Bike TrainingRun TrainingSwim TrainingTraining

Top 5 Off-Road Specific Training Tips from Ben Allen

The Recent TreX Victoria Champion Shares His Secrets to Succuess

Looking to jump into off road triathlon? Do you have questions about the specifics of the world of dirt? Australian Ben Allen, recent TreX Triathlon Series Victoria Champion shares his top 5 training tips for the swim, bike, and run specifically geared towards off road tri racing.


Co-Champions at XTERRA Malaysia Photo: XTERRA
Ben Allen leading Sam Osborne during the beach run between lap 1 and 2 of the swim. Photo: XTERRA

1. In order to increase your ability to sight in the Xterra swim leg practice sighting in the pool. Throw in a few sightings while swimming across the pool. Look up two to three times and try to keep a streamlined position by not dropping your hips and legs.

2. Always bring with you two pair of goggles. A clear set and a dark set. I use the clear set of goggles for rainy or cloudy days and the dark set for glary & sunny days. Practice with both pairs of goggles during your pool sessions so you are equally comfortable with both pairs.

3. Wetsuits are a great investment! Not only will it keep you warm, but more importantly it will provide buoyancy, helping to keep you on top of the water and making it easier to swim.

4. If you can swim well you should position yourself front and center. If swimming is not your strong suit, then its best to seed yourself towards the back of the pack. Once the gun goes off, take your time getting into the water. There is no reason to battle the chaos. It’s totally fine to swim 10-20 meters off to the side to avoid the washing machine mess. Don’t stress about losing a few seconds because the more comfortable you feel in the water the better your swim will go anyway.

5. If you have a chance to train in the open water or conditions similar to the Xterra race, take advantage of it. It is not always the “fastest” swimmers that exits the water first, but the one who swims the smartest race and has used the ocean conditions to his or her advantage.


Ben Allen tackling a technical section on the bike. Photo - XTERRA
Ben Allen tackling a technical section on the bike. Photo – XTERRA

1. Always follow the signs and route markers, and get to know the course well. Xterra Markers are BLUE for Bike & RED for Run!

2. Stay in control. Watch your speed, slow down around tight corners, and don’t try any tricks beyond your skill level.

3. Yield the trail. When you get near another person, slow down. Let them know you’re approaching and signal that you want to pass. A common signal is yelling “TRACK” or “passing on the left or right”

4. Be prepared. Bring along a repair kit and extra supplies, so you don’t get stuck out on the course and you can still manage to finish the race.

5. Clean up. Any wrappers or empty gels you bring with you should go back home with you or be disposed properly.


Ben Allen TreX Victoria
Ben Allen leaps through the run at the TreX Triathlon Series, Victoria Championship.

Grabbing his race belt as he heads out from the bike to the run. Photo – Champion System

1. Road running is very different to off road running. Most road runners are used to the same foot strike pattern and they don’t realize that on the trail, you land differently each time due to the unstable terrain. Start slow and build into each off road run.

2. Most Xterra run courses have hills in them; this means you have to learn how to run hills. Uphill running, you need to exaggerate your arm swing, drive from your elbow’s, lean into the hill, and push off the ground with the balls of your feet to drive yourself up the hill as best you can.

3. Add downhill off road running to your training plan as well. What goes up must come down! Start with a short, fire trail gradual slope, with a 2-3% grade, and move on to steeper, rocker and longer descent, as you get more comfortable.

4. To help me run on gnarly trails I try to take short, quick steps so you can react quickly to the every changing terrain. Road shoes are ok, but trail shoes have more grip and also help to protect your feet from rocks and roots.

5. When running off road try to look three or four feet ahead, which will allow your brain to capture a mental snapshot of your foot placement and continue to process the images based on that mental snapshot. Allowing you to run FAST!

To follow along with Ben’s international off road adventures, check out his very active Twitter feed – Benny_Allen

The above was originally posted from Champion System’s Blog (they are one of Ben’s sponsors) in December 2015. Each year, Ben sports a fully custom suit from Champion System and if you’re interested, you can too – Champion System.




Jimmy Archer

Founder and Editor at Jimmy has been a professional athlete for over 18 years as a runner, cyclist, mountain biker, cross country skier, and primarily, triathlete. Jimmy has a degree in exercise science from the University of Colorado and is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified coach. Jimmy became a freelance writer in 2000 while competing and covering the ITU Winter Triathlon World Championship. Since that time Jimmy has been head editor at two magazines, been published in numerous publications within the endurance sport, recreation, and travel segments. Currently Jimmy is competing professionally in off-road multisport. In his spare time Jimmy passionately follows Formula 1, Moto GP, and is an avid cook.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button