You practice swimming, biking and running and notice that you can go farther and faster than when you first started. But if you’re practicing with poor technique, you may not be reaching your full potential and could be setting yourself up for an injury. Stop bad triathlon habits now with these four simple tips.
1. Breathe out when your head is in the water
One of the major challenges young swimmers have is not blowing out all of the air underwater so when they turn their heads to breathe, they can’t take in more air. To help with this, practice blowing out all of the air while sitting underwater next to a wall. Once you’re comfortable with this exercise, slowly progress to practicing it doing breaststroke then freestyle.
2. Learn proper bike hand signals and the rules of the road
This will make it easier to ride on paths and roads where there may be hazards such as potholes, cracks in the road or even small animal crossings. Plus, it will make you feel more confident on the bike. Use an empty parking lot with cones to practice riding around in various formats (clockwise, counterclockwise, figure eight, in and out of parking space lines to practice 90-degree turns). To work on balance, ride with one hand by grabbing a water bottle from your bottle cage on your bike and waving to a parent or coach.
3. Cycle in easier gears
When you bike in easier gears, it will ease the strain on your knee joints. If it’s time for a new bike, look for one with compact cranks. While riding your bike, be sure to learn how to change the gears on your rear cassette (use the right shifter) while keeping your front chainring in the small ring. This will help you keep a higher cadence (pedal revolutions per minute) and will be much easier on your joints.
4. Focus on a flat foot strike on the run
This means landing on the middle of the foot before bringing down your heel. Heel striking can put a great amount of force on your joints as can forefoot striking (landing on the ball of your foot). To try to land more flat-footed, be sure to lift your knee up and forward so you can place your foot on the ground with a bent knee rather than letting your foot slap on the ground. This will decrease the amount of braking that is seen with heel striking and will keep your joints healthier.
Bob Seebohar is a sport dietitian, certified strength and conditioning specialist and a USA Triathlon Level III and Youth and Junior Certified Coach. He owns Kids that TRI (kidsthattri.org), a nonprofit youth organization and USA Triathlon High Performance Youth Triathlon Team in Colorado.