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Top 6 Cross-Training Sports For The Triathlon Off-Season (part 2)

Posted Dec 16 2012 1:15pm


Similar to soccer, basketball improves muscular endurance with explosive efforts followed by active recovery, and can also improve stride turnover and length. However, the arm jostling and pushing, shooting and passing in basketball are good upper body training, while the frequent jumping and landing are perfect lower body plyometrics, which have been shown to improve running economy in distance runners.
Like soccer, basketball requires minimal equipment: shoes and a ball. You’ll be able to find pick-up games on the schedule of your local health club or gym. If you find yourself on a busy court, the weakness of basketball for exercise-obsessed triathletes is the requirement to stand around between games as you wait your turn to play. But by jumping rope, shooting or jogging and dribbling between games, you can turn an hour of basketball into pure fitness.
Summary: Improve muscular endurance, stride turnover and length, lateral movement ability and plyometric training.


Tennis: As an ex-collegiate tennis player, I can honestly say that the only sport during which I have ever thrown-up due to extreme fatigue was tennis. With frequent start-stop and lateral motions, torso, and upper body and lower body power requirements, and long time spent “on your feet”, a rigorous game of tennis can be highly effective cardiovascular and muscular training.
Tennis offers many of the same training effects soccer and basketball, but also requires a high degree of torso and shoulder rotation, stability and power, resulting in good cross-over for the core stability required for distance running and swimming.
A tennis skirt or white polo is entirely optional, and for tennis, you simply need access to a public court, a tennis racquet and a can of balls.
Summary: Improve muscular endurance, stride turnover and length, lateral movement ability, upper body strength and core stability.

Golf: Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Surely the sport of golf is far too sedentary relative to triathlon for any possible cross-training effect. But not only does the golf swing provide similar torso and core rotational power stimulation as tennis, but also similar enhanced shoulder and upper body power. In addition, the long walking required during 18 holes of non-cart golf is perfect for an injured triathlete who has been forced into low-impact aerobic cardio due to knee or foot injuries, and for that injured athlete, golf can be a welcome break from simply hiking, going on a long walk, or staring at a TV on a treadmill. Don’t worry, there is no need to join an expensive country club - most metropolitan areas have a range of public courses that offer hitting lessons, affordable golf, and even club rentals.
Summary: maintenance of aerobic fitness during injury, upper body strength and core stability.
Final Tips: For many of the cold climate athletes who I coach that have an early season half-marathon, marathon or triathlon, we will use a half-day of winter sports such as skiing as a pre-fatigue activity for an early evening aerobic run. Soccer, basketball and tennis can also be turned into a long endurance run or brick training event by “sandwiching” a game between an aerobic run or bike ride to the sporting venue.

I realize there are some sports that were not addressed in detail in this article, such as volleyball, water polo, Frisbee golf, badminton, cricket, rugby, and other sports that I’ve probably never heard of. But you now possess the knowledge to creatively analyze how a sport will help your triathlon skills, and the confidence to hop off your wheel and try some new activities without the fear of losing your triathlon fitness.

Finally, be sure to check out my triathlon off-season "must haves" over at , and have a great winter!

Whoisben Ben Greenfield is the Renaissance man of the sport of triathlon.

He's a fast triathlete, a coach, a personal trainer, and much more more.

We recommend that you surf on over to , for more great training advice.

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