Become a Triathlon Warrior with Total Gym: An Introduction

Triathlon Training with Total Gym

total gym triathlon training series

**Over the next five weeks, you will have access to both video instruction on how to use the Total Gym and accessories, and blog articles explaining how specific exercises help increase performance.

It isn’t just your imagination — Triathlons are a growing athletic phenomenon in the American sports community. As interest in healthy lifestyles increases, and social media fuels competition, the demand for individual competitive sporting events has risen. Media coverage at the Olympics has brought the triathlon to the forefront of public consciousness overnight, with the title “triathlete” as a badge of true athletic honor. USA Triathlon has seen impressive growth in annual and one-day membership, with about 511,000 members nationwide (up from 127,824 in 1999). In fact, one year ago the NCAA approved triathlon, the fastest growing sport in the U.S. Olympic Movement, as an emerging sport for women. This means schools will be providing more athletic opportunities for women and sports sponsorship for institutions so that triathlon will achieve NCAA championship status. Think you’re too old to participate? According to USA Triathlon®, the greatest growth has occurred in the 35-39 and 40-44 age groups. So, what does a triathlete do?

Swim, Bike, Run and More

The Olympic length race involves a 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, and 10 km run. More challenging is the Half Ironman, which includes a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run. A full Ironman includes a marathon run of 26.2 miles, along with a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike ride. There are now shorter races, called Sprints to attract athletes of all levels. A Sprint triathlon is a 500 meter swim, 12 mile bike, and 5k run. The events always occur in the order of swim, bike, run.

Now that you know what it takes to be a contender, let’s talk about training. You will need to bike, run, and swim, but you can train on a stationary, mountain, road or tri-bike; swim in a pool or open water; and run on treadmills, trails or pavement. Next, be aware of where the race is being held and the time of year. The weather and topography will determine your training and the type of gear you’ll need to wear or use. The choice of gear available (from bikes to shoes to wetsuits) is a topic for another article.

You will also need to do some work on your Total Gym on muscle conditioning. Legs, upper body and core must be in top shape to power you through the triathlon. Plyometric and strength-focused exercises have been shown to be the most effective.

You might be getting a sense that triathletes are full-time athletes whose personal and work lives are nonexistent. But this isn’t necessarily true. You must become an efficient manager of your life on your way to the winners’ podium.

Triathlon Training is an Investment of Time

A comfortable time frame for training is about 3 months. This allows for dieting (if necessary), building strength (if you don’t normally push yourself with intense workouts), and increasing your stamina (especially if you’re aiming for an Ironman). The hardest part of triathlon training, though, is finding time in your schedule to fit it all in. For example, an elite triathlete will swim, bike, and run five times a week in addition to spending about two sessions a week in the gym, while an intermediate triathlete will swim, bike, and run three times week, and condition in the gym two or three times a week. This means doubling up every day: swim and run, or bike and weights, or swim and bike, etc. Each session may have a different goal: concentrate on speed or distance or power. Total hours of work may be between five hours (for beginners) and 20 hours (for elites) per week. It may be too difficult to fit everything into five days, so you can spread the training plan workouts over six days. But have at least one day of recovery and rest.

Strength vs. Endurance

As for strength training, the idea is to get strong and lean, not to bulk up or gain muscle mass. You don’t need a wide V-taper and biceps the size of cannons. Weight training for triathlons requires doing lots of reps at lower weights and building power with plyometrics. As you power up hills on the bike, it’s to your advantage to weigh a little less. Core exercises are a must, since biking and especially swimming demand superior strength in the abdomen and back. The Total Gym is going to be key in helping you achieve the fitness level you will need to compete in your next race. A squat stand will be necessary; you might also like to use the ab crunch and cyclotrainer accessories.

Expert Tips for Successful Triathlon Training

Jonathan Cane, an exercise physiologist and head coach at City Coach Multisport, recommends simple weight training exercises with the goal of gaining strength, not muscle.
And while you’re at the gym, be sure to condition your butt: “A strong butt is the key to a happy life when it comes to running,” says Jordan D. Metzl, MD, sports medicine physician at NYC’s Hospital for Special Surgery and Triathlete contributor. The glutes prevent the pelvis from tilting side to side. Strengthening them will help avoid typical running injuries including IT band friction syndrome.

When running, whether you land on the forefoot, mid-foot or heel, “What’s important is where your foot falls underneath you,” says Rob Maschi, PT, DPT, of NYC’s Hospital for Special Surgery. “It should fall directly under your center of mass, not in front of it, or you’re basically braking with every step.”

Marisa D’Adamo, a physical therapist and former coordinator for the ING NYC marathon, says, “Stretch for speed. Stretching helps you maintain your range of motion, and poor range of motion means poorer power… You can’t work on your power or strength when your joint doesn’t have the range of motion it needs.”
Olympian Andy Potts, a well-known and successful American triathlete, offers the following tips:

  1. Take the first five, 10 or 15 minutes of each event and “build into it” so you finish strong.
  2. When swimming, try to keep your fingertips down through the entire stroke.
  3. For cycling on a course with hills, anticipate the ups and downs and lefts and rights. Use momentum.
  4. After getting off your bike, don’t stay bent over. Get off and try to stand tall. Then “run with your hips underneath you. Your head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should all align in a forward-leaning plane. Try not to break at the hips—imagine someone pulling you forward by a string tied to your bellybutton.”

Start Your Journey
Over the next five weeks, you will have access to physical conditioning workout plans on the Total Gym. Both video instruction on how to use the Total Gym and accessories, and blog articles explaining how specific exercises help increase performance will be available. So check back weekly, and be prepared to see changes in your body which will improve your swim, bike and run.

Jodai Saremi

Jodai Saremi, DPM, BS , is a freelance writer, AFAA certified trainer, and fitness model. She has written for American Fitness, SPIN fitness, Your Health Connection magazines, and other online publications. Her articles have also been featured in textbooks. She enjoys an active lifestyle and lives in Ventura County, Calif. with her husband and two children.

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