Moving from an Olympic to Middle Distance Triathlon

The jump from Olympic to Middle Distance may seem a daunting one but have no fear, this transition is actually very achievable. Most triathletes feel their largest challenge is the swim, however when you analyse the jump from Olympic to Middle Distance the swim is actually the smallest increase, a minor 400m to be exact. If you have been training properly for the Olympic distance you will have swum at least this distance in training, so stick to your pacing and you will be fine.

So, the question then becomes, how do you double the distance on the bike and run? My advice to you, focus on the bike. From an injury management point of view the run is where the danger is. Many first timers make the mistake of focussing on the run thinking that as it is the last discipline and you are tired, you need to do more preparation to be ready for this. However, the run is where your body takes the most pounding, damage and trauma in training. You can still build up your fitness while minimising the impact and reducing your injury risk significantly.

Another reason to focus on the bike in your build phase is that this is the largest part of the race, and the discipline where the time gains are the largest. If you can focus on creating a strong bike leg, then the run will just follow. A 20% improvement on a four-hour bike split is 48 minutes! Could you achieve this kind of progress on the swim or run?

For the run, focus on low heart rate training, keeping your body relaxed and aiming to ‘run tall’. Many runners collapse their upper body as they fatigue so keep tall, shoulders back, chest high and your form will improve. Drive the elbows back to push the body forward. Try running at the end of the day so that you can train in a slightly fatigued state, and you can get used to the feeling. Work on including some pacing runs, some negative split runs and some where you just focus on your form.

Suggested number of sessions per week

  • 3 bike sessions – 1 long bike, 1 spin/high cadence bike, 1 strength bike
  • 2-3 runs
  • 1-2 swim sessions

Three essential exercises for triathletes

Swimming – 3 x 20 reps per day

  • Inhale to prepare
  • Exhale and reach the left arm and right left away from the body, allowing them to hover one inch off the mat
  • Inhale and lower the arm and leg to the mat
  • Repeat 6-8 times or for a set time period alternating the opposite arm and leg

Olympic to Middle Distance swimming

Heel raise – 3 x 30 reps per day

  • Inhale to prepare
  • Exhale, peel the heels away from the floor and rise onto the balls of the feet
  • Inhale, slowly lower the heels to the floor
  • Repeat up to ten times
  • Progress to doing this on a step, lowering below the step to help with eccentric load. You can then move to a single leg at a time.

Olympic to Middle Distance heel raises

Lunge walk – 3 x 10 steps per day

  • Inhale to prepare
  • Exhale, lift and place the right foot forwards, then stride squat forwards keeping the knee in line with the foot, aiming to lower so you cannot see the front foot anymore.
  • Inhale, extend upwards from the squat and step the next leg through
  • Repeat up to ten times alternating legs

Olympic to Middle Distance lunge walk

Stay focused, listen to your body, seek help when you need it and know that the transition from Olympic to Middle Distance Triathlon is more than achievable. Train well, train smart and you will do great!

You can test out your training at our incredible WoBurner Middle Distance Triathlon on Saturday 7 September 2019 – click here to secure your place.

Glenn Withers is the co-founder of APPI Healthgroup and an award winning physiotherapist. www.appihealthgroup.com