Did you hear that sound?

That was a collective sigh of relief from tired triathletes all over Australia who are looking forward to the upcoming off-season so they can stay up late, sleep in on the weekends & eat dessert (more often).

All of those things are important for your physical, mental & emotional wellbeing. But resting the entire off-season is a sure way to lose your fitness (and fast!), not to mention get left behind by your competitors once the season starts again!

Less swim, bike & run training means that you have more time on your hands in the off-season to take care of some things which you might struggle to find the time to do during the season. This makes the off-season a perfect time to work on your weaknesses, sort out any niggles which bothered you during the season & set yourself up for an even better season next time!

The best way to do this is to increase (or add if you weren’t already doing it!) some strength & conditioning training to your program during the off-season months.

Aussie professional triathletes Mirinda Carfrae, Melissa Rollison, Michelle Wu & Lisa Marangon (to name a few!) all include core & stability training in their weekly training program.

Questions I am often asked by triathletes like you about strength & conditioning include ~

Why should I include strength & conditioning in my triathlon training program?

Training for & participating in triathlons make you (very) strong in some ways but weak in other ways.

Throw in everyday activities like sitting for prolonged periods of time and most of us have (major) imbalances in our bodies. Those imbalances are generally the cause of most triathlon-related injuries.

Quite simply – reduce the imbalances in your body & you reduce your risk of injury. Less injuries allows you to train more consistently & improve faster, putting you on the fast track to your next PB!

There is another benefit of doing strength & conditioning which may be even more important to you than your triathlon performance next season. Carrying a little more muscle increases your metabolism (and no, you don’t need to worry about ‘bulking up’). A higher metabolism will burn more calories when exercising (and even at rest) resulting in more weight loss in the long term!

How long do I need to spend doing strength & conditioning training?

Around 30 minutes 3 times each week is ideal.

But as we both know, we don’t live in an ideal world. Often our work, family & social commitments (not to mention the desire to actually enjoy the off-season!) mean we don’t always have a lot of available time in the off-season.

So the good news is that as little as 15 minutes a couple of times each week is more than enough to put you in a prime position to tackle next season – provided you choose appropriate exercises!

I see many triathletes choosing exercises more appropriate for bodybuilders or football players than for triathlon. Triathlon places a very unique set of demands on your body. So the most effective way for you to spend your (precious) time is to choose strength & conditioning exercises which improve the way your body adapts to those (triathlon-specific) demands.

So this article kicks off a series exploring some triathlon-specific strength & conditioning exercises you can include in your off-season training. Most don’t require equipment so you can do them at a time & place convenient to you!

Let’s get started by looking at one of the main causes of lower leg injuries in triathlon – instability & weakness in your hips!

Hip hip hooray!

This is a really common problem (for both men & women) in our sport. If you have had a problem with your iliotibial band (ITB) for example, then you probably had (and may still have) weak hips.

If you don’t believe me – try this.

Stand up. Yes, I’m talking to you! Take your shoes off & stand on one foot. Without moving your arms or upper body around in an attempt to remain balanced, how long can you stand still before you start to wobble?

In my experience, it’s not very long for most people.

Yet the ability to stand on one leg is at the core of one of the most basic of human movements – gait! Every time you walk or run, you stand on one leg. If you

have imbalances or weaknesses, your body has to compensate. And it is those compensations that, over time, result in injury.

So here are 4 of my favourite strength & conditioning exercises that I give to triathletes to help to improve hip stability & reduce your risk of injury next season ~

Ankle ‘core’

This is an ‘all in one’ balance & stability exercise. The key with this (challenging) exercise is not to wave your arms around &/or lean your upper body over in an attempt to stay upright. Keep your upper body as still as possible while doing this.

 

Side leg raise

This exercise is loved by physiotherapists & for good reason. When done properly, it isolates and targets the muscles in your hips which keep your hips level when you stand on one foot. Its drawback however is that as it is done laying down, it doesn’t replicate ‘real life’ when you need your hips to stabilise while walking or running.

 

That is why I always follow it up with the following 2 exercises….

Ice skater

Channel your inner “Steven Bradbury” with this exercise!

Don’t be fooled by its relative simplicity. This really targets those stability muscles in your hips & may leave you a tad

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Lateral shuffle

The human body is, of course, designed to be able to move sideways. But triathlon – and everyday life for that matter – rarely requires us to. So most people are tight &/or weak in our inner thighs as well as the muscles on the outside of our hips (which control your stability). So this is a nice easy exercise you can use (in a warm up before a run or as part of your strength & conditioning session) to start to use those muscles again.

So try these exercises 2-3 times each week during the off-season & wait for your competitors to be surprised by the gains you make over the off-season!

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About The Author

Jen Brown

Registered Fitness Professional

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