The Importance of Skill Training

July 19

 Are you the triathlete that trains for the sport by simply doing swim, bike, run with varying intensities? Are one of those intensities skill training? Skill training is a vital component in any sport. If you want to be good at least… and if you do, I encourage you to read on.

Stephen Seiler wrote an article from the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences, 

“Numerous descriptive studies of the training characteristics of nationally or internationally competitive endurance athletes training 10 to 13 times per week seem to converge on a typical intensity distribution in which about 80% of training sessions are performed at low intensity (2 mM blood lactate), with about 20% dominated by periods of high-intensity work, such as interval training at approx. 90% VO2max.” 

As you can see, elite endurance athletes are training with only 20% high intensity dominated efforts and we furthermore have the scientific evidence to prove that theory. With this being said, you now have the permission to SLOW DOWN! 

Looking back, when I first got into triathlons my training consisted of 2-3 weekly swims of 2km as hard as I could, 2-3 bikes with one interval set and the rest long and hard, and the run following suit. I saw minor improvements, but no where near to the improvements I saw training with Trisutto. This was a result of pushing myself too hard for too long that caused a breakdown of balance in my nervous system. I was only improving up until I plateaued. 

A lot of training programs have participants going all out i.e spin class, tabata class, boot camps, crossfit gyms and there is little emphasis on perfecting a movement skill.  Every time you improve your skill and technique, you are improving your foundation. The more solid your foundation is, the easier and safer it is for you to push to your limits.  “Go hard or go home” or “no pain no gain” are the thoughts that lead to pain and injuries! Going full out all the time means ZERO time to build your foundation.

Keep in mind that improving your foundation requires retraining your neural pathways which takes a lot of focus and is not very efficient when doing multi-joint exercises like our swim/bike/run stuff.  I will get into some of that stuff on a future post, but for now, let us focus primarily on the things that we can work on.

As I am sure most of you readers know, it is important to be focused during those 80% of lower intensity training sessions. But what does this really mean? I will tell you! There is an endless list of things to focus on really, but first let’s touch on technique. The importance of technique is not only vital for speed and efficiency, but as well as utilizing proper movement mechanics. 

Improper movement mechanics eventually leads to compensation which in turn leads to injuries. As I mentioned in my last article “The Stressed Athlete” is this compensation filling up your threat bucket levels or can it be lowered? A lot of the time we are not aware of our proprioception - meaning, we are not aware of what are bodies are doing in space. Some technique cueing and awareness points for our sport:

Swimming Technique Cues and points:

  • Place hand in the water, press down, and push away
  • Is bilateral breathing the best for our sport or is unilateral breathing more efficient?

Swimming Awareness Cues and Points:

  • Are you aware of where the pressure of the water is on your body?
  • How should we be breathing in swimming? Are you inhaling too much or not able to catch your breath?

Biking Technique Cues and Points:

  • Stomp down on the pedals 
  • Make sure ankles, knees, and hips are aligned 

Biking Awareness Cues and Points: 

  • Are you aware of your cadence? 
  • Is your heart rate too high? How can this be lowered?

Running Technique Cues and Points:

  • Stand tall - Where are you looking when you run? Can you fixate your gaze above the horizon for a period of time?
  • Take shorter strides and shuffle along in your run. You are not a sprinter!

Running Awareness Cues and Points:

  • Can you relax your upper body? Are your shoulders up to your ears? Bring them down and they should feel like they jiggle with every step you take.
  • What is the pathway your ball of foot takes during running? 
Relaxation as a skill?
The more tense you are, the slower you are going to be. Work on being in sport-specific positions without creating unnecessary tension. Life is overly busy and stressful and often we carry tension in places we are not even aware of. Practicing autogenics is a great way to subside the deleterious effects of this. You will save more energy and get faster.

Having a coach look over your form and give you a few tips on technique we can focus on can be great insight for taking advantage of the 80% of training we do. This also ties into that the more perfection we create and focus on, repetition after repetition, the more our brains become aware that this is our new gait, our new way of moving. Practice does make perfect.  

If you are involved in Trisutto training you are already aware of the four levels of perceived effort: easy, moderate, medium, and mad. We as type A personalities and perfectionists love our gadgets! From heart rate monitors, to watts, to cadence I have understood that Brett is definitely not a fan...but that is besides the point. The point is that, if we put as much time into quantifying our perceived efforts while we are training and instead into quantifying our recovery I really do think we would all be better for it. For example, when you wake up look at your heart rate, when you eat something is your metabolism speeding up or is it slowing down, what can we do? We can take our heart rate. When we go for an active recovery session - take your heart rate… Everyday is different just like every individual is different and that is why it takes more than a coach to tell you how to train or how to feel (how often should you rest, how many hours/week should you train, etc). So let us take this great amount of technology we have and transfer it into something more productive; self-awareness. The awesome thing about greater self awareness is that it becomes a part of your subconscious. It helps you not only with recovery but also with training and racing. 

To sum up, most of us triathletes are constantly stressing our sympathetic nervous system, constantly trying to kill ourselves every session because most of our mentalites are that, “go hard or go home” way of thinking. Becoming the best athlete you can be is less about this and instead more about skill training and proper recovery - via parasympathetic nervous system. It is ok to exhale.