If you follow us on social media, you may well have seen the story about our client Brian. If not, you can check it out here. In short, on the eve of his 62nd Birthday and 8 years since being diagnosed with cancer, Brian decided he was going to complete a triathlon. The original plan was simply to complete the triathlon to raise money for Charity. However, as the weeks progressed the commitment and focus narrowed, there was now a target time! So, how did we approach training  someone who in their own words “doesn’t move as well as he used to” for a triathlon?! You never know, it may just help you train for your first triathlon as well.


Establishing Start and End Points

When the decision was made to attempt the (sprint) triathlon, Brian had already been training with us for a little over a year. However, the focus had been on health and longevity. Within this goal, there was the issue of constant knee pain and rebuilding core stability. While they had both hugely improved and were not causing any issues in day to day life, 750m swimming, 20km cycling and 5km running are most certainly not just every day life.

This actually meant the start point and end points were pretty easy to establish! The start? well, that was easy, basics basics basics, move well and build up the strength to tolerate the demands of the race. The end point, well that was also very simple. 750m swimming, 20km cycling and 5km running.


3 Phase Approach

With Just over 12 weeks until the race, we decided to go through 3 traditional and progressive phases. These phases are pretty much what I would do with any athlete. Yes I was going to coach a 62 year old cancer survivor, the same way I would an elite athlete, crazy right?!?! Well no, not crazy. The approach, the method and the rationale are essentially the same. In contrast, the session content and focus differ.

Phase 1 – Strength & Tolerance

During the first 4 weeks the aim was build up the baseline strength and the condition his joints and tissues fo what was to come. In order to do this we focused on basic movements patterns, squatting, hinging, lunging, pressing and pulling. Within these movements we used a lot of eccentric and isometric contractions to help build up tolerance within the connective tissue in his joints. This also allowed us to overload his muscles without having to use loads of external weights. We literally used a kg kettlebell and a 20kg powerbag for pretty much everything.

In addition to this we slowly started to introduce some landing drills as well as low intensity running drills (generally done at walking pace). These were done in the warm up, purely to expose him to landing forces and increase joint stiffness.

Phase 2 – Capacity & Power

The second phase simply saw us increase the volume of reps and sets within the sessions. The weight was pulled back a bit and we focused on being able to repeatedly complete the same basic movement patterns with good technique, under a little bit of fatigue.

The second session in each week took a slightly different direction. To add some fun and novelty to the training we used various explosive movement to improve his ability to use his new found strength. Slam balls, controlled jumps and drops and a few higher intensity running / skipping movements allowed us to continue building tolerance to higher levels of impact.

Phase 3 – Capacity & Power Endurance

Capacity is easy here. We pulled the weight back ever so slightly again and increased the volume. Two bilateral and two unilateral movements were included in all session to make sure we weren’t neglecting anything. In terms of power endurance, we simply added a few more reps here and there to his power sessions. The running drills in the warm up had now moved to full speed and we would add in exposure to impact via star jumps, skipping and pogo hops.


It Was Fun

While all the above is great, there was one rule that remained constant. We must have fun. While we implemented various different approaches etc, no session was exactly the same as the previous. Some of the warm up drills turned into games and some of the running drills…. well were amusing. The point being, Brian isn’t an elite athlete. Whilst the approaches were similar, the goal was to move, move well, have fun and hopefully not drown!

The end result was a 2 hour 15 minute first triathlon. That also included a small issue of a fall on the bike, so he may well have gone under 2 hours…. From starting with the aim of just surviving, to having hopes of a sub 2 race AND HAVING FUN. As Leading Personal Trainers in Berkshire, we aim to keep sessions varied and clients enjoying themselves. Yes, we can implement specific plans and have set goals, but you can most certainly achieve these without turning into a robot who ends up disliking their event.