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The Power of Planking – Plank Benefits for Triathletes

Stuck at home, races cancelled or postponed? Feeling the pain of limited outdoor exercise and wanting to stay as fit as possible? It’s difficult to maintain the cardiovascular strength at home that you would normally get from limitless outdoor training (unless you’re lucky enough to have a turbo trainer, an Endless Pool and a treadmill). 

Assuming that most of us don’t have all of those fabulous fitness devices, may we suggest the power of the plank?

What is a plank?

A plank is an isometric (static, contracted) strength exercise, using the core muscles to maintain a stable, long line in a push-up position. There are many variations, but most common are the forearm (or low) plank and planking on your hands (high plank).

Why plank?
Plank Benefits for Triathletes.
Planking is often referred to as one of the best overall strength exercises, but why? According to Harvard Health, “the plank pose activates all the core muscles at once, and doesn’t require extra movements that can cause stress or injury.” All of the core- let’s not forget, that includes not only front abdominals, but muscles on the sides and back of your body as well. This equates to better posture and less likelihood of back pain and injury!

And planks aren’t just for core- they also work shoulders, chest, neck, glutes, and quadriceps, especially with added variations.

What are the plank benefits for triathletes?

Everyone could benefit from stronger muscles and better core strength, but how does planking benefit triathletes specifically? 

Triathletes, especially those going for longer distances, need a strong core, and most of the cardiovascular training that we do doesn’t cut it. 

Strong core benefits start with the swim, helping stabilise rotation and a streamlined position. Stronger shoulders and back not only help with a swim stroke in general, but add to the strength required for sighting and getting around buoys.

For cycling, the benefits of strong quadriceps and glutes are obvious, but a strong core will allow less weight through the handlebars, less lower back pain and better positioning/less tension in the shoulders. A strong neck will help prevent painful cyclist’s neck (for other tips on cyclist’s neck, Physiopedia has written a helpful article). 

When running, a strong core girdle will help to maintain good posture, resulting in better form, less pressure through the hips and knees, and more stamina.

What types of planks are there?

In addition to planking on your elbows or hands, there are so many plank variations to try! You never have to find planks boring! Once you’ve mastered the basic plank, there are side planks, inchworms, x-planks, hover planks… you name it. A great way to prevent boredom, challenge yourself and develop overall body strength? Take things up a notch and add to the fun with the vast variety of planks out there!

Yes, you can!

If you are struggling with holding a basic plank, not to worry- a little goes a long way! It’s more important to work on form, keeping your navel to your spine and protecting your lower back than it is to compete for the World Record (somewhere over eight hours!) 

Various studies quote different length holds as the most beneficial, but most agree that doing a few shorter planks (10-30 seconds), three or four times is plenty to reap powerful plank benefits. And other than going for that record, holding for longer than two minutes doesn’t seem to offer any extra benefits.

So, yes, you can– there’s no excuse! You don’t even need to change your clothes, just find a spot on the floor, get down, and plank!

Happy Training  🙂

Kristin Duffy - Planking ChallengeIf you are still looking for plank inspiration, join me! I’m a triathlon coach and actor who needs to work on her plank, so I’m currently doing my version of a plank challenge (one that focuses on variety and fun, not just long holds!) I’m also showing the human side of planking, which means that sometimes I find them really tough! 🙂 

You can find me planking (and squatting!) on Instagram/IGTV at kristinduffy_actor.

Triathlon gadgets – are they an expensive (and in some cases, intimidating) waste of money or a game-changer in your triathlon training?

Let’s look at arguments for and against and how gadgets can help – and hinder – your triathlon experience.

As a triathlete and triathlon coach, I’ve found over the years that men tend to get more into the triathlon gadgets and the data they provide than the women I coach and train with. Are we doing ourselves a disservice? 

First of all, what counts as a triathlon ‘gadget’? 

For the purposes of this blog, anything that involves technology and is a bit of an “extra” is a gadget. For example, a bike isn’t a gadget, but a power metre is.  Over our next few blogs, we’re going to look at three different pieces of triathlon gadgetry to help you decide whether to splurge or save and which pieces of tech are right for you and your training style.

Triathlon Gadgets – The Fancy Watch

the Pros:

Last year I bought a Garmin Forerunner 735XT for an ultra-running race. I wanted mapping and timing functionalities that my super-cheap watch couldn’t provide.

Yes, it took the fact that I was running farther than a marathon to make me feel that I deserved to spend the money. But I’m (mostly) glad that I did. I struggle with heart rate monitor straps. My skin is prone to chafing and my lungs are prone to freaking out when a strap is squeezing them. So today’s watches with built-in heart rate offer more comfort with less faff.

With a bit of online research, I figured out functionalities that allowed me to download a route map. I also used the run-walk function to help pace me from the start. Even as someone fairly disinterested in stats, I like looking back and seeing how my pace and heart rate changes through races and training sessions. 

In everyday life, the watch looks pretty cool. It is way less clunky than previous Garmin models and it counts my steps, so I’m inspired to get a lot of walking in. 

Trigirl Training Favourite HITT: High-Intensity Triathlon Training

Last year, Trigirl introduced a series of high-intensity workouts we called HITT (High Intensity Triathlon Training). Based on HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), these sessions incorporate high to very high levels of effort, mixed with short rest or easy recovery intervals.

We still love these sessions as a way to get your training done in less time- and with more results!

As written in an article in Shape magazine, ‘When it comes to HIIT, less might actually be more. Squat jumps for joy.’

If time is of the essence (as it is for most people) and injury is a concern (as it is for most triathletes), could HITT (High Intensity Triathlon Training!) be for you?

YES.  Studies (and anecdotal evidence) are proving that shorter workouts, performed at greater intensity, could equal faster race times and less injury.  Save time and achieve your goals with HITT!

Want to know more?

A beginner’s guide to open water swimming

One of the questions that I hear most, both working at Trigirl and as a triathlon coach, is some form of, ‘How do I transition from the pool into the open water? How do I escape the pool?!’

It’s a valid question: many triathletes already feel that swimming is their worst sport, then add the stress of jumping into a strange lake or sea, wearing a wetsuit… guidance is needed!

At Trigirl, we’ve published some great articles and blogs on open water swimming. We have coached swimmers and have done a fair share of open water swimming ourselves. But even we can’t claim to be at the expert level of Outdoor Swimmer Magazine.

Outdoor Swimmer Magazine is a great place to catch up on tips and techniques for the new and experienced swimmer alike. They offer training and nutrition tips, suggestions on great places to travel to enjoy outdoor swimming, and a glimpse into the open water swimming community.

And for those of you who are wondering how to make the transition from the pool to the open water, Outdoor Swimmer Magazine have released their FREE Escape the Pool guide. It is packed with tips on gear, how to become more confident and wetsuit advice. The Escape the Pool Guide provides tons of answers to your open water swimming questions, written by the open water experts!

Outdoor Swimmer say, ‘For many people, swimming outside is incredibly daunting. It induces panic rather than exhilaration and joy. Or you just don’t know where to start. We’ve therefore produced this short guide to help you start on your own outdoor swimming journey which will take you to places and give you experiences that you never imagined.’ Sounds great!

For your free copy of Escape the Pool, click here.

Happy Training (and open water swimming!)

Coach Kristin x

Open water swimming guide

Trigirl’s High-Intensity Triathlon Training – Descending Intervals Bike Session

Trigirl’s HITT (High Intensity Triathlon Training) sessions are back by popular demand! (HITT is a hit!) This week, we’re back on the bike for a scorcher session that will increase both your aerobic and anaerobic capabilities and burn loads of calories in minutes!!

Before beginning… If you’re new to Trigirl’s weekly high-intensity triathlon training, see week one for more information on HITT, how it works and how to approach the sessions.

Though high-intensity triathlon training has been proven safe, if you are starting a new exercise plan (whether traditional triathlon training or HITT), it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor.

Your HITT Session for the Week:

This session can be performed indoors or out. Outdoors is best, though if the weather isn’t very cycling-friendly, you are forgiven if you can’t bear to ride outside.

If you are training indoors, it’s recommended that you ride on a turbo trainer, Wattbike or spin bike, with a typical gym bike being the least-recommended option. (The closer that you can train to your actual bike set-up, the better!)

We’ve adapted this session from Olympic coach Gale Bernhardt’s “miracle intervals”, originally published on Bicycling.com. If the long recoveries seem a bit much, do them anyway. They’ll allow you to go “ALL OUT!” doing the fast intervals for maximum HITT benefits.


Warm-up for 8 minutes:
– 5 minutes gentle spinning, making sure that you have enough resistance not to bounce in the saddle.
– 3 minutes – add a gear or two, then ride 3 x [30 seconds spinning your legs up to the fastest cadence you can spin without bouncing, followed by 30 seconds easy recovery]

  • 45 seconds all-out fast with 4:30 easy recovery
  • 40 seconds all-out fast with 4:25 easy recovery
  • 35 seconds all-out fast with 4:20 easy recovery
  • 30 seconds all-out fast with 4:15 easy recovery

Cool down, riding another five minutes in an easy gear (still not bouncing!)

Well done and…


Happy HITT training!

High-Intensity Triathlon Training

Trigirl’s High-Intensity Triathlon Training. Today is High-Intensity Swim Day!

This HITT – high-intensity swim session will help build strength and increase your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds in very little time. If it feels tough – good! The results are worth it and you can do it!!

Getting Started

If you’re new to Trigirl’s weekly HITT training, see our introduction for more information on HITT. Here we explain how it works and how to approach the sessions. Though high-intensity training has been proven safe, if you are starting a new exercise plan (whether traditional triathlon training or HITT), it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor.

Your HITT Session for the Week:

This high-intensity swim session has longer intervals than our last HITT swim session, but try to keep up the intensity. For the sprint intervals, the goal is efforts around 90% of MHR (maximum heart rate). It should feel HARD. If you’re training without a heart rate monitor, think ‘all out’.

You may need to gradually build speed and endurance over a few weeks, but don’t give up!


Warm-up (10mins):
5 minutes, easy swim
3 minutes front crawl, increasing speed gradually throughout

2 minutes, changing between front crawl and kicking every length



Interval Set:
Sprint 50 metres (2 lengths), swim slowly (active recovery) one length, repeat four times
Sprint 1 length kicking hard (no arms), active recovery one length, repeat four times
Sprint 25 metres, active recovery 25 metres, sprint 25 metres, active recovery 25 metres. Rest at the wall for 20 seconds, repeat four times.

Cool Down (5 minutes):
2 lengths easy kicking

Swim easy for the remaining time, mixing breaststroke, backstroke and front crawl


Happy HITT training!

High-Intensity Swim Training - Trigirl HITT

Trigirl’s HITT Training – High Intensity Run Session

This HITT run session will help build strength and increase your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds in very little time. If it feels tough – good! The results are worth it and you can do it!!

Getting Started

If you’re new to Trigirl’s weekly HITT training, see our previous post for more information on HITT, how it works and how to approach the sessions. Though high-intensity training has been proven safe, if you are starting a new exercise plan (whether traditional triathlon training or HITT), it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor.

Your HITT Session for the Week

For this high intensity run session, you will need a hill that will take you just less than 60 seconds to run up to complete this session. It should be a real hill, but not so steep that you can’t run it with good form.


Warm-up for 10 minutes:
– 8 minutes of gentle jogging
– 2 minutes or more of dynamic stretching to loosen joints and prepare them for the session

HITT the Hills! (See what we did there?)

Run up the hill at a 9 out of 10 effort for 60 seconds. Ideally, you will just crest the hill and have about 10 seconds on the flat at the top to practice running hard out of an uphill.
Jog or walk to recover down the hill, then immediately run back up.
Start with 3-4 hill repeats, ultimately building to 8-10.

Cool down with an easy run on the flat and with static stretches to ward off muscle soreness.


Happy HITT training!

Oregon Circuits for Triathlon Training

We’re back to run training this week, but we’re mixing it up with a high-intensity session that works on overall body strength as well as run strength and speed. Once again, you’ll get extra benefits in less time!
Welcome, Trigirls, to Oregon Circuits for triathlon training, Trigirl HITT-style!!

Getting Started

If you’re new to Trigirl’s weekly HITT training, see week one for more information on HITT, how it works and how to approach the sessions. Though high-intensity training has been proven safe, if you are starting a new exercise plan (whether traditional triathlon training or HITT), it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor.

This week we’ve got Oregon Circuits on the agenda. So what are they and how can you use Oregon Circuits for triathlon training?

Oregon Circuits were invented at the University of Oregon by coach Luiz de Oliveira. Combining run intervals with bodyweight strength exercises, they definitely suit our ‘more benefits, less time’ training approach.

Trigirl’s High-Intensity Triathlon Training – Tabata Bike Session

If you’re new to Trigirl’s weekly HITT training, see week one for more information on HITT, how it works and how to approach the sessions.

Though high-intensity training has been proven safe, if you are starting a new exercise plan (whether traditional triathlon training or HITT), it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor.

Your HITT Session for the Week:

This week we’re getting on the bike for a super-fast, super-efficient leg burner!

You can perform this session indoors or out. However, if you are training indoors, it’s recommended that you ride on a turbo trainer, Wattbike or spin bike, with a typical gym bike being the least-recommended option. (The closer that you can train to your actual bike set-up, the better!)

We’re basing this session on Tabata, discovered by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata.

Tabata and his team conducted research on two groups of athletes. The first group trained at a moderate intensity level while the second group trained at a high-intensity level.

The moderate intensity group worked out five days a week for a total of six weeks; each workout lasted one hour. The high-intensity group worked out four days a week for six weeks; each workout lasted just four minutes (20 seconds of hard training followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated 8 times).

The results; Group 1 had increased their aerobic system (cardiovascular), but showed little or no results for their anaerobic system (muscle).

Group 2 showed much more increase in their aerobic system than Group 1, and increased their anaerobic system by 28 percent!

In conclusion, high-intensity interval training has more impact on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems.

Welcome to week two of HITT, Trigirl’s High-Intensity Triathlon Training!

Getting Started

If you’re new to Trigirl’s weekly HITT training, see last week’s post for more information on HITT, how it works and how to approach the sessions.

Though high-intensity training has been proven safe, if you are starting a new exercise plan (whether traditional triathlon training or HITT), it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor.

Your HITT Session for the Week:

This HITT swim session can be performed in very little time, but a decent warm-up and some drills are included to get you and your swim form prepped and ready for the hard work HITT intervals. There is also a recommended cool down at the end, but all-in the session still clocks in at under 30 minutes!


Warm-up for 10 minutes:
– 5 minutes front crawl easy
– 3 minutes light kick (keep it fairly easy!)
– 2 minutes pull (front crawl using a pool buoy)

Drill set:
4-6 x 50 metres (as 25 m 6-3-6 drill, 25 m front crawl)

Welcome to week one of HITT, Trigirl’s High-Intensity Triathlon Training!

Getting Started

If you’re just starting out, there’s nothing wrong with incorporating high-intensity. However, since running involves impact, it’s suggested that you build up to the sessions to get your body prepared.

Spend  a few weeks getting your body used to running (and swimming and cycling) with some easier efforts. Then, progress by adding minimal intervals, building up the number of intervals each week.

Start with one high-intensity session weekly, with the aim of ultimately doing at least one per week per discipline.

Though high-intensity training has been proven safe, if you are starting a new exercise plan (whether traditional triathlon training or HITT), it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor.

How does HITT differ from other triathlon training plans?

Traditionally, triathlon training plans are written based on the concept of periodisation. This breaks a season into base, build, peak and race phases.

HITT – try time saving High Intensity Triathlon Training sessions this season

If you take classes at the gym or have paid attention to the fitness world over the past several years, you’ve probably heard of HIIT. But what is HIIT and how does it apply to you as a triathlete-in-training?

HITT - High Intensity Triathlon Training

HIIT, short for high-intensity interval (or intermittent) training, is a training programme that incorporates high to very high levels of effort, mixed with short rest or easy recovery intervals. Though it’s been around since the 1970s, HIIT has recently gained greater popularity in the fitness community because it equates to better fitness and higher levels of weight loss in less time.

As written in an article in Shape magazine, ‘When it comes to HIIT, less might actually be more. Squat jumps for joy.’

So, is high-intensity training right for triathlon? (Yes.) Is it right for you? (Probably.) And how do you incorporate high-intensity triathlon training into your training regime? (We’re here to help.)

Stay tuned for our new weekly training session offering HITT tips and a suggested workout that you can incorporate into your overall training plan.

It will help you get to the finish line in less time – both in training, and on the race course.

Save time and achieve your goals with HITT!

Happy Training!

Click here to read more on HIIT and high-intensity training for triathlon.

Perfect RunningTrigirl Triathlon coach Kristin Duffy helps you to perfect your running form with her latest article. Working her way from the top – your head, that is – all the way down to your feet, you can achieve an effortless running style that will make you faster and prevent injury.

Kristin explains: “The key to good running form is to stay relaxed, which isn’t always easy, especially as you tire. Try to check in as you are running, doing a quick head-to-feet scan. It will stop you from thinking negative thoughts (about wanting to stop, maybe?) and will keep you running with your perfect form!”

To read her full article, click here: Your Perfect Running Form

triathlon cycling tipsOur latest article focuses on triathlon’s longest leg – the bike.

Even if you’ve ridden all of your life, there are some easy ways to help your triathlon bike leg go smoothly (and to help make it even more fun).

You will spend the majority of your time in a triathlon on the bike, so even if you feel comfortable with basic cycling, it’s worth spending a little time thinking – and practising – how to get the most out of triathlon’s longest leg.

See the article here.

sportiveTrying to get more cycling into your training? Looking for a fun cycling event or a big biking challenge? Want to ride more, but just don’t know where to start? Why not try a cycle sportive?

There are literally hundreds of cycle sportives throughout the country, with riders of all standards enjoying a day out on their bike or challenging themselves to ride further and faster than ever before.

If you want to be one of these riders, but have no idea what a sportive is or where to find one, check out our latest article to find out more about cycle sportives and how you can plan your best ride yet!