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Top 5 ways to compete in triathlon without looking like a depression era Nebraska farmer (part 1)

Posted Jan 06 2012 9:47am

Tri So if you read the first six articles in this series , then you've learned so far how to get nice shoulders, a better butt, a flat stomach and an impressive chest. You've learned how to sculpt legs like Lance Armstrong and how to look very, very good in a t-shirt.

But can you keep that amazing body and still do endurance sports like triathlon? After all, it's pretty typical among the triathlon crowd to have tiny arms, a thin neck, a stick-like midsection, a weak body frame and even a 'skinny-fat' look, with a little bit of weight in the belly and waist.

Even though triathlon is the fastest growing sport on the planet, and races sell out thousands of slots in just a few minutes, it can still be a bit depressing when you realize that traditional triathlon training doesn't really give you a nice body ­ and just makes you either really skinny or skinny-fat.

And the fear of having that emaciated, marathoner-like appearance is a legitimate concern if having a nice body is important to you. I know that it was a big concern for me when I got into the sport of triathlon ­ I didn't want to watch in the mirror as my lean, hard muscle wasted away and I ended up looking like a skinny weakling.

But the truth is, when you train for triathlon, you don't have to lose precious muscle, get extremely skinny, or become a scrawny endurance athlete. You can actually train for triathlon while still adding incredibly functional muscle and athleticism. You can swim, bike and run fast ­ and still have an amazing body.

Here's how, in five easy steps:

1. Lift Right

There are two styles of weight lifting that most triathletes do:

1) high-repetition, low-resistance endurance style lifting, such as a circuit of 20 reps of several different exercises;

2) heavy, slow, football-style lifting, like deadlifts, squats or benchpress. In reality, there is a third style of lifting that is neglected among endurance athletes, but a long-kept tradition of the bodybuilding industry: 'hypertrophy' style training: multiple sets of 8-12 repetitions.

With hypertrophy training, you can add and define lean muscle very quickly. But the problem is that it is very easy with this bodybuilder-style training to build non-functional muscle that actually slows you down when you're competing in a sport such as triathlon.

The solution to this issue is to still do the hypertrophy-style training, but to avoid single-joint exercises like biceps curls, and instead to choose full body, functional exercises while scattering in just enough explosive and heavy weightlifting to keep your muscles extremely functional and fast.

2. Eat Right

This may be a bit of a news flash for you, but fat doesn't make you fat. Instead, fat - the healthy variety, like olives, almonds, walnuts, fish and avocadoes - is a hormonal precursor and gives your body the building blocks it needs to develop lean, hard muscle, as well as competitive drive, mental energy, libido, and every other advantage that comes from adequate hormones.

On the flipside, carbohydrates, especially the type that are really favored by endurance athletes, like bagels, sports drinks, and cereal, give you that soft, pudgy look in the mid-section, accompanied by a complete inability to build impressive, defined arms and legs.

So here's what to do about this:

If you're trying to be fast at triathlon and also have an amazing body, you should eat a diet comprised of a high amount of healthy fats (40-50% fat), add in moderate helpings of natural protein to keep amino acids elevated for your muscles and brain, and top it off with strategically timed carbohydrate doses when they really matter, such as before or after your exercise sessions.


Please come back tomorrow for part 2 of Ben's story.

Ben Greenfield has been coaching athletes for over a decade from the
website , and is author of the modern triathlon coaching manual, "How To Be A Triathlon Coach," at .

Follow on twitter @ everymantri or view latest videos on YouTube .

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