Why Tri? – Triathlon training for Motorsport


We know that Jenson Button is mad keen on Triathlon. In fact “mad keen” is doing him a disservice because the boy is pretty good at it.

Here’s a quote from Jenson I found in a Daily Mail interview after the London Tri: ‘Triathlon has massively helped me improve my fitness – which in turn has helped my driving.’ Jenson completed the 1500m swim, 40km bike ride and a 10km run in just over 2 hours, which is a top class time.

So there is no doubt that Jenson works hard to achieve a high degree of fitness and values the role that triathlon training has in his overall preparation.

But fitness has been valued for years in all elite motorsports codes, and in particular races have enjoyed the “cardio-vascular” disciplines. Did you know that Alain Prost was a quality endurance cyclist and you can see him taking on the punishing Mont Ventoux climb below. Mark Webber has his own charity endurance ride (on which he sustained an unlucky injury last year). And many, if not most of the names in the sport are dedicated to endurance training.

So why should you be doing a triathlon this year?

I’m going to keep this simple… I figure you don’t need to go too deep into the physiological sports science and psych, you just need to hear it straight.

Motivation: You absolutely know that a high level of fitness is going to be beneficial to your driving performance, but getting it done can be hard. Goal-specific training is much easier. You set yourself a practical target, sign up for the race and now you have a goal that you have to achieve. Your training now has focus… and that is the key.

Planning: Effective planning is a huge part of elite sports prep. Taking on a Tri means that you are going to have to put together a plan that will help you develop your skills and performance in 3 simple disciplines. It doesn’t have to be complicated at all, but it will provide the basis on which you will be using your training time effectively.

Targets: We love them. Racers absolutely eat them! You know your PB’s round Snetterton better then your families birthdays. You now have 3 activities to set new targets. New PB’s, shaving seconds off runs, making 20 lengths without a break… then putting it all together, after all it’s a race.

Fitness: It’s basically a great physiological choice. Research suggests that a high level of cardio-vascular fitness supports a higher level of concentration and reflex performance whilst under sustained physical duress… and that is racing. A Tri gives you a good timescale as well. Take on a “mini “ and you’re looking at maybe an hour as a time… that’s often close on race distance, and learning how to deal with physical duress for this timescale is a good thing. Longer races, longer Tri’s.

Movement: Racing driving… hours in front of the PC blagging sponsors, hours of travel to far flung tracks, hours of hanging about, hours of testing and then a few high intensity hours of racing. It’s a postural mess. I like the physical profile of quality swimming as it helps to untangle the chronic spinal and upper girdle posture of drivers, it also strengthens their upper body and core. I like the running because it loads the body how it is designed to be loaded. I like the cycling because:

Cycling: Racers are “man and machine” athletes… simple as. You start your first Tri with a 40 quid racer out of the local paper, it will be perfect, at that stage it’s not about the bike, but you’ll probably have to modify it a bit because that’s what you do! Then you’ll borrow some ones shiny ride and start saving up. Modern bikes are sexy… they have carbon fibre on them, you know, the stuff racers like to lick. Then there are gear sets, aerodynamic aids and water bottle cages that shave 10 grams from your curb weight… all these things are totally addictive to racers. Then you have to apex corners, look for grip, and time your acceleration efforts… these are things that racers do going to the shops, and I mean walking! So performance cycling is a no-brainer, you are going to love it.

Resilience: For me this is the big one. As an athlete development specialist I want my athletes to be resilient. It’s a tough one to quantify, but what I mean is I want you to be able to resist, overcome and relish the technical, physical and mental challenges that come with your sport, a long season, and hopefully a successful and long career. Staying injury free, focussed and forever pushing your performance levels forward. To put it in basics, I don’t care what sport I am preparing you for, but when you turn up at the event and get out your car, I need you to look around and know that you are the hardest ****** in the car park. That ways you are ahead already. Successfully preparing and competing in a Triathlon is a great tool to help develop and sustain resilience… do it.

You have absolutely nothing to lose….

Bob Wood MCSP
Chartered Physiotherapist
tel: 07816 854828

How To get Started

• You will have a local Triathlon club, it’s one of the fastest growing participation sports, google them a ring.

• Buy a few Tri mags, and hit a few Tri sites. www.220triathlon.com www.triathletes-world-magazine.co.uk www.triforlife.co.uk www.tri247.com
There is loads of information out there.

• Pick a realistic starter event and may be something local. The shorter distance Tri’s vary, but you are only looking at a 400-500 metre swim (20 lengths), a 10-15k cycle and a 4-6k run. Very doable and a nice benchmark to build on, and nobody will be wearing a cut off vest and have abdominals like a toast rack.

• Don’t go bonkers on it, start chilled. Cycle down the local pool, take in a few lengths and cycle back, leave your watch at home. Do a short distance run/cycle this weekend… if you’ve never done it before get the feel for it.

• Send off a small cheque, fix the date for later this year, and make a bit of a plan.

Author: Clerk of the Course

The Clerk of Junior Torque. Administrator, Editor and Dictator!


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