Take on a New Challenge

If your racing schedule is starting to feel a little familiar, it might be time for a new test

Posted: 26 May 2011
by Bryce Dyer

All terrain

If being all at sea isn't quite your thing, consider switching the asphalt for the trails on two wheels or two feet. Mountain-biking endurance events or cross-country races sharpen up your bike handling and climbing because you must deal with changing terrain and pace; they also improve the fluidity of your pedalling technique.

Trail running increases leg power and demands constantly changing efforts. Alistair Brownlee loves cross-country running and incorporates it into his training regime. Former national road racing and cyclo-cross champion Roger Hammond says that cyclo-cross gives him focus during winter and that its high intensity keeps him in good condition for the road season.

Put simply, going off-road can keep you on track at a time of year where enthusiasm can often wane, plus it will give your body new tests and skills to perfect.

The great indoors

Track cycling is equally useful, though for different reasons. Riding a fixed-wheel bike encourages a fluid cadence and good awareness around you, plus you avoid bad weather. Research suggests that high-cadence cycling, as demanded in track cycling, can help improve a runner's leg speed (Dintiman & Ward 2003).

Mental strength

You could also look beyond competitive sport to improve overall performance and add variety to your training. Spiritual or relaxation-based activities such as yoga or Tai Chi may help you deal with your race-day nerves or even improve your race experiences.

Triathlon legend Mark Allen has credited his dominance of Ironman Hawaii in the 1990s (he won the event six times) to his study of Shamanism, which he says improved his competitive mindset and his general wellbeing.

Any activity that teaches you how to relax may help if you need to address stress associated with an important race or any uncertainty when attempting a new distance.

If the three disciplines attracted you to triathlon in the first place, you can use this versatility to become a sort of student of sport. Completing something rather than competing, going longer or shorter, looking further afield or simply trying an unfamiliar sport - it doesn't matter what you do as long as you enjoy it.

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