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How to train differently as a female.

By Lisa Miller, Complete Tri

 

Triathlon is decidedly a coed sport, but women and men train differently for it. Truth be told, everyone needs to train a bit differently based on their strengths and weaknesses, but when you look at the gender split in how we might train, some themes become apparent.

 

In this piece, I will look at some of the things that females should consider when cranking up their triathlon training. Whether you are a newbie or an old pro, there are a few things to keep in mind as a female triathlete.

 

Your Legs are Proportionately Stronger

 

Women’s lower bodies are usually stronger (relatively speaking) than their upper body, whereas men tend to be more balanced or are even a little top-heavy when it comes to strength. This tendency for women to have stronger legs can certainly be a good thing when it comes to running, but as with so many fitness items, too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad.

 

Women should take care to train their upper body and core for a more complete athletic physique. For many, this means training differently and more intentionally than you otherwise might.

 

For functional core strength, the place you actually may most notice a lack of strength is on the bike.  When you are climbing a long hill, or trying to make-up time on that wide-open straightaway, core strength will help you pedal stronger and harder. It helps you maintain a body position that enables full power transfer to your pedal stroke.

 

One of the things you can do to build your bike core is to train specifically for climbs.  These workouts aren’t always fun, but they are very effective.  Consider some indoor training, because it can be controlled and allow you to do hill-style training on-demand.  Most people have done spin classes, but using a smart trainer at home can give you a better experience and is often less expensive in the long run.  If your budget is not right for a smart trainer, you can try a regular bike trainer (like these) with various streaming videos to guide you.  The workouts are surprisingly high-quality, and you get to use your own bike.

 

If you are so lucky as to live near some good natural inclines, hit the hills for your workouts.  Hill workouts can be an incredible source of core strength if you do them regularly.  A hill that takes you 1 to 3 minutes to climb is perfect, and you can alternate between doing them seated or standing -- each position gives you a different core workout.

 

Your Arms, Shoulders, Chest, and Back May Need More Strength

 

We discussed the importance of a strong core for cycling, but what about swimming?  When you are doing a rough, windy, open-water swim, you can throw some of your swim form out the window.  At that point, it becomes much more about your ability to muscle out each pull while you propel yourself. Men typically have stronger shoulders and arms, relative to their bodyweight, which helps them in difficult swims. Women might need to work on their arm and shoulder strength.

 

As a result, consider adding some upper-body toning exercises into your routine. This can be as simple as some home-based bodyweight workouts such as pushups, tricep dips (on a step or chair) and the yoga Chaturanga pose.  If you have some dumbbells, you can open up several more upper-body exercises.

 

Don’t forget about your swim workouts, either.  Be sure you do some speed work in each swim you do, ideally some hard laps with a few seconds of complete rest in-between.  This will give your upper body some great toning work.

 

Diet is Key    

 

Nutrition is important for males and females alike, but women tend to be more restrictive on what they allow themselves to eat than men, generally speaking.  It is common for female athletes to have an iron deficiency, likely caused by a combination of hard workouts and a tendency to eat lean, high-veggie diets.  Such a diet doesn’t replenish your iron the way you may need to.  Supplements, or a modification in diet, may be in order.

 

Additionally, don’t neglect healthy fats, which are important for any athlete.  There are bad fats, but healthy fats -- like the kind found in nuts, avocados, oils, and the like -- can really warrant a place in your daily diet.

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