The sport of triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and around the world (Triathlon Growth, 2015). This sport’s demographics grew from a primarily male-dominant sport to female-inclusive and now extends to all age-groups.
In particular, over the last ten years, the sport of triathlon saw considerable growth in the youth and junior division. In comparison to traditional sports, such as baseball, basketball, and soccer, the sport of triathlon offers a variety of challenges, which include the appropriate amount, means, and method for coaching triathletes.
HIIT & HVT
Many triathletes today, both elite and recreational, use a multi-faceted training approach that includes a combination of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in the disciplines of swimming, biking, and running, as well as steady-state training (HVT) to improve over-all performance and aerobic capacity.
The physiological adaptations associated with improved performance are well-established. Performance gains are measured through testing an athlete’s maximum volume of oxygen that can be utilized in one minute during exhaustive or maximal exercise (VO2 Max) (Extremely Short Duration, 2012).
Another method used in measuring an athlete’s current fitness level along with performance gains is through lactate threshold (LT) testing.
Research suggests the pace in distance running endurance events is associated very closely with an athlete’s LT and there is a strong correlation between LT and race performance (Smith, Moran, & Foley, 2013).
The lactate threshold indicates the upper limit of an athlete’s sustainable efforts in both training and competition settings. Once an athlete’s body switches to the use of the glycolytic system for energy, the accumulation of blood lactate will hinder the muscles’ ability to contract, and the ability to continue exercising will soon end (Sokolovas, 2009).
The more energy an athlete expends prior to reaching LT the better the performance. Whether using VO2 max or LT, a triathlete can maximize his or her training through the use of a combination of HVT and HIIT training in order to maximize the body’s fuel systems.
Extremely short duration high-intensity training substantially improves endurance performance in triathletes [Supplemental material]. (2012). Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism, 37(5), 976-981. . http://dx.doi.org/20120831.
Smith, J. W., Moran, M. F., & Foley, J. T. (2013). Effect of GPS feedback on lactate threshold pacing in intercollegiate distance runners. International Journal of Exercise Science, 6(1), 74080. http://dx.doi.org/20150416.
Sokolovas, G. (2009). Evaluating energy zones in swimming. Swimming World, 50(4), 34. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.proxy-campuslibrary.rockies.edu/ehost/
Triathlon growth trends. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.usatriathlon.org/about-multisport/demographics.aspx