Up and coming pro Richard Horton explains how cross training has been key to his success.

Cross-Training-and-its-benefitsI don’t believe that you need to do a huge volume of run training in order to run fast. Aerobic conditioning is aerobic conditioning no matter what the activity. Through cross-training, you develop a great engine that is still there when you switch sports. In triathlon, this gives you an opportunity to directly improve your race performances without overloading in one discipline. I had my most successful season thanks to the benefits of cross-training.

I ran faster than ever in 2012, but without doing much run training for half the year. Last winter my goal was to be a pro cyclist, so I spent most of the winter logging 18-19 hours on the bike every week, while taking a gap year from studying. After my rides I would nail my recovery by stretching to loosen my muscles and by refuelling within 30 minutes – known as the carbohydrate window.

Aside from the more focused recovery, I benefited from turbo sessions. The hardest thing to do is set it up and get on; it’s easy from there. I swear by the Pete Read session of 25mins at 75%, 20mins at 80%, 15mins at 85% of max heart-rate. It’s especially good as it gives you double the benefit of the equivalent time on the road bike would.

Having focused on cycling all winter, and run for about one hour per week, I turned my focus to duathlon, and my running volume shot up from to four or five hours by mid-spring. Looking back I’m surprised I didn’t get injured, as my cardiovascular engine was ahead of my running muscles in terms of fitness. I quickly adapted though and this led to some good 10km times. I knocked one minute and 41 seconds off my 10km PB within the next six months (with a time of 30:28). This form helped me win the European and world junior duathlon titles, somewhat unexpectedly. I even ran the 10,000 metres at a Diamond League international track and field event.

As my running mileage increased, I started swimming for three to four hours each week to prepare for joining the Loughborough University high performance triathlon squad at the end of the season. I had to cut back my biking significantly but I had confidence from all the cycling I’d done throughout the winter, so I just tried to hold my cycling form, regularly gauging where I was by racing in local time trials.

My success last year shows that training is not an exact science. I’ve experimented with various training principles; some helped, some hindered. It’s important to implement what you’ve learnt. You should only make a mistake once before you correct it and move onwards and upwards.

MY SEASON OF SUCCESS: Horton’s surprise rise to the top

25 March 2012

British elite duathlon championships (Horton’s first ever duathlon)

Result: 3rd in senior race. 1st in junior race

29 April 2012

ETU European junior duathlon championships (Horton’s second ever duathlon)

Result: Winner

21 September 2012

ITU world junior duathlon championships (Horton’s third ever duathlon)

Result: Winner

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