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  • Writer's pictureEmmelia Potts

Can hobbies help triathlon training?

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

The general consensus is that in order to run a triathlon you need to adopt running, cycling and swimming into your routine and focus on these to improve and be ready for race day. Whilst I agree with this, do we need to scrap our hobbies? Will they have any transferable skills? I was told at the beginning of all this that I would need to stop doing my hobbies and focus on the three triathlon disciplines. Now, this may be true, after all, if I do not finish in July it may have been down to focusing on hobbies instead of solely throwing myself into Iron Man training. However, for the most part, I get bored easily. My mind wanders, my concentration goes and I will fall out of a routine if I am not kept engaged. This is why I carry on with hobbies, this is why I have so many of them.

However, what hobbies are a hindrance and which are helping? Are any of them helping? After a few months of juggling hobbies and upping Iron Man training, I have begun to feel a bit over faced with trying to fit everything in. This will ultimately lead me to give up a few things as time goes on and has led me to evaluate if hobbies have transferable skills.

Riding: Great use of core and leg strength. The transferable skill of keeping weight in your heels and balance for the bike hill climbs. It can be a hard workout or an easy workout for a rest day. It does not feel like exercise at all due to it being part of my life for 22 years. It takes your mind off everything else and is a great escape. Overall physically it can be as easy or hard as you like. It has benefits and a few minor transferable skills/aids but the mental escape from "exercise" whilst still staying active is the biggest plus for this hobby.

Conclusion: Keep

riding on the beach

Gym: In the past, I have lived in the gym. I love the place. Fortunately, gym workouts can be adapted to aid in triathlon training. However, rather than spending 6 of 7 days in the gym, I need to spend less time in the gym and more time doing specific triathlon training. There are masses of transferable skills to benefit from in the gym from drills, circuits, run club sessions and strength sessions for explosive power. It will continue to be my biggest alley alongside practising the three disciplines but offers a change of scenery and a change of routine.

Conclusion: Keep but cut down hours.

ring swing ocr
OCR: Something I used to do a lot of. Whilst the obstacles have little transferable skills to triathlon training the running element is helpful and having the obstacles makes it more fun and interesting. I have always been a rubbish runner and get bored easily if there are no things to entertain me like a random wall every few hundred meters! So I suppose runs with no obstacles would be best to keep me from stopping, however, running anything is better than no running at all!

Conclusion: Do a couple to inspire me to run outside of events.

Shooting: None physical so it is not hindering training however it has little value to this challenge.

Conclusion: Stop due to taking up time that could be spent training.

pole dancing

Pole: Physically very demanding, but with little transferable skill to triathlon bar core work. I have been finding that these sessions are ruining my arms and draining me as I am no longer a beginner and the moves are getting progressively harder. It is a very hard hobby and alas is not easy to balance with the intensity of triathlon training, one will always suffer due to the other.

Conclusion: Stop until Iron Man is finished.

Kickboxing: Physically demanding and always cardio-intense. This in itself is a transferable skill. I feel my cardio has improved hugely and I am getting used to pushing through painful lactic build-ups. It is a great way to increase fitness without having to spend hours running. It is fun and goes quickly as well as learning a skill on the side. However, I have noticed that it is causing pain in my shoulders and calves which is effecting my running and swimming so I need to cut it down a bit.

Keep: Reduce to once a week from three times a week.

kickboxing class

Overall people have said I am an idiot for having hobbies on top of training, training should be your hobby and maybe they are correct. However, if I am honest I do not find road cycling and road running overly fun and if that is all I did I would go mad, get bored and begin to resent triathlon training and sack it in altogether. So the above is not only to stay active on rest days and have alternative sources of core work and cardio, but it is mainly to mentally keep me going. Hobbies act as little openings during the week/month as downtime that I know I will enjoy and if you are giving your all and working hard during training, surely you deserve a treat and something to look forward to regularly. I have been sensible and put off and reduced some to make way for running and cycling but wish to keep a few going as long as possible. I guess we will see if this was a sensible approach in three months!

Be sensible, you can not do everything. Note down things you enjoy doing, and take the ones out that you can live without for a period of time. Stop the ones that are going to hinder any progress in terms of taking up time or making you too tired to train for a triathlon (or the goal at hand) and be selective. It is all a case of finding a balance between enjoying each week and having effective time training for the goal you are working towards.


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