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Triathlon is a pretty hardcore sport, let's be honest. You don't just have to train for one discipline - you have to train for three. I may be stating the obvious here, but in terms of being time-consuming, triathlon is up there. 

We all know Winter is about base training. Getting all the miles in at low intensity - this is where you really build your endurance ready for a tough season the next year. This is the perfect time to up your strength and conditioning work. Perfect for when it's raining (so all the time, then).

Smashing up the gym

I'll apologise in advance if I'm preaching to the converted and I'm telling you something that every triathlete, novice or elite, knows already. Hopefully, if this is the case, it will help reinforce the fact. Plus I'd like the opportunity to tell you how S&C has changed me as an athlete and how it forms a big part of my training. (Here is the relevance to my opening paragraph, in case it looked a bit lost!).

So, fitting in strength and conditioning sessions into what is already a mind-numbingly busy week dedicated to training for three disciplines is a challenge in itself. But vital. If you do it already, brilliant. If you don't, do it now. Now!

Last year, I did absolutely no strength work. I though it was all about swimming, biking and running as much as possible and then I'd be cruising triathlons. Yeeaaah! Or not. S&C forms a fundamental part of training;there's probably tons of articles on this  out there, and they are probably much more technical than mine, with much more scientific weight behind them or written by someone who is a professional. But you can hear it straight from the horse's mouth here!

As I was saying, I didn't know gym work was really relevant to triathlon. It's all very well bashing out hundreds of miles on the bike, running all over the place like a nomad, and turning up to every swim session ready to crush a good few laps in the pool, and because this is all cardiovascular, you will build aerobic strength, technique and endurance. But will you build power? To some extent, but you can catalyse this. 

I, of course, didn't do any, so when I met my coach last year and he introduced the gym into my life (which I had quite happily had a formal separation from, after realising that I was far more appropriately settled in a training relationship with the great outdoors!) it was a bit of a shock to the system.

Oh god, I'd have to watch all those puny teenagers desperately trying to get buff, and all the buff guys kissing their biceps in front of the mirror. Gyms are not for me. I don't want to sound like a training elitist but I don't really like training in a sweatbox full of machines, full of people who are only their because they either want to compensate for their binge-drinking or so they can waltz around flexing their muscles trying to impress onlookers. Argh! Give me a lonely forest and a pair of running shoes please!

I'm very lucky to not only work with a fantastic award-winning triathlon coach, Steve Lloyd of Absolute Tri, but I also have my own strength and conditioning coach. James Drabble is a personal trainer and S&C coach, heading up a partnership businessTrojan Training which also runs bootcamps to get people fit. 

Now I've met lots of people who claim to be personal trainers/strength and conditioning coaches and they give you the same old stuff you could get off some blog off the internet (ahem!) or from some fitness magazine. Their knowledge is limited to some 8 week training course. I don't want to demean the industry, it's great there are so many fitness professionals out there, but you have to be choosy, because you want someone who doesn't just understand how to introduce S&C work into your training programme, but how to make it compliment your training programme.

James Drabble, my S&C coach

I had a full body assessment. Scary! I was kindly enlightened on how weak my core was, my non-existent glutes, how my left side was much more stiff than my right, my posture was a bit shite, and lots more...! Of course, some say this so they get business out of you, but everything he said had already been mentioned by the physios who were working on me through Bupa, so I knew it was legit. Oh, and the fact that I knew my core was rubbish anyway.

James devised me a programme which involved 'back to basics' core work. He said there was no point in working on the major muscle groups if my core was weak, because the wrong muscles would be firing. We needed to get my core strong-ish before we even contemplated anything else. So, a 20 minute core session, EVERY SINGLE DAY for 6 weeks. Woah, come on! I have to train three disciplines! Yes, but it needs to be done, because it's crucial to performance.

My programme changes every 6-8 weeks. Once the body gets used to a routine, it will plateau, and you will stop improving. It is important to keep challenging the body by changing what you are doing, even if you are just upping the reps or the number of sets. So I'm now on my second phase of 'Mission Get My Core Strong', and it feels great. I get some weird looks in the gym because of some of the stuff I'm doing, but I can definitely notice a difference.

Not only does S&C help prevent injuries during the tough race season, but you also build POWER. And who doesn't want more power?! I have to say, despite the monkies in the gym weighing each other up with sideways looks like some kind of alpha male 'buff-off', I am actually loving my S&C programme. I feel monumentally stronger than I did this time last year and I just know that it is strength building from the inside out, paving the way towards invincibleness... 

(Okay, not quite, but you know what I mean...!)