It still amazes me how many good triathletes I meet and speak to who compete at a decent (or any) level, and don’t understand or incorporate strength training into their plan. Whatever level you’re competing at, a structured and consistent S&C plan should be present in order to reduce the risk of injury (the most important reason) and improve performance.
One of the questions I get asked the most is how to fit it in, and also how to do so without it affecting the quality of other sessions throughout the week – especially when it’s hard enough to fit in the amount of swim, bike and run required.
In the grand scheme of your weekly hours when training for an endurance sport, the S&C component will take up a relatively small percentage, but it’s definitely something to prioritise over those extra sessions we like to stick in for the sake of mileage or hours. I would always aim for 2-3 sessions per week – these don’t need to be/shouldn’t be much longer than 30 mins to an hour, but they should be specific, structured, progressive and consistent.
We all know how difficult juggling a timetable with a triathlon plan can be, which usually means S&C sessions will be part of a double day. I pair these with my “easy” days… the sessions that don’t involve intervals, and are possibly the steady or long miles which aren’t creeping beyond z2-3 HR. One of the bigger arguments I hear from the unconverted are the DOMS that may affect the following days sessions, but if you’re following a progressive programme and not randomly throwing in an ad-hock gym session in every now and again, the body soon adapts to the training.
S&C isn’t just for “off-season” to then be ignored over the summer months when the miles are on the incline, though periodisation needs to happen within the programme, and a taper plan included around races or benchmark sessions/testing.
It’s becoming more and more prevalent for people taking up the sport (whatever their level or goal) to get a coach, and I also think it’s incredibly useful to work with a strength coach alongside… nobody said this was a cheap sport! Just like your tri plan, your S&C plan should really be specific to you, your weaknesses, strengths and also injury history. Looking at a few basic strength exercises in your favourite tri mag isn’t really enough to ensure you’re doing what you should be to ensure you stay injury free.