6 Smart Cross Training Strategies for Triathletes

An expert coach and competitive triathlete shares his top cross training strategies

As American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified personal trainer Thomas Roe points out, training for a triathlon involves way more than just swimming, biking, and running.

“So much more goes into training for a competitive triathlete,” he said.

Roe trains triathletes and also competes in races himself.

“I’ve had the good fortune of training and competing at many of the local sprint and Olympic triathlons in Southern California,” he said.

In his experience, the following cross training formula is what’s helped him and his clients achieve race-day success when competing in sprint- and Olympic-distance triathlon races.

1. Yoga
“Never underestimate the importance of flexibility and knowing your own body’s strengths and limitations,” Roe said.

2. Stadium or Bleacher Running
"Running (or even sprinting) bleacher stairs is one of the best ways to increase endurance, stamina, and cardiovascular training,” Roe explained. He said that running at the 45-degree angle provided by bleacher stairs stimulates the “attack” position assumed on your bike and helps to strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and calves. Plus, it prepares your muscles especially for “that last 100-meter sprint to the finish line that could mean the difference between first and third place.”

3. Wind or Parachute Sprints
Roe says that nothing will get you outside of your comfort zone like sprinting at full speed with a six-foot circumference parachute tied to you back. “Make no mistake, trying to podium in a sprint or Olympic triathlon is a full sprint in all three disciplines from the opening whistle or gun,” Roe said. That means, you need to learn how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and training with resistance sprints is one of the best ways to do so. “The parachute will simulate drag much like wearing the wetsuit and a tough head wind while biking and running,” Roe added.

4. TRX Suspension Training
Roe suggests using the TRX ropes to focus on training your core and body awareness. “If your core is weak, you are weak,” Roe said. “All body strength and movement stem from a strong core.” He highly suggests including the TRX plank (pictured above) and locked-knee pike exercises into your strength training routine.

5. Foam Rolling and Epsom Salt Baths
“To most athletes stretching is a given,” Roe said. “But foam rolling and salt baths are a sure fire way to fight off future cramping and keep sore muscles at bay. I suggest using a black firm 36-inch foam roller for rolling out tired and sore muscles prior to a warm to hot salt bath.”  

6. Bonus Training
Stand up paddleboarding (SUP): Roe says it’s great for building both upper body and core strength.