Hi HOKA family, my name is Ellie Salthouse and I am lucky enough to be a HOKA sponsored professional triathlete from Australia. I have been racing triathlons professionally for 12 years and now specialise in the half distance event, which consists of a 1.9km swim, 90km cycle and 21.1km run. I have won 17 half distance titles and have my eyes firmly set on one day becoming a half distance World Champion. I currently share my time living between my hometown of Brisbane, Australia for the Australian summer months and my USA training base in Boulder, Colorado in the Northern hemisphere summer months.

2021 was my most successful year of racing to date, with eight International race wins from 9 starts. Despite the global travel difficulties, I felt very privileged to be able to continue travelling and racing at events across the world. This year I hope to improve on my 2021 season, starting with my opening event at Ironman 70.3 Geelong on February 20th. This will be my fifth year racing as a HOKA athlete, with my current go-to race shoe being the Carbon X and my favourite all-round training shoe being the Mach 4. For recovery runs and easy, long runs, I wear the Clifton 8 for additional cushioning and support, and now: the Kawana.

A typical week for me consists of 25-35hrs of swim, bike, run and strength training. The training load and specificities of my training vary throughout the year, depending on the current focus or block; eg. base mileage, race block, off season, etc. In addition to the physical training, recovery is paramount and takes up a considerable amount of time each week, ranging from sleeping to massage to meeting nutritional needs to generally resting between sessions. It is all the behind-the-scenes contributions that most people don’t see from the outside that can make the greatest difference to the performances of a professional athlete.

It’s no secret that strength training has become an increasingly popular phenomenon amongst endurance athletes, and rightly so. Not only does it produce a more resilient and robust athlete, it plays an imperative role in injury prevention. Personally, my strength routine plays an integral part in keeping me injury free and ensures that my muscles, tendons and ligaments are strong enough to endure the strenuous training demands associated with triathlon. My strength training is also performed in conjunction with activation exercises and mobility exercises to ensure my body is flexible and strong in a range of different planes and positions.

The new HOKA Kawana was designed to provide the additional support and cushioning required to counteract added load during a weighted workout, whilst providing enough flexibility to seamlessly transition to mobility, stretching, cardio and other activation exercises.

Typically my strength sessions are performed under the guidance of an exercise physiologist to ensure my technique and movements are performed correctly. We begin the season with some basic movements and periodically increase difficulty, weight and movement throughout the season as I master the exercises. A common mistake that many athletes make in the gym is forgetting to master the basics before advancing their exercises and adding weight. This can unfortunately have a counterproductive effect and can lead to injury.

My sessions always start with 15-20 mins of foam rolling, trigger ball release and dynamic stretching before we begin. My strength sessions can sometimes be the second or third session of the day, so this warm-up process helps to release and flush the muscles in order to relieve any residual stiffness from the previous session/s. As part of this, I always spend a couple of minutes with a golf ball (or similar) rolling through the arches of my feet to alleviate any built up tension from previous sessions.

There are a number of stretching and dynamic exercises that I would recommend be integrated as part of a triathlon specific strength program at the start of each session. These are a few of my favourites:

Couch stretch: this stretch targets your quads and hip flexors. Remember to keep the glutes engaged and hips tucked under. Adjust the distance of your knee from the wall depending on your level of flexibility.

Hammy sweep: this dynamic exercise is great for lengthening the hamstrings and improving flexibility. Whilst keeping the front leg extended, foot in dorsiflexion, sweep hands down your leg as far as your flexibility can manage. Then step through with the other leg and repeat.

Leaning lat stretch: this exercise is great for stretching and lengthening the lats which are often tight from swimming, particularly in those who use paddles regularly. The exercise can be performed on a bar or TRX or whatever you might have accessible. Grab the TRX/bar with a straight arm and shift your weight back from the hips. Straighten the leg that is the same side as the lat you are stretching and bend the other leg to rest your other forearm on. Rotate your body as much as you can handle towards the outstretched arm to increase the intensity of the stretch.

Once the warm-up is complete, we move on to some weight bearing exercises. These range from weighted isometric holds, to resistance-banded movement, to more common weight training exercises. The main focus of these sessions is to maintain good form and technique, whilst keeping all the targeted muscles activated. We only add weight so long as I can maintain good technique and recruit the targeted muscles under the additional load. With a history of hamstring and lower leg injuries earlier in my professional career, my sessions have a significant focus on hamstring, glute, calf and core exercise. My exercise physiologist and I have learnt over the years that maintaining strength, adequate flexibility and a range of motion in these areas is critical in preventing injury and for improved performance.

Some of my favourite weight training exercises are below. Start out performing these with bodyweight only, and once mastered, add weight as necessary to ensure you’re building strength without sacrificing form.

Hamstring bridge: this can be performed from the floor with your feet up on a bench or between two benches. As the name suggests, this exercise predominately targets the hamstrings, but is also great for the glutes. Remember to keep your glutes activated and your hips tucked under. Raise as high as your flexibility will allow without losing your hip angle and glute recruitment. Try for a 30 second hold and increase this interval as you advance. Other advancements to the exercise include adding a dead ball weight across your hips and performing the exercise single legged.

Dead bug: this exercise is aimed at the core and has many great variations as you start to advance. Lower one arm and the opposite leg at the same time, whilst engaging the core. The most important part of this exercise is keeping your back flat on the floor. Only lower your arm and leg as low as you can whilst keeping perfect back position. Try for 6 reps each side and increase this number as you advance. Other variations to the exercise include; wrapping a stretch band around a pole behind and holding the band taut with your arms, alternating lowering your legs; and wrapping a resistance band around your feet and alternate outstretching one leg with its opposite arm.

Trap Bar dead lifts: dead lifts are a common exercise for many endurance athletes as they recruit most muscles in the body to perform, predominantly targeting the hamstrings and glutes. I like to use a trap bar for my dead lifts as it provides even weight distribution. The most important technical point for this exercise is to maintain a neutral spine and flat back throughout the duration of each rep. Depending on the focus of the session, advancements to this exercise include increasing reps, increasing sets and/or increasing weight.

When travelling, a gym is not always accessible and most hotel gyms are very limited, so ensure you have some stretch cords, resistance bands, trigger ball and a foam roller packed in your luggage. There are many variations to the aforementioned exercises that can be performed using these simple tools, as well as being useful in aiding to flush out your muscles after long periods or driving, flying and travelling.

I hope these exercises find you are stronger, faster athlete in 2022. I’ll see you out on a race course somewhere soon. Stay safe, and #TimeToFly!

-Ellie xx