Find Your Long-Course Triathlon Training Formula

  • By Kim McDonald | Inside Triathlon Features Editor
  • Published Jul 24, 2013
  • Updated Jul 21, 2015 at 3:36 PM UTC
Cave had a tough start to 2012, but ended it with two world titles. Photo: Kurt Hoy

Are you an aerobic or anaerobic athlete?

Do you out-sprint your training partners in 200-meter and 400-meter track intervals, but get left in the dust when it comes to mile repeats and longer races? Or are you a more aerobic athlete who tends to do better at the long distances, but could benefit from more strength and power training? Although it may be counterintuitive, long-course racing places a premium on power. Just look at the differences between the slender body type of last year’s Olympic triathlon gold medalist Alistair Brownlee and the more muscular physiques of 2012 Ironman 70.3 world champion Sebastian Kienle and Kona champion Pete Jacobs. Cave is something of an anomaly for a long-course world champion—a naturally thin athlete who lacks the leg and upper-body musculature of her main competitors. But she’s worked hard to overcome that deficiency. In her transition from ITU to Ironman racing, she’s put a lot of effort on building her leg strength and power. Besides hill running, she does lots of big-gear intervals and hill repeats on the bike, one-legged squats and core and strength training in the gym. “I’m not as strong of an athlete, so for me developing that strength has been very important,” she says. “I have a lot of endurance, but being able to combine the strength-endurance components has really helped me this year.”

If you’re a muscular, primarily anaerobic athlete, consider a different approach to your long-course training—placing more emphasis on developing your aerobic system with more long rides and maybe reducing some of the excess muscle you’ll have to carry for 140.6 miles. Don’t eliminate strength training entirely; just go easy on the heavy stuff. Kropelnicki likes his more naturally muscular athletes to focus their gym work on functional strength, such as exercises using a TRX, to maintain their resilience to injury. “Regardless of the athlete, we’re doing some sort of strength training,” he says. “The magnitude of that strength training really depends on the athlete’s muscle content.”

RELATED: The Basics Of Triathlon Base Building

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