The Single Biggest Mistake Triathletes Make When It Comes To In-Season Training

The Single Biggest Mistake Triathletes Make When It Comes To In-Season Training

June 24, 2024

We have been working with all levels of master’s triathletes (amateur and elite) for over 10 years and the single biggest mistake we’ve seen triathletes make (outside of not prioritizing nutrition) is dropping off their strength program in season.

Look, we get it…triathlon training is very time consuming and difficult. You have a high demand job, kids, a spouse, families to take care of…all demanding your attention. It’s easy to let strength training be the one thing that slips through the cracks. But it’s also your ONLY piece of armor when it comes to mitigating injuries AND, it’s the only engine you’ve got to boost your performance.

Most athletes feel overwhelmed with strength training in season because it’s the one thing that’s least familiar to them, the least accessible (depending on what equipment they have at home or gym membership), and most triathletes find it time consuming. What if I told you that you can ‘keep it simple’ and 20-30 min, two times per week is enough to reap the benefits? Dealing with an injury and having to go see a doctor, be sidelined from training, and going to physical therapy 1-2x per week will be even more time consuming than maintaining and short strength training program twice a week. Your options are to make time for strength training in season or make time for a potential injury later…it’s that simple.

For any athlete it is important to take the time and analyze your season and pinpoint which races will be the most important ones. This way you (and your coaches) can formalize a plan that is specifically designed to identify what phase in the periodization cycle (more about this later) of strength training you will be. This will ensure that adequate adjustments are put in place during the different phases to minimize your risk of injury and most importantly get you to your most important races feeling the best so you can perform at your best!

So what is the periodization cycle? This is a cycle that can be broken down into 3 major categories, the offseason, the pre season, and the in season. Today I will be focusing on the in season, and what strengthening looks like specifically in this phase.

In season, as it sounds, is the bulk of your competition. This is the time where you aim to peak your performance. The big focus here as it pertains to strengthening is maintenance of your strength and power that was built during the pre and off seasons. The biggest priority during you in-season training is your competitive races. Hence, we want to minimize excessive soreness and fatigue so you can continue to train and perform at your best.

That’s why it’s important to adjust your strength training sessions. The key is adjusting the strength training volume while maintaining the intensity. In other words, you can continue to lift heavy, but decrease sets and reps. The goal here is to maintain muscle mass and strength through the season. For example, instead of performing 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps of your 70-85% 1 RM* (rep max), you would decrease the sets to be 1-3 sets of 3-6 reps of your 85-95% 1 RM. Lower reps and sets (although at a slightly higher weight) will minimize soreness in the muscles but maintain strength and muscle mass.

Above all else, it is paramount that you focus on adequate recovery. Most injuries happen as a result of ‘too much too soon’ and fatigue. Factors contributing to fatigue include not getting enough sleep, proper hydration & nutrition, and life stress. Do whatever you can to optimize these areas so help you perform at your best and mitigate risk of injury.

Lastly, do not ignore the importance of mobility work. This includes foam rolling, stretching, and massages. This allows for quicker recovery between workouts to allow for success in staying consistent with your strengthening program.

*Your 1 RM is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for 1 repetition. For example, for a bicep curl this maybe 20#. At 70% of your 1RM, this would be 14#. At 85% of your 1RM max, this would be 17#.

P.S. If you’re a runner or triathlete dealing with nagging niggles, don’t wait until they get worse. Please get them checked out so you’re not sidelined from training! If you’re not in pain but don’t know where to start your workout or if you need to get your form checked, please connect with us! Reach out to us by phone/text at 973-310-2678 or Click here to inquire.

Happy training!

Dr. Tejal Ramaiya, PT, DPT, CSCS, CMPTP/DN, TPI/CGF-MP
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Certified in Trigger Point Dry Needling
Certified Golf Fitness Medical Professional
Owner at Body Moksha Physical Therapy

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