Have tried a couple of different things, so I’ll consider myself the expert on what NOT to do!
For a couple of years, I tried balancing crossfit with long-course training. Aside from being a little bro-ey, I’d consider this similar to basically any other HIIT class while HIM/IM training. Loved the group aspect and the heavy lifting (gave me massive watts on the bike). However, some big drawbacks listed below:
- They’re not periodized in the way tri training is, and end with you pushing kind of hard even though you didn’t mean to (aka recovery week).
- You’re putting a lot of fatigue on your muscles from so many different angles. Imagine doing a lot of heavy squatting in the morning and then hitting a long run in the evening. Recipe for disaster/fatigue/injury (been there…).
- Neurologically speaking, you only have so many “high-intensity-hours” (HIH) per week. When you chronically exceed that number, you a) stop being as mechanically efficient during your HIHs b) are at risk for excess fatigue/injury
- Especially for long-course, sport-specific volume is going to give you the best “return-on-investment” by a country mile. Speaking from experience, there is no amount of pullups/shoulder presses that can substitute another pool session (even if it’s recovery).
- Speaking for crossfit (and maybe others), between the minimal focus on form, the heavy weights, and the focus on intensity, there’s a big injury risk when combined with tri. From what I understand, a big HIIT focus is good for improving health metrics but won’t make you faster.
- Honestly, just time. It’s really hard to fit in all the hours of tri training PLUS classes that you’re paying for. Could always just save that money for something else (new bike? more races?).
Over the past year, I’ve dropped all that and just started doing strength training on my own. Some benefits below:
- I can do it my way. During the off-season, I can still focus on the big lifts to get tons of power. During the race season, I can do more high-rep, plyo, or activation work to keep myself springy and spry.
- Having had a few soft tissue injuries, I can spend as much time as I need on pre-hab exercises (glute meds/ITB, achilles, scapula, etc) to keep those issues at bay.
- Netflix and kettlebells is generally a pretty relaxing friday evening.
- If needed, I can always just tack it onto the back end of a recovery ride/run.
For a few years before that, I was just going to a globo-gym and doing the typical beach body stuff (“curls for the girls”). Again, putting a lot of excess strain on the big muscles I needed for tri, and the lack of periodization wasn’t helpful either. Better than nothing, but could have been significantly improved (was just doing sprints at that point).
TLDR: Personally, I’ve seen a significant enough improvement in my times (specifically swim and run), fatigue, and bank account to say that I’m better off without HIIT classes and bicep curls. There’s always offseason…