Cardio-respiratory endurance is not the only important game in town for triathletes. Of equal, if not greater, importance is technique endurance: the consistent execution of coordinated efficient movement under fatigue, stress, and distraction. This means developing the ability to swim, bike and run with good mechanics no matter how tired you are, or no matter how deep you are in the race, how hot, wet or windy the conditions are. To perform at your potential, however, we triathletes have to continue expressing consistent coordinated movement no matter what. We need strategies to stay mentally focused on expressing good technique. Otherwise we strike out.
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Triathletes hear this term as “keep your form” when training, but can athletes keep their form on race day with no coach in sight whispering in their ear? It’s for this reason that triathletes need to rely on the ritual of setup to self-coach on race day. To develop technique endurance, triathletes should develop setup rituals that frequently and consistently foster the right mindset and physical posture for good swim, bike and run mechanics.
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For example, San Francisco CrossFit drills the importance of setup with every Olympic lift. If an athlete hurries to a bar, grabs it and attempts to hurl it up (“grip and rip”), the lift breaks down really quickly. However, if the athlete stops one second, gets tall, gets “tight” and descends down to the bar with back straight, shoulders engaged and hips on tension, that athlete will out out-perform his former self and do so with significantly less wear and tear on the body.
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In a similar vein, in a CrossFit Endurance class, the triathlete who shuffles off to run with head drooped, shoulders stiff and feet dragging cannot improve their run technique to ultimately run faster. The run becomes a “throw away” from a technique perspective. The triathlete becomes frustrated on a plateau of stale performance.
Instead, we cue that individual to establish a ritual—to setup with good posture and to run (pull the heels up) in place with quick light feet. Nothing fancy. When ready, the triathlete proceeds by adding lean, all while remaining tall, relaxed and light. This simple ritual—similar to the batter tapping his feet and taking a practice swing or the Olympic lifter hook gripping the bar and dropping into position—prepares the individual mentally and physically for superior running mechanics.
More: Improve Your Running Form
This ritual idea can be a hard sell, especially with time-strapped triathletes. And it’s understandable: parents wake up early to cram in training to be back for their kid’s soccer games. Others just want to get it done as they have multiple workouts in one day. Fortunately, Olympic lifting is technical enough that it requires the habituated motor patterns that setup creates. Triathletes who practice CrossFit (and Olympic lifting) get frustrated with ugly lifts, and they quickly learn that greater patience and attention leads to better Olympic lifting.
More: Olympic Weight Lifting