Top 5 Training Do’s and Don’ts for Triathlon

I’ve learned a lot in the past few years racing and training for triathlons. Some good and some bad. I thought I would share some tips with you for what to do and what not to do.

Training Do Not’s

  1. Do Not put off knowing how to change a tire. You would be surprised how many people will go out for training rides with a spare tire but have no idea what to do if they actually get a flat. I will admit I’m guilty for this one. I had a flat in my first half ironman and it took me close to 20 minutes to change before I got going again.
  2. Do Not go hard during easy workouts. I think if most people took this advice to heart, there would be more personal bests on race day than ever. So many people go much too hard on easy days and not hard enough on hard days. If you feel great during an easy workout, don’t feel like you need to rev it up for a mile or attack the next hill. That’s what hard workout sessions are for. Your easy workouts are so important and just remember you are building up your aerobic engine. Let it roar when it’s time, but until then, just put it on cruise control!
  3. Do Not go to the pool without a plan. Swimming is the most technical of all the training we do and for the most part we need structure around our swim sessions. I see people going to the pool all the time and just swim for an hour without stopping and not changing their pace at all. That’s fine if you just want to swim, but if you are training for a specific goal, you need to do interval training with varying paces. It’s the only way you will get faster. Even though your race might be 2km or further, you do not have to swim those distances straight in training to be able to do it on race day. 5x400m is an example of a set that would be more beneficial to 99% of people who just swim 2km straight. Try different sets for a week and see what happens!
  4. Do Not become obsessed with numbers. Pace, watts, threshold, heart rate, cadence, etc, can all be important numbers in training and racing but can drive you crazy if you obsess about it. I’m definitely guilty on this one. I sometimes find myself checking my watch or bike computer way too often, especially on easy workout days. If you know the science behind all the data numbers you can use them to create very specific workouts tailored to your athletic abilities. Just be careful you aren’t obsessing about your numbers all the time, or else you will disappoint yourself sooner or later. Not going out on a ride because your bike computer isn’t working is a lame excuse! Remember you are riding your bike because you enjoy riding your bike, not because you can push 300 watts. If this is you, try and go a week without any devices at all. It will be hard but you can do it!
  5. Do Not forget to recover with carbs and protein as soon as your workout has ended. This is so very important and so many triathletes skip this step. This is more important the longer and harder the workout is. I don’t consider my workout over until I have consumed recovery drink. There are two reasons why having a recovery drink ASAP after a workout is important. The first reason is that it obviously will help you recover from the workout you just did. The second reason is that this is how true carbo loading happens. I won’t get into the specific details, but basically our bodies can only store up to 90 minutes max of energy as muscle glycogen. This energy is the prime fuel we use when we start a race, so why wouldn’t you want your body to be able to hold as much as it could? The way you can train your body to store more muscle glycogen is to recover with a post workout recovery drink containing carbohydrate. Immediately post workout is when the glycogen window is open for our bodies to store more so next time we will have more fuel in the tank, so to say. If you are adamant about recovering, you will notice you will slowly have longer lasting energy, but remember the most we can hold is 90 minutes worth.

Training Do’s

  1. Write down short term and long term goals. I know this sounds so cliche, but it’s so important and I don’t feel like enough people do it. Write down your long term goals and work back from them. If your long term goal is to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, you are going to need to achieve many short term goals to get there. Only having long term goals are usually the fast track straight to failure and disappointment. Whatever your long term goal is, make sure your short term goals comply with that. If to qualify for Kona you need to ride a 5 hour bike split, but you can currently only ride 6.5, then your short term goals whatever they are better include lots and lots of riding your bike. Turn your weaknesses into strengths, you can do it!
  2. Make sure you are warming up and cooling down. Especially for hard workouts, it is so important to make sure your muscles, body, and mind is ready to work hard. You wouldn’t jump in your car and pin it as soon as you start it up. Yes, you could do it, but it won’t be long before something goes wrong if you do it over and over.
  3. Do race specific sets leading up to your important races. If you are following any sort of program or coaches plan, this usually won’t be overlooked. This can be applied across all 3 sports. These sets usually happen  just before you start tapering your workouts. These workouts are important to ensure that whatever your goals are for your race are in line with your fitness and your race pace is what you thought it was. There is nothing worse than not knowing what your race pace should be on race day and you go out way too hard and blow up. Or even worse, not going hard enough and having to live with the fact knowing you had more to give. Race day conditions always change, but you should have a pretty good idea going in what you can handle as far as pace goes.
  4. Be consistent. It is so important, especially in endurance sports, that you stay consistent with your training. Day in and day out you have to stay on it. Training 90 minutes every day for 10.5 hours/week beats training 15 hours/week at 3 days of 5 hours/day. This is especially true for adult onset swimmers. I am in this group and did not spend my childhood swimming 10-15 hours a week in the pool and unless I’m in the pool at least 4 times a week I will lose my feel for the water. Swimming is the most important sport to be consistent with, but don’t let too much time pass between your next bike or run either.
  5. Do a workout even if you can’t do what you had originally planned. I see it all the time where an athlete will totally scrap a day of training just because something came up and they can’t make their 6 hour ride work. If you can’t make the long ride work, see if you can hop on the trainer for 60-90 minutes and crush it. You will be totally done and dusted in less than two hours and you can still make whatever you had come up.

There are enough training do’s and don’ts to write a book, but I think this list of 10 is a good start. Hopefully you will get something out of them. Happy training!

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