only maintenance. Your goal is not heavy lifting; it is lighter weight and no repetition until failure. You should comfortably complete each exercise set. After 2-3 weeks your body will be better prepared to work harder and to failure. Focus should be on controlled movements throughout each exercise, holding the core tight for the extent of the action.
2. Phase 2 is designed for you to utilize the strength you have by increasing the muscular capacity (repetitions) and neuromuscular function (failure). Remember we are not looking to build strength; we are looking to utilize all the strength we currently already have! Each exercise should be repeated three times (3 sets) and each set should be 8 to 12 repetitions. This should be challenging enough to cause failure between the 8th and 12th repetition. If this is too easy, slow down your movements dramatically.
3. Phase 3 is designed to reintegrate endurance training while maintaining the strength routine. By gradually increasing the volume of training miles and reducing the strength training, we ensure a good transition and application of the strength, stability and core work.
Each phase will typically last 3-4 weeks, but can vary depending on the individual. Once Phase 3 is complete, physiological testing should be scheduled.

ALSO: I will be integrating KEY exercises into our Indoor Cycling routine such as wall squats, lunges, single leg cycling, jumping rope, single leg gluteals and back extensions. Indoor Cycling remains an integral piece of the preseason training since it allows for interval training, intensity & quality as well as a controlled environment for wattage and heart rate training.

Click here to start the preseason strength, stability & core training.

Having it all – A good 2008 starts with a smart Preseason

Having it all – A good 2008 starts with a smart Preseason
By Chris Hauth
10/18/2007

This is usually the time of year we start thinking of the next racing season in earnest. Of course most of us have already ‘thought’ about 2008 since we had to sign up for most of the popular races the day after they ended! But usually as we get into October we start planning the next season. With that planning usually comes the off-season. What will we do differently to set up that great ‘A’ race in 2008?

I like to call the off-season the Preseason. This does not mean I don’t believe in taking some serious time off, but I am a firm believer in maintaining a healthy foundation for what will be required come the spring. I say to all of my athletes that a well-executed Preseason allows you to have it all. What does ‘having it all’ mean?

Having it all means balancing life, with all the avenues that need attention, while maintaining your triathlon sanity. The Preseason sets all this up for you. I can list all the benefits here of a solid strength training plan, of how core & stability work will benefit you in the long term etc. But I want to instead explain the ‘hidden’ benefits of the Preseason:

Less stress – A healthy Preseason gives you flexibility. Your lighter training now allows for a healthy balance of other activities you neglect when things get serious again. If you want to go skiing for a few days this winter, have a family vacation planned or know that the Holidays will not allows any training, no need to stress – you have been consistent with your training through the Preseason and taking a week or two off will not derail your 2008 ambitions. Less stress also if the common winter cold catches up with you or even an injury that creeps up, your consistent approach allows some leeway on all these possible roadblocks to your training.

Undecided racing schedule – A smart Preseason provides you with a platform to race any distance that you might still sign up for. Think it might be fun to do that Half Ironman you have been eyeing? A steady dose of consistent training in the Preseason lets you either ‘add on’ volume or increase the intensity for shorter distance races. But this flexibility starts with a platform that you created in the Preseason. For example, if you are maintaining a healthy 8-12 hrs of training per week in the Preseason, then the jump to 15-17 hours per week will not be a shock to your body. This avoids injury as well as keeps the head on straight – meaning that when it’s time to turn the mental focus back on, your mind & spirit are fresh.

Goodwill – Triathlon is extremely time consuming. ‘Having it all’ means strategically lining up your season with the family and your career. Steady Preseason training keeps you from getting too out of shape for your big plans in 2008, but also creates a visible difference in hours training per week vs. when the season is in full swing. I write ‘visible’ difference since it needs to be obvious to your family and people at work that you are flexible and open to extra hours at this time of year. This goodwill goes a long way in the spring & summer when you book it out of the office at 4pm to get in a ride or you get home at 2pm from a 6 hour bike + 1 hour run on a Saturday. Many of my athletes want to do more at this time of year – but I always urge them to spend that time now with their other priorities, because the time will come where I look for big sacrifices. And we all know, it gets challenging at home on some of those Saturdays…

Hit the ground running – A successful Preseason also allows you to prepare for the 2008 Season by squaring away your plans and goals early. Looking for a coach? Don’t wait until January. Why? Because it will take a few weeks minimum to get one the same page with the coaching plan – what the workouts means, how the coach wants you to complete them, what you expect from your coaching, and the biggest component: your understanding of base & foundation training might be completely different than your coach’s – this alone might delay a few weeks of training. Despite physiological testing, numerous conversations and all kinds of training data, it takes me about 4 weeks to get on the same page with my athletes: Their work schedule, hours available, how they are adapting to the training, scheduling they prefer on the weekend etc. All this takes time and starting in January or February cuts it real close. Also, if you are doing your own planning, have your season written out, with phases, goals and key performance markers before the main season begins. This allows you to start 2008 prepared and with a clear mind to focus on training and balancing the rest of your responsibilities. That is hard enough! Come the main training phases you want to hit the ground running knowing what you are doing, why you are doing it, how you are going to complete it and what the desired outcome should be.

Integrate – Preseason is a great time to catch up with training partners you usually don’t train with, run trails you stay away from in the main part of the season, ride to that bakery you always pass. Stop, have a coffee & pastry, and then ride home. Or, even better, head there with your family or significant other. I like to take my wife out on the roads I ride during my training days so that she can see where I ride, enjoy some of the route that I always talk about when I come home from some of those long days. How often are we on long rides or runs and think how fun it would be to come here NOT while training? Now is the time. It makes passing those spots so much easier come 2008. You actually have fond memories! Hike the trails you run, take some of your training buddies to the routes you have discovered. Some may not be able to ride that far, so drive out there a bit. The key is to combine the sacrifices you make during the season with the people that are important to you. It sure goes a long way when you disappear again.

Health – Here is where having it all is most obvious but we cannot overlook this important aspect of solid Preseason. Of course we know maintaining a healthy base allows for the body to actively recover from the rigors of a long season while maintaining a strong muscular structure with all its ligaments and support network. We also know it is never healthy to go to extremes, whether not training at all to going full speed into the big training miles. But this also includes metabolism and our diet – sure, allow yourself to eat those things you deprive yourself at times during the season and also allows your weight to fluctuate a bit, but extreme changes will just make returning to ‘par’ harder. Preseason is the time to try different routines also – what if I move my swims to Saturday and now do a long run on Wednesdays? Trying different training or routines (yoga or some strength training) can often be beneficial to the overall plan but know how it affects you & your training before integrating into the main season. Does strength work leave you too tired for a good quality session the next day? Does swimming on a different day make it easier to do a Bike/Run on another day? This is the time of year to test that reshuffle.

While much of this might not be new to you, using the Preseason to your advantage can really impact your 2008 season. Many of us will not think of these things until January but preparing a good Preseason really does allow us to ‘have it all’ – work/life balance, results, health and sanity. A wise friend in triathlon always taught me to control the things I can control, whether on race day or in my training – a well planned Preseason does just that – it allows me to get control of my ‘world’ and be prepared for when things really get going.

Now I need to go train since my 2007 season hasn’t ended…yet.

Original article can be found on xtri.com