Training for a triathlon is not an easy task. Three sports thrown into one event presents training, time-management, and injury challenges. Meeting these challenges takes a thought-out plan.
Beyond swimming, cycling and running, most triathletes have added another component to their routine—strength training. The benefits can be seen in an increase in economy and a reduction in injuries. Strength training has become one more thing to think about and plan for.
CrossFit has been seen by many endurance athletes as the answer to their strength and conditioning programs. But should it be?
CrossFit workouts, called "WODs" (workout of the day), are random, fun, challenging, and are done surrounded by a community of people who share that same passion. However, it is also a flawed strength program for the triathlete who is looking to set a personal record or peak at a specific race.
It is no longer a question of whether CrossFit will help you, but rather how and why it can hurt your ability to excel in the sport of triathlon.
Many of these workouts involve Olympic lifts and powerlifting exercises that are often done using high reps. These lifts have amazing benefits when they are executed correctly with the right set and rep schemes.
The problem is when the execution of the exercise is not there anymore because fatigue has set in or proper form wasn't drilled into the athlete's head. The results can be catastrophic. Many of CrossFit workouts call for using these types of lifts. Many of the athletes doing these workouts have a goal to complete the WOD as fast as they can, or get as many rounds in 10 or 15 minutes as possible.
High-rep Olympic and power lifts are dangerous and high reps do not build strength. I am all for using these types of lifts, but the programming should be done in a more traditional sense. Lower reps, heavier loads, ample rest in between sets, and with proper technique.
I love the idea of training with other athletes who share the same passion and drive for their sport. Most triathletes that I know have type-A personalities, and are incredibly competitive people who can push their body to the limits far beyond the regular guy.
This can be an issue, because you never want your strength training workouts to become a contest. A group setting gives you a supporting cast, but you are also more likely to push harder then you should with these types of workouts.
You never want to sacrifice your short- and long-term triathlon goals because you went all out on your strength and conditioning workout. This is where a group setting can be detrimental to your training.