Best Cross-Training Activities for Triathletes


There’s no replacement for swimming, biking and running if your sport is triathlon. However, research shows that supplementing, or even replacing part of your triathlon training program with other forms of exercise might be just what you need to avoid boredom, minimize injuries, and take your sport to a new level.

The best cross-training sports are those that deliver an overall cardiovascular benefit, muscular endurance, coordination and a few other potential factors. Most trainers believe cross-training achieves race-day success. Here are some cross-training exercises triathletes can do to reach triathlon triumph:

  1. Stadium or Bleacher Running This is one of the best ways to increase your endurance, stamina, and cardiovascular training. The 45-degree angle provided by the bleacher stairs stimulates the position you assume on your bike.  It also helps strengthen your quads, calves and hamstrings.
  2. Strength Training – During the season, it can be challenging to squeeze in strength sessions around swimming, biking, and running workouts, and you may not have the energy to do so. Adding more strength training sessions into your off-season is very beneficial. Now you can focus on building strength in muscles that can help you push harder on the bike as well as help your body adapt better to the pounding your quads takes from all of your running during the season. Strength training doesn’t just make you stronger and faster, but it can also help strengthen your bones, making you a more powerful triathlete.
  3. Rowing – Another great cross training exercise is rowing. You can find rowers in gyms all over the county, unless you live in a warmer area where you can rent a canoe and do this on a river year round. This exercise builds endurance and power and helps with coordination and muscular harmonization.
  4. Hiking – Who doesn’t love the beautiful scenery of Mother Nature and the crisp, fresh air? You can make your hike as easy or as hard as you want depending on the path you take. This “easy” form of cross-training is a great cardio workout for your glutes, hamstrings, core, hips and quads. Add some speed to your hike and give your lungs and muscles a maximum workout.
  5. Mountain Biking – Grab yourself a mountain bike and take a break from the roads and venture onto the trails and back roads. It will help you with your bike handling skills to ride on the rough terrain including sand, dirt, snow, icy patches and rocks. It helps your mental strength as you pay very close attention to that rough terrain in front of you. You can expect a great lower-body workout and beautiful scenery you might not normally see when you are on a road bike, so enjoy!
  6. Parachute Sprints – Nothing will get you outside of your comfort zone like sprinting at full speed with a parachute tied to your back. This means, you actually need to learn how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and training with resistance sprints is one of the best ways to do it. The parachute will drag kind of like wearing a wetsuit or feel like a tough head wind while biking and running. It’s a great workout and not one that many do.
  7. Cross Country Skiing – If you live in an area where snow covers the ground in the winter, then cross-country skiing is a great cross-training option. Cross-country skiing is effective in building aerobic endurance without putting a lot of pressure on your joints or tendons. It’s a great for building your lower body muscles especially glutes and legs. The low impact exercise is also a great core workout.
  8. HIIT Training – High-intensity intervals are not only a great way to burn calories, but they are also a great way to keep your body guessing. Pick six to eight exercises and do them in a row, without any rest in between. After you have finished all the exercises rest for two minutes and repeat. It’s best to mix up upper body, lower body and core exercises within the six to eight and end with a (tough) condition move at the end. This is a great, effective way to get a less time consuming workout in.

Want a list of suggested workouts you can do on the stairs?  You can grab this free list by going to:

Cross-training means escaping from the norm.  Exploring other workouts and having a little fun while you build some strength and endurance at the same time.  If you need help to decide which cross-training activities are best for you, or would like some help in setting up an off-season training program,  contact me today so I can help you reach your goals for next season.


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