I was really excited to find out that Ignition Fitness was offering TRX Classes for Runners and Triathletes:
- I always wanted to try TRX - being suspended promotes using the core and all kinds of stabilizer muscles in way that promotes functional strength, which is what I want to build.
- I know a lot of elite triathletes have been using TRX in their training, so again, that puts it right up my alley.
- These workouts are specifically designed for runners and triathletes!
- The classes are available on a drop in basis, and (like drugs, software and martial arts classes) the first one is free!
I had got in touch with Tommy Ferris, the head coach of Ignition and signed up for a session on a Thursday night. Due to cold and flu season and its effect on the whole family, I had to cancel at least once, but this past week, I was able make it to Dragon Fitness, where they’re holding the classes. It’s located in an industrial space in a semi-sketchy area north of Parkdale (technically Brockton Village apparently); but I’m somewhat familiar with the area as the place where I used to train in Jiu-Jitsu was nearby, so I felt a little more comfortable than I might have otherwise.
After entering and greeting one of the owners of Dragon Fitness, I met Tommy Ferris himself. He explained that there had been some cancellations, and as it turned out, I would be the only one in class that day. More individual attention for me!
This meant he had lots of time to get me oriented with the equipment. In addition to a dry run with all the exercises in the circuit, I also had a chance to practice reconfiguring the suspension straps for maximum or minimum length, depending on what was called for in the exercise. Two other skills I learned were how to combine the handles for a single gripping point, and how to put them on my feet for exercises where our hands would be on the ground. That was one that I struggled to do while hurrying through the circuit. Here’s how the circuit was structured:
|TRX exercise||Non-TRX exercise|
|Squat||Kettlebell ‘Romanian Deadlift’ (two handed swing)|
|Mountain Climbers||Running Arms|
|Sprinters Lunges||Lateral Jumps|
|Body Saw||Matrix Jumps|
Each station was 45 seconds, and we moved from TRX exercise to non-TRX exercise (left column, right column) without stopping. At the end of the circuit, we rested 45 seconds, then did it over again for a 30 minute workout. Here are some notes and illustrative pics (from the Ignition Fitness website) on the individual exercises.
- Squat. A body-weight/air squat, getting down to where the thighs are at least parallel to the floor. You hold onto the TRX handles, but more for a balance reference point than anything else.
- Kettlebell 'Romanian Deadlift' - To me, this looked like the regular Kettlebell swings you see people do... the weights were gripped two-handed, and the emphasis was on getting the hips back on the negative phase (lowering the bell) while snapping the pelvis forward (back to a neutral standing position) on the upward swing of the bell. I have yet to understand why you need Kettlebells to do these kinds of exercises... you could do them with dumbbells in my opinion.
- Torso Twist - This one was great for working oblique core muscles which should be recruited during the swim. Most of the exercises were selected for the role they could play in improving performance on the swim, bike or run.
- Plank - You know what this is, right? 45 seconds worth. Not easy, but at least a change of pace from the more dynamic exercises that preceded it.
- T's or I's. The first circuit involved pulling ourselves toward the straps' anchor point using a reverse shoulder fly with arms stretched out horizontally (so that we formed a 'T'). And the next circuit involved pulling the handles overhead so that the arms ended above (and the body forms an 'I'). Great for core and shoulders, especially to level off imbalances that would be common for runners and triathletes.
- Alternating push-ups. A regular push-up, a wide push-up to the right, a wide push-up to the left. Tough to finish, not exciting.
- Mountain Climbers - A common exercise where the TRX adds another dimension. It was crucial to not have the legs go up and down too much or else the straps would 'see-saw' through the anchor point, making an annoying noise. When the feet were kept more-or-less level, the core was better engaged.
- Running Arms - Loved this one, and not just because it was a little less demanding than most stations. Keeping our elbows bent at 90 degrees, we swung our arms as if we were running while holding 10lb dumbbells (a little on the heavy side for this movement, but it worked) while keeping our upper and lower bodies still. It took more core strength than you might have thought.
- Pikes - These were really hard. On the second circuit, I was bending my knees into more of a tuck motion than a pike, and I needed a break or two. Ideally, you should 'rest' with only a plank position, but I couldn't even manage that.
- Jump Lunges - Another great runner's exercise that I've always struggled with, at least, to keep them up beyond 30 seconds. I did them body weight only, because I knew I'd be gassed before 45 seconds were up.
- Sprinter's Lunges - I found these fascinating, because they mimic the explosive spring that sprinters have to cultivate, especially for the start, but the muscles are important for every stride. They look bad, since the knee is past (in front of) the toe, but remember, the weight/load is reduced because the straps are takings some. You spring up and swing the knee forward, then do the other leg.
- Lateral Jumps - This one saw us jumping from one side to the other, in a kind of lunge. The rear foot would cross behind the front leg (which had a nice deep knee bend) resulting in a dynamic hip stretch. The side to side motion was reminiscent of skating, if you ask me, but with a deeper bend to get more quad and glute work.
- Body Saw - This one was a favourite. Once in a plank (elbows on ground, feet in the TRX straps), we'd simply rock back and forth a little. Ideally we'd keep our heads up looking forward as if we were in aero position on the bike.
- Matrix Jumps - Imagine a dial pad; stand on one leg, on the '5' and jump to each button, then back to the '5'. Once (1,5,2,5,3,5,4,5,6,5,7,5,8,5,9,5) then the other way around. Switch legs
All the exercises had elements that were familiar in terms of motion so they didn't feel to foreign to me, yet they all had a new dimension that challenged. Shoulders, core, glutes, hamstrings and other leg muscles are all part of a triathlete's aresenal so it was great to work them all out in a short, efficient time span. Furthermore, our whole bodies were being put through motion in 3 different planes: front-to-back (which is the most common dimension for runners and triathletes) as well as side-to-side and up-and-down (which are more neglected).
There's lots more great information and advice on Ignition Fitness' website; I'd encourage anyone to give this class a try.
Have you ever tried TRX?
Labels: cross-training, strength, triathlon, trx