CFT: Stuck in a Rut? Think Multi Sport

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Panarisi
Having just survived my first triathlon (our very own Mach Tenn!) I can tell you first hand that multi- sport training can totally transform your workouts and, more importantly, your results. Good news is, you don't have to be an aspiring tri-athlete to benefit from the "secrets" of multi-sport training. In fact, most fitness aficionados can actually take their game "to the next level" with just a few elements borrowed from the time-proven techniques developed for hard core competitors.

The beauty of multi-sport training is that you greatly reduce the risk of repetitive motion injuries. Plus, if you manage to overdo it on one training element, you aren't sidelined ... you can just roll to a different one. But the biggest benefit for those looking to improve or maintain overall fitness might be a little counterintuitive. There is a HUGE psychological advantage in the variety of workouts. You just don't find yourself in that "here we go again" rut that so many runners, cyclists, swimmers or hardened elliptical warriors so often find themselves in. Even more good news ... you don't actually have to be "any good" at any of the elements ... the benefits mount from the mechanics of workouts, not your proficiency, speed or efficiency at a competitive level.

A "standard" triathlon is a combination swim, bike and run event. Most training schedules start by emphasizing a specific event, then progress towards combinations (swim/bike, bike/run) with a few "all three" thrown in as a competition draws near. But if you aren't expecting to compete in the near future, you can just stick to the "singles" and put together a regimen that will absolutely end any plateaus you might be suffering with on a more common workout routine.

The key to multi-sport is variety and, in fact, most coaches would recommend a different event every day, with the more challenging ones early in the week. For most of us, that means the run comes first, and the swim towards the end. But wait! What if you aren't a very good swimmer? Oh contraire! The "challenging" characterization refers more to the aerobic challenge than the degree of difficulty. Though swimming is typically one of the least common workout skills, we can (and almost certainly should!) get help. Both the Tullahoma and Manchester pools offer adult classes, and you'll be very pleasantly surprised just how quickly you can pick up just enough technique to execute a very effective workout. You might be surprised at just how little actual swimming you need to do. A good portion of your workout will be drills (kick drills, "pulls" and "dips"), so if you are envisioning endless laps and just thinking about it puts you off, don't worry, there's much more to it than a "jog in the pool." Adding a swim to your portfolio is an especially welcome addition on these hot, humid summer days. The pool is open rain, shine or heat.

Running is likely the event that beats you up the most, whereas I rarely hear of anyone complaining of joint pain after a swim. The bike is somewhere in the middle and typically the most weather dependent. You can easily modulate the workload on the bike (provided it isn't too hilly!) and you can get a challenging aerobic and muscular workout on the same event. Each event has its own benefits, with very little overlap. Here's a starter schedule ... Monday - "sprint day" run; Tuesday elipitcal/weights; Wednesday - bike; Thursday - swim/weights; Friday - "long day" run. Of course, you can mix and match. The key here is endless possibilities, and LOTS of ways to string things together. So if you find yourself looking for that "next big thing" to up your game, give multi-sport a try. Who knows ... maybe we'll even see you on the Mach Tenn next year!