The Five F Principles

Applying the Five Fs to Tranining 

As triathletes, our work ethic and sometimes over-zealous nature can at times hamper our logical approach to training. This, in turn, can lead to one of the most frustrating issues for athletes to deal with: INJURIES. Running is where we see most njuries present themselves. So with that said, I like to apply what I call the "F" Principals. Following in order, these five 'F' principals of Function, Form, Frequency, Far and Fast will go a long way to helping you either return from injury or more importantly, stay healthy in the first place!

Function first! Ensure that any pre-existing injuries have been addressed. While you might still be in the process of working through one, it is important to take time to assess how the injury developed in the first place. Was it from overtraining (too much stress on the body too soon) or was it from a biomechanical or structural imbalance? Once you have a clear understanding of the source of the problem, then it will help you in your process going forward. This is where the importance of strength work comes into play. Strength work will help to rebuild the body. Even if you are one of the fortunate ones to not have suffered from injuries or 'niggles' (the warning signs to injuries), strength work will help to ensure that your structure remains strong. Just like building a house, making sure that the mortar that connects the bricks is strong, is it necessary to ensure that the connective tissue-- the ligaments, muscles and tendons that support your skeleton, is strong.

Form follows function. If the body is able to move through the movement patterns correctly in a controlled environment such as in the gym or at home, then applying good function to form will help tremendously. Swim, bike and run drills will help to reinforce good technique and are also low risk forms of effective training.

Add Frequency, then Far. Keep workouts shorter and more frequent to provide a lower risk to injury, as opposed to increasing distance or duration too quickly. Instead of starting back with 3 x 3 mile runs for the week, try starting with 6 x 1.5 mile runs. This will still give you the same total distance but because the duration per workout is shorter, you will be able to maintain better form and suffer less fatigue afterwards. Additionally, being able to successfully achieve these shorter quality session goes a long way to helping you feel good about what you are doing. Slowly start to add distance while utilizing the 10% rule - this means limiting increases to your total distance or time by no more than 10% each week. This is especially important with regard to running. 

Finally, include Fast. My preference is to introduce short hill strength repeats prior to introducing speed intervals. Hill work requires the body to recruit more muscle fibers and since the speed isn't so fast, it places less stress on the body, yet, the added strength work goes a long way to helping develop speed. Once you do introduce speed, keep these initially to short duration interval sessions in which you increase your speed or heart rate for short time periods. This will help your body to remember what it is like to go fast. This will also help to train both your neuromuscular and physiological systems for upcoming longer workouts more efficiently. An example of this for either running or biking may include 5 x 1 minute hard intervals with equal rest time between each.            

--OutRival Racing Coach Karen Allen-Turner



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