Dear seasoned DC Tri members,
As an NTPer, I have a different background from most new triathlons that join NTP, but with such a large club, I’m hoping someone here has had a similar experience to my transition to triathlon and can give me some perspective.
I have a swimming and running background and training, but in June of last year I picked up weight lifting with a Starting Strength program (squats, deadlifing, bench, press, etc.). Since last summer I have been lifting ~3x a week, and then picked up CrossFit and worked that into my routine as well. Despite having always been active, I have never been so “fit” or strong as I have become while lifting/CrossFit. Going into triathlon training, I am really excited to see how much my swimming and running will improve with my new-found muscles!
However, after a few weeks of triathlon training (mostly swimming), I am really missing lifting. I don’t want to lose the strength I’ve gained, though there are parts of triathlon training that I really enjoy. I’m finding it is not easy to maintain both triathlon training and powerlifting – both physically and financially. Now, two weeks into the NTP program (and a few $100s later), I’m facing a decision – to continue with tri or go back to powerlifting.
I’m wondering if anyone else has gone through a similar transition? Do you go back to lifting/CrossFit during the off season? Do you keep up with some CrossFit workouts as a way to cross-train? Any words of wisdom to help me make this decision?
Ideally I would like to give tri a little longer… stick with it for another month or so before deciding to switch back or not, but I still need to invest in a good amount of gear (almost all for cycling) before I can give it a good shot.
I would welcome input, suggestions, moral support, etc.
If you come from a swimming background, I would not focus so much time on swimming as you begin your training for triathlons. A majority of NTPers (and even veterans, including yours truly) are not strong swimmers which is why a lot of focus can go into swimming. If you are a strong swimmer to begin with, you can afford to miss a swim practice a week and hit the weights. Weight lifting is a great way to prevent injuries as well, so I would not give it up completely.
In college I would train up to 20 hours a week, including three weight sessions. After college when I started focusing on endurance sports, I stopped weight lifting and only did cardio and the injuries started piling on. I not make a point to get in some cross training/weight lifting to prevent injuries and have found it helpful.
Also, when swimming/running/cycling, add in some power drills to build strength. Do a few short fast intervals with a little rest in between. That will keep your strength up and increase your speed.
Thanks gw. I've been mostly swimming due to a twisted ankle - hoping that will heal soon, as I am eager to start running!
Thanks for pointing out how strength training prevents injury - I hadn't thought of that. And I'll definitely work in the interval training.
One other thing to keep in mind is that the type of strength you build via powerlifting and crossfit is of the short burst variety, rather than the longer duration power outputs you have in tris (even sprint tris), so it's no surprise that the lower intensity workouts in NTP aren't giving you the same "boost" that you get from a well-executed free weight workout.
Also, increased muscle mass doesn't necessarily mean increased run/bike speed. Even if it's lean muscle, you still have to move it around. However, core strength is vitally important and crossfit will help prevent muscle imbalance issues that people often get (like when your quads get stronger than your hamstrings).
The last piece of advice is that training and racing are two different things -- definitely try and make the training duathlon coming up in a couple of weeks and see what happens when you're in competition mode.
remember most serious and seasoned triathletes do strenght training in the off season and still do some maintenance lifting during the build and peak of the season. probably doing many of the same lifting routine as you .
the tougher thing you are coming from is if you are doing more of pure powerlifting/olympic lifting (heavier squats, deadlifts, clean and jerk, etc) that is something that maybe some triathletes don't do because you need to dedicate a lot of time for good form to do those movements with heavier weights properly and not get injured and improve at the same time. but hey i'm sure some do it.
but like you have mentioned doing both powerlifting and triathlons 100% for both just won't add up mathematically and practically. something has to give you will eventually have to ration your time between sports or give up the one sport in order to dedicate yourself 100% to the other.
Not to sound like a know it all, but about ten years ago I sprained my ankle (before I was to run a marathon). I used swimming to help me recover and within three weeks I was back running again.
My suggestion would be to add some kicking to your swim routine to strengthen the flexibility of your ankles. After about 3-4 swim sessions, I would try using fins if it doesn't hurt at all. Trust me, when your ankle becomes healed you should keep doing a kicking set with fins and this will keep your ankles strong.
Now, when it comes to lifting I can't help you there. -Hugh
If you are getting into triathlons as a fun hobby instead of a more competitive nature like trying to podium or qualifying for something, I don't see why you have to give up power lifting. I think that the vast majority of us came into the tris from some kind of background (i.e., rowing, running, biking, swimming, etc) that does not include all 3 of the tri sports (s/b/r).
We all had to transition ... whether it's the transition from pure running to s/b/r or power lifting to s/b/r, we all had to go through it. As a few people have already mentioned, you may have to moderate what you do but you don't have to give up power lifting all together. The NTP training program is just a guide and not the bible. You are not going to fail if you modify the training plan to fit into your lifestyle. With the athletic background that you have, I would put money on you completing a sprint or oly tri if it were to be held today. You many not finish it as fast as you would have liked had you concentrate purely on tri specific training but I would bet that you will finish in better condition than you give yourself credit for ... and by doing it your way (i.e., with power lifting), you might enjoy your tri experience even more.
Take me for example. I came into this sport as a marathoner. I love running. When I was doing shorter tri distances, I'd still run a marathon running mileage schedule. Was it ideal for sprint/oly distance tris ? No but that didn't really matter to me because I wasn't in it to be competitive. I did it as a fun thing to do. I enjoyed running so I just ran regardless of what folks may say is the right way to approach oly/sprint training. If you enjoy lifting then just lift. It may not produce the most optimal results in the tri world but who cares if you finish slower than you would had you concentrate purely on s/b/r? Isn't the main goal to have fun and enjoy what you do ?
If money is an issue to you then go basic on everything. There is no need to buy expensive biking, running, or swimming clothes or equipment. I sometimes see the biggest smiles from people riding at 12 mph wearing a pair of regular shorts while on a mountain bike during a tri. It's an expensive sport because you are dealing with equipment for three different disciplines but the cost can be minimized.
Stick with tris and give yourself a chance to explore this avenue. Get out of your comfort zone a little bit and explore other things that life has to offer. Worst case scenario is that come June, you'll decide that triathlons is just not for you and you'll return to pure power lifting. I will tell you that crossing the finish line of your first tri brings a certain self-satisfying feeling that money just can't buy. It's one of the many reasons why many of us keep coming back and upping the distance until one day we are standing at the start line of an Ironman with that scared to death look on our faces :)
Who knows ... one day you may become one of these folks walking around with a M-Dot tattoo on your finely tuned biceps or calf. Go for it. Don't back off now.
Here is a little video to get your juices going. This is what awaits you ... seize the day my friend :)
Check out Crossfit Endurance - http://www.crossfitendurance.com/
I know a few people doing CF and CFE to train for an Ironman. As well, I'm coaching one of them and am CF certified. It IS doable to keep with SS/CF while training for a triathlon and not be training 17+ hours a week. You are in a great position to train for a triathlon with the SS and CF background (assuming your form and technique is good ;) but need to find ways to train similarly in the swim, bike, and run to get that "boost" you get from lifting.
Shoot me an email if you'd like to chat more offline. I'd like to know more about your background with CF and how the SS program worked out for you.
jen.jacobs14 at gmail dot com
That looks pretty cool Jen!
I did WABDL (bench, deadlift, squat) while doing sprint tris. For me, time management was the most difficult part. Ultimately, I decided the two are really different-- fast twitch vs. slow twitch and I decided to focus on triathlon, but continue lifting (lighter weights though) and the majority of my lifting is in the off-season (which with tri-training). I think doing both are possible, but being competitive in both is difficult. My two cents-Choose one to be competitive in and do the other for fun.
Jen, I'm with Simon... that looks pretty cool. Any advice on how to get started with crossfit / crossfit endurance?
Rebecca, sorry, not trying to hijack your thread.., maybe you're starting a trend?
Jen's program looks really good. Additional advice is if you want to lift, lift. As you can see, a lot of the guys in this club are endurance sport background athletes - it's actually more of the women in the club who are in to crossfit and general fitness to include lifting.
From one of the power-sport background guys in the club who prefers long distance tri's - yes you will lose that "fit" feeling if you focus on triathlons. Frankly, triathlon is a sport that many of us do simply because we can and not get injured. For a power-sport athlete, doing "hover" in spin class for eight counts won't give you that same satisfaction as going anaerobic. I do at least one lift a week simply for sanity until the heaviest weeks of ironman / half-ironman training. Lifting probably helps, but yeah it's maybe not time best spent for tri training. They will tell you to do yet another 4x800 around a track as time well spent. But if you crave that lifting fit feeling, you will certainly have to make some tradeoffs. I'm interested in Jen's philosophy of CF endurance meeting long distance tri requirements. It has been a long debate on whether fast twitch, explosive stuff gets you ready for mile 16 of the Ironman run. In the offseason, it depends on your preferences, but you sound like the type of person who might want to mix it up in the offseason. If you are, go for it. You will buck endurance athlete trends, advice, and competetiveness by doing so - for example, the vaunted off season challenge only counts swim, bike, and run miles and doesn't count lifting at all. If you are lifting, you are not helping your club...etc. I do stuff that's not tri related in the offseason as much as possible, because down the stretch it's that mind-numbing swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run - no lateral movement at all.
I'll echo Ryan on not really wanting to hijack anyone's forum time, but as long as we're on the subject....
I've been looking for a crossfit gym in the Dupont/Logan Circle area (preferably one that has flexible membership terms to allow for those of us who necessarily lack consistency!). There seems to be a few options, so if anyone's been crossfitting in NW DC and has advice please let me know: trishabergmann at gmail.com
Hi all -
Wow, thanks for the advice/tips/support! I will definitely try to incorporate some of these going forward.
Jen, thanks for the link - I want to look into it more, then I'll email you offline. I'd like to hear your experience with CF endurance and how it works in with your tri training.
Trisha - check out Balance Gym. There are two locations - Kalorama and Thomas Circle. I actually ended my membership there in Dec. in favor of a gym that is closer to where I live, but the members there are all about lifting and cross fit. There are no weight machines, only cages and barbells, kettle bells, rings, rowing machines, and two treadmills, and (at Kalorama at least) a basketball court (including monster truck tires you can flip over... for fun). And good luck!