At Life of Tri, we believe it is vital that triathletes get the foundations of their training right, but there are 3 extra disciplines beyond swim, bike and run that should not be overlooked.
These 3 extra disciplines are arguably more important than swim, bike, run as they should form part of a daily practice enabling you to train/race to optimum levels. They should be seen as part of your lifestyle rather than additional ‘things’ to include into your routine. You will already be doing two of them (if not all of them), the question is, are you doing them effectively?
Sleep/recovery, fuelling/hydration and bodywork are non-negotiable practices which are fundamental to helping maintain training focus and achieving your objectives.
Poor sleeping patterns or a poor diet cannot be out trained. You may get away with weakness or imbalance in your bodywork in the short term, but you will be found out eventually. Get these 3 disciplines right, and you will make more sustainable gains than any changes made to swim bike run training.
Sleep can never be underestimated; it is the best recovery tool. Quality sleep supports a body’s restorative state more so than anything else, so this is where you reap the rewards of your hard training by releasing the growth hormone to aid muscle repair. When we are in deep sleep, our immune system recovers and our brains are refreshed. Try to be consistent with your sleep, aiming for the same amount each night (at least 7/8 hours). Your body cannot regain lost sleep, so aiming for less one night and more another will lead to a poor overall sleep pattern.
For more tips on sleep, check out our article on getting a more consistent sleep pattern.
Fuelling and Hydration
Fuelling and hydration is a huge topic with so many areas to cover, but in simple terms if you don’t get enough quality nutrition then you will not perform to the best of your ability. Some key things to consider are:
How much should an athlete consume? Are you taking in enough fuel for your training/racing but also your normal life? Some athletes may look at their activity data and calculate they have burnt 2000 calories and then consume to cover this deficiency, forgetting the additional needed for everyday life. A deficiency will leave any athlete sluggish and struggling for energy. On the opposite end of the scale, consuming too much during periods of lower than normal activity (off season/rest weeks) will see athletes feeling bloated due to overconsumption and weight gain.
What they eat? This could fall into two areas, are they eating poor calories (processed food etc) and are they eating the wrong food groups at the wrong times. Stripped to its most basic elements, carbohydrates give you energy, protein will aid recovery and repair, so use them appropriately.
When are they eating? Fuelling during long training sessions or races is key. You should not need to fuel for an activity under 90mins, but you should consider what your fuelling strategy is for longer activities and after the event (replenishment is vital). Nutrient timing enables us to maintain our glycogen stores, thereby helping us to adequately maintain an activity and then recover afterwards.
Hydration is vital, it will have the largest effect on your body if you don’t replenish. Remaining adequately hydrated keeps our cells functioning properly and minimizes energy fluctuations. Prolonged dehydration during exercise will lead to problems that affect your performance including, cramps/spasms, fatigue and impaired concentration, all of which will increase the likelihood of injury.
People will often overlook the importance of bodywork, specifically the core, which safeguards against injury. Bodywork will include both strengthening and stretching exercises that focus on muscles groups, and are key to the movement used in triathlon and everyday life. The lower back, abdominals, hips and glutes are significantly important to maintain good form when swimming, cycling and running.
You don’t need long training sessions or a gym to work these areas, but you will need to ensure consistency to maintain a good core. A simple 10-15 minute routine every day is enough to ensure muscle groups remain strong and flexible enough for the rigours of triathlon.
Foam rolling and stretching are great exercises for recovery and injury prevention so try to include exercises like bridge, clamshells, and plank. Exercises like back extensions and single-leg deadlifts will also target those areas. Incorporating exercises like these daily will help to mitigate injuries and prevents one from needing rehab.
The 3 practices mentioned above are important for everyday life, not just for triathlon. When performed daily they help maintain energy levels and focus in all aspects of daily life. They should be viewed as part of your daily routine and not as a chore. If you master these 3 things, it will have a positive impact on your triathlon life