Updated: May 19, 2020
As endurance athletes and active adults we understand in order to compete at doing what we love with others...we have to train. Not only our bodies but our minds for what is to come down the road of planned races and events during a given season. Part of that mental preparation does involve considerations and awareness of past events in previous races, lessons learned from others, mental toughness, and of course the actual training program commitment.
Not all of us follow a serious training plan and everyone has their own way of going about it. This is part of the reason why the results about injury prevalence in endurance athletes and the best ways to prevent injury are so variable in the current literature. Triathletes are involved in such a young sport that only began in the 1970's where the research has not caught up yet. So, where do we need to pull our information from about the most effective training to get us to our goals while preventing injury??? Well....for right now....there is no perfect approach to triathlon as far as training (this also includes the separate disciplines as well)
As I have said in the past, everyone is so unique and different and therefore responds to different stimuli when they are training. Nothing has changed!!! What is omnipresent is the fact that we do need some kind of a plan that does follow specific guidelines of training to help us get to our goals. If you look on the internet I am sure you will find tons of training programs from tons of experts in the field that say theirs is the best approach. I am here to tell you that just like everything else...what works for some, does not always work for others. This is part of the reason there are so many different programs
I specifically do not have my own training program for triathletes and endurance athletes (yet...stay tuned haha) but out of all of the programs out there, we do AT A MINIMUM need to do the following: 1) have a plan and 2) have all of the basics needed to be an "athlete." I do not put athlete in there to put a label on anyone or make anyone feel less for those who feel like they are not athletes. The broad definition of an athlete is someone who is skilled in sports or exercise of some kind. That definition is SOOO broad. So whether you are just starting out or a seasoned veteran you are all athletes just at different skill levels. The more skills you have the better you will be at your activity. What I hope to explain further breaks those two points I made earlier down
Having a plan, although not 100% necessary, does help to keep you on track and does allow you some level of accountability for what you are doing. Not having any type of plan whatsoever can also lead you down a road of feeling lost, sadness about not reaching your goals, and can make you not show up to a race feeling like you are not ready. Having some level of a plan, especially as a beginner, can help whether you are getting formal assistance from a coach or creating one yourself with the help of a few veteran friends. The second point is you are an athlete tried and true whether you are swimming, cycling, and/or running for "X" number of miles. You are doing more activity than most....so be proud of yourself.
Combining these two points, we get an Athletic Plan. Now, this is not a specific plan either, making you the best athlete ever. However, having the individual components of this locked into you plan and training will not only provide marked improvement but also prevent injury (as long as your training program does not over stress and strain your body). This athletic plan I speak of was created by Hall of Fame Strength and Conditioning Coach Al Vermeil and adapted by Co-Owner of Professional Physical Therapy here on Long Island, NY, Robert Panariello. After reading this you must be asking the question after looking both of these men up..."What does Power and Olympic weight lifting have to do with us endurance athletes????"...To be honest, everything. Just like us, they are athletes as well and this Hierarchy of Athletic Development created by these men does just that. It DEVELOPS ATHLETES in a hierarchy of levels that requires mastery of one level in order for you to apply and master the next level.
Therefore, if you are just starting out who has no idea what they are doing or a season veteran that is struggling with their current plan and staying injury free, this is a perfect starting place. This will allow you a "take a look in the mirror approach" that involves testing and retesting of yourself at different levels allowing you to step back at points during your training. From there, you can fill in the holes if you are not getting the results you hoped for or your body is not feeling all the greatest before, during, or after training. For some, this may require you hiring a professional to help guide you but in the end you will be able to implement this yourself easily. The basics are below:
The image above is taken from both of their training regimens where the one by Panariello being a slight more larger. Rightfully so, this larger, extended hierarchy will allow you to check and recheck yourself as this is the same principle that Physical Therapists use in the clinic to ensure we are on the right path. The levels of the hierarchy include:
1) Evaluation/testing - simple moves to determine where you are on a continuum of difficulties requiring each level of this hierarchy to get to the next higher one. When starting out with a plan, this is a great way to find out where you are before implementing the plan. For veterans, this is a good way to recheck yourselves during your plan to see how you are doing
2) Mobility and Movement - this is taking how you move during essential movements for your sport and comparing to them to what is most efficient in your sport.
3) Work Capacity/Muscle Re-Education - this is making sure you have the foundations to perform in your sport and to ensure your muscles are working the way they should. This includes ensuring your joints have the appropriate stability to prevent excessive impact and you are having the appropriate movement mechanics
4) Strength - as endurance athletes we need to have strength to help push up hills, get through a race intact, and withstand the amount of forces our bodies experience....so no brainer here
5) Explosive strength - this is being able to go through a movement against resistance faster = POWER - we measure it all of the time!!!
6) Reactive strength - plyometric style activities essentially as a lot of what we do is a plyometric activity (running, jumping, bounding) in some form during sport (especially my runners out there) - we still need other exercises and movements that help for support.
7) Speed - we all love it and we all need it to show that we are performing better in our sport, finishing in a faster time than we did before. This can be in the same race as the year prior or a race of a similar distance. However, we cannot have this without the rest of the pyramid as I mentioned and stay injury free at the same time.
There you have it! A plan to a plan that you implement which will take you to newer heights in your sport and goals.
I will be going over each of these levels of the hierarchy and how to implement them in your life over the coming weeks along with other supporting info on my other sites and social media Including my Website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube (maybe snapchat...I still have to figure out how to use that haha) so check it out and I hope you enjoy.
Youtube: Ascent Physical Therapy, PLLC
Panariello R. Designing a Program Using Vermeil's Hierarchy of Athletic Development. SimpliFaster. https://simplifaster.com/articles/applying-vermeil-athletic-development-hierarchy/. Published April 14, 2020. Accessed May 9, 2020.