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Triathlon Training Tips

80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February, so if you’re starting to falter on your health and fitness targets (shall we not mention “dry January”?!) and are at risk of becoming one of those statistics, then we’re here to help.

Cornish Rock Tors’ lead guide Jon trains relentlessly throughout the year, so is the perfect person to advise on how to make the most out of the colder and darker months of winter when motivation may dip.


“For me its all about training outdoors as much as possible, and that fits with the Cornish Rock Tors ethos, so my advice and tips are all based around choosing the right activity for the conditions. For running and cycling, I have just suggested macro ways to train outdoors without having to resort to the turbo trainer or treadmill.”  


Whether your aim is to exercise more and improve your level of fitness, or complete a challenge in 2019 such as competing in a triathlon or an open water swimming event, Jon’s advice and training programme suggestions will help you to get over the hump and make your resolution a reality.  Over to Jon:

open water swimmers taking part in the big swim from port gaverne to port isaac

Competitors in The Big Swim Cornwall

Work on Weaknesses

Winter is a great time of year to identify weaknesses and try to work on them, particularly if you are training for a summer event or series.

Swimming (Pool)

If training for an open water tri/swim event but you’re not experienced at navigating & sighting, then use this time of year in the pool to work on bilateral breathing and different breathing patterns, as well as sighting. Being comfortable breathing to both sides can help you in an event; it will help with your sighting and it will give you a real advantage in rough conditions, allowing you to breath away from the incoming chop.


Beginner Tips


Breathing Variation – Introduce breathing every 3 strokes into your normal swim sets and sighting forwards at regular intervals. At first you may need to slow down to get your breathing under control and focus on body position when breathing to weaker side. Once comfortable, start changing-up the breathing pattern on a regular basis.

A Swim Set To Try

You can add the following set in to your training session to improve your breathing, or use it at a low intensity as a warm up.  It’s 7 × 100m with 20 second rests, and you can scale the distance up or down depending on your ability.

This set uses pyramid breathing patterns, breathing every 2nd breath on your strong side for the first 100m, then on your 3rd breath (on your weak side) for the second set, and so on, peaking at breathing every 5th stroke. Then, as you scale the breaths back, switch the “side” that the breaths occur on. The set will look like this:

  • 100m x every 2nd breath (strong side)
  • 20 second rest
  • 100m x every 3rd breath (alternate sides)
  • 20 second rest
  • 100m x every 4th breath (strong side)
  • 20 second rest
  • 100m x every 5th breath (alternate sides)
  • 20 second rest
  • 100m x every 4th breath (weak side)
  • 20 second rest
  • 100m x every 3rd breath (alternate sides)
  • 20 second rest
  • 100m x every 2nd breath (weak side)

Sighting Tip

Try sighting forwards at regular intervals (try every 3-5 strokes) by lifting your head slightly. Try to sight an object at the end of the pool (a pull buoy on the pool deck, or a diving platform perhaps) to mimic sighting marker buoys in open water.


Intermediate/Advanced Tips  


Breathing Variation

Mix up your breathing pattern during lengths, and play around with different variations. In choppy open water the waves and chop can often dictate when you take a breath, so being able to adapt freely will help ward off panic and stop you becoming short of breath.

Sighting Tip

Sighting is important for keeping you on course and minimising the distance that you swim. BUT, if sighting ineffectively you could find yourself putting the breaks on every time you sight – if you lift your head to high your legs will start to sink, acting like an anchor. Practice “crocodile sighting” by raising your head just enough for your eyes to leave the water, sight, then tilt your head to the side to breath as normal. The aim is for sighting to become a fluid part of the stroke.


Alternative Activities



With road conditions being more wintery, try going off-road. Swap your road bike for a mountain bike and hit some trails, or try your hand at racing cyclocross if you want to keep your competitive juices flowing out of season.


Dark before and after work? Put your head torch on and run some trails. Running is a great activity to do all year round, and with regular races throughout the winter as well as ParkRuns every weekend, it’s the perfect time to push your running on to the next level.


Strength & Conditioning


Strength training can reap great rewards. If done correctly it can enhance your triathlon/swim performance as well as make you more injury-proof. Winter is the ideal time to get strong and prepare yourself for the upcoming season. Strength and conditioning training can be done indoors, unaffected by the weather, and you have time to recover without the fear of feeling achy on a race day.

Something to work on: Swimming, running and cycling involve very little lateral (side to side) movement. This can lead to weaknesses in your core – the stabilising muscles and connective tissues responsible for lateral movement and twisting motions. Try incorporating lateral and twisting exercises into your routines, such as sideways lunges with bands and medicine ball Russian twists. These types of exercises will help you maintain form when you inevitably tire towards the end of an event.


We’ll be offering a greater range of open water swimming options this year, including coaching and sessions aimed at competitive open water swimmers looking to improve their technique. If 2019 is the year that you’re going to enter a triathlon or open-water swim event and you’re interested in getting some specific sea-swimming practice in, then do get in touch with us to see what we can do for you.