"Fourth Element" to Triathlon Training?

"Fourth Element" to Triathlon Training?

We all know how it goes: wake up, take the kids to school, go to work, take the kids to one of their many practices, then fit in our swim, bike and run training somewhere in between. Additionally, some of us are going to school too, which means homework and papers to write on top of the normal daily grind of grocery shopping, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, and trying to get ready to do it all over again tomorrow. Last year my training difficulties went something like this: sore calves to hamstring tightness to hip soreness to back pain and a total change in my running gait, which eventually proceeded to compensation on the other side of my body. As I progressed through these ailments, I didn’t stop to reassess my routine and the importance of adding in some stretches and exercises, perhaps coupled with some core maintenance, that could help my problem areas. I didn’t stretch for a single minute outside of my normal pre/post workout. I didn’t do a single sit-up, push-up or plank, and no core exercises to keep me strong; I did nothing. In my mind I was doing all I could just to squeeze in all of my workouts and I didn’t think I had a second to spare for a little stretch! (I know what you’re thinking…but how dare you even suggest I wake up earlier to take care of these things! I’m of the opinion that sleep is precious, especially when you’re training to the point of exhaustion.) I felt I was already pressing the limits with my swim, bike and run routines, did I really have time to add in other things?

Perhaps that’s not the question I should have been asking myself. Instead, I should have focused on the need to stretch, strength train, and add in core and corrective exercises. The fourth element comes in many forms:

  • Foam Rolling
  • Corrective Exercises
  • Stretching
  • Strength Training
  • Yoga
  • Core Exercises

Some would argue that additional components such as nutrition and sleep play vital roles as fourth element, too. Whichever way you want to package ‘the fourth element’ into your training, it definitely should be added to your schedule and here’s why it’s important: the prevention of injury, added rest and recovery, regeneration of muscles, and increased strength, flexibility, mobility and stability. Trust me, your body will thank you!


We already discussed how busy we are every day, so where do we find the time to add in fourth element training components? I looked back at my schedule last year and sure enough I found some spots of time where I could have most certainly fit in some simple exercises. Here’s what I found: in the morning while I waited for the bathroom to free up, I would just lie in bed. Instead, I could have done some stretching right there while I waited. Another option would have been to get up and go into our exercise room (aka living room) and do 15 minutes of fourth element training. While at work, I noticed I could easily do a few things to stretch my hips and hamstrings while standing around. (If you’re mainly seated at a desk, you might want to consider scheduling yourself mini breaks throughout the day where you could get up and exercise, even if it’s for 5 minutes here and there.) Additionally, I could have added in some simple push-ups or worked on my core by holding the plank pose by using the countertop or walls. While standing at the stove, I could have added some exercises as I stirred the veggies in the skillet. When it came time to wind down for the night, instead of throwing myself on the coach like I did 100 times, I could have sat on the floor and done a few fourth element training components while watching TV. The point is, while it may appear there isn’t enough time in the day, sure enough I was able to easily find time.

Imagine what would happen if you planned the fourth element training directly into your schedule. While this might seem like an impossible feat, this doesn’t need to be difficult or even time consuming. Pick some quick, easy exercises that you know you’ll do and start with that. Add other components once you’ve already developed a habit and know you can stick to it. It only takes a small change to make your fourth element training become routine and habitual. You can do it!


Written By: Missy Verhaeghe, Tri Sirena Siren Luminary
Follow Missy on Instagram @thiswildchildruns

How do you keep up with strength training? Let us know in the comments below!

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