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7 Mistakes Triathletes Make Most. Hopefully, You Can Avoid Making Them! + Bonus Section From A Newbie!

  1. Increasing training volume too quickly. When many triathletes take up the sport, early improvements in performance come from improvements in aerobic fitness associated with increased physical activity. The danger is that often a "SOME TRAINING IS GOOD, THEREFORE MORE IS BETTER" attitude develops and before you know it you have an overuse injury. Triathletes are among the most committed, hard working athletes. Many are in a hurry to increase training volume rather than taking time to develop technical skills first.
  2. Spending too much time on your strongest leg instead of working on your weakest. Work on your weaknesses while maintaining your strengths. For example, triathletes from a running background find long slow distance running work easy, so if given the choice they will often run rather than swim or cycle. Every training session is an opportunity to gain a competitive edge and to improve an aspect of performance. Take advantage of every opportunity to improve weaknesses.
  3. Using training "hard" as an excuse to eat and drink whatever you like. What you eat today affects your training tomorrow. You don't put low-grade fuel in a Formula I car. Triathletes are Formula I athletes. Treat your body like a temple. It is the only one you have.
  4. Not taking time to rest and recover. Rest, recovery, regeneration, relaxation are all words to describe the process of allowing your body to adapt to hard training. Getting enough sleep, having a spa, getting a massage, doing some exercise for fun instead of training, eating well and stretching are all part of effective recovery. Sleep is especially a key recovery technique. Everyone needs sleep; some triathletes need more than others. Get to know how much sleep you need to make you feel rested and recovered.
  5. Training at too high an intensity. Many triathletes often train too hard. This results in excessive body stress and residual fatigue carrying over from one session to the next. Aerobic, or base training, training helps triathletes develop endurance. Aerobic training is done at low intensity. It gives your body the physiological characteristics to later handle higher intensity work, to recover quickly from hard efforts at training and between races and to burn fat for fuel more efficiently.
  6. Not planning an integrated, balanced training program. It is important that you find time to develop a training program for triathlon, not swim, bike and run. It sounds weird but there is a difference between training for the individual legs and for the overall sport. Recently a triathlete called me for a consultation. He was very frustrated with his training program. He had a specific swim coach, a top cycling coach and a track and field distance coach for his run sessions. However, because the three coaches didn't share training session information, he ended doing three hard lactate type sessions in the one day! There are times to work on the specific skills and techniques of the individual legs and times to integrate and balance a training plan incorporating all three. It is difficult to make significant improvements in all legs at once. Stress is stress. A hard ride places a tough demand on the body just as a hard run or hard swim.
  7. Copying the "secrets" of champions. Much of what we know about athletic performance we have learned from observing, monitoring and testing great athletes. The challenge is that the factors that lead to these athletes becoming great are not always reproducible or even measurable. Listen to the great ones. Learn from their successes and avoid reproducing their mistakes. Above all, take from the champions what is appropriate and applicable to you at your level of competition and suitable to your training background.

    These mistakes are often made purely because the triathlete is so enthusiastic and determined to do well in the sport.

*Bonus Section: Additional Mistakes of a Newbie!!
By WHP Athlete Roman Mica*

Hi Wes,

This is really great but I can't help but add a few mistakes that as an amateur getting into the sport I have observed myself make. This might be a fun bit of wisdom for struggling newbies like me. Feel free to pass it on if you like it.

1) Butt Burn...otherwise know as the Lack-O-Glide factor. It took me about two years to discover the wonders of lubrication for going long. The leg pain after a marathon is nothing compared to the searing pain of taking a shower with raw nipples. However, nothing identifies a newbie triathlete like the Charlie Chaplin butt burn wobble walk after an especially long session on the bike.

2) Transitions are NOT free time. OK, for all of the pros out there they may be free time, but for newbies like myself they are a time of profound confusion and terror. Mistakes happen all the time. "Why am I wearing my swim goggles?" I think as I power out of the transition area on my bike ? It would be easier to put on ski boots than socks over wet feet I ponder as I hop around my bike on one foot like a crazed kangaroo. I know Pros don't wear socks, but newbies do.

3) A wet suit will kill. Always remember to Valero the wet suit zipper pull leash to your wet suit. The first time I wore my wet suit I though that attaching the zipper leash to the suit seemed like a waste of time. About five minutes into the swim the leash wrapped itself around my neck like a viscous python bent on my death. The more I struggled to disengage myself from its death-like grip, the tighter it got. My flailing only seemed to encourage it. I finally did manage to free my throat and continue the swim. Five minutes latter, it was back at my throat.

4) Big girls on mountain bikes. Big girls on mountain bikes are surpassingly fast. Do not take it for granted that just because you are on a big ring, carbon fiber, aero bar out-fitted, race tuned tri-bike that you'll easily pass that big girl up ahead. Make my mistake at your own peril or your self-esteem will suffer.

5) Du vs. Tri. Don't confuse a Du with a Tri when racing or checking the results. My first Olympic distance Tri was almost my last. I watched the awards ceremony with a mixture of terror and awe as the results and times were read out. I was amazed at the results and that they started the awards so quickly. After all, I had just finished my race. Needless to say I was not the slowest triathlete in the world....just the only one who was at the wrong awards ceremony.

6) Twelve year-old-lap counters. When competing in a pool, avoid the 12-year-old lap counters. I wondered out loud to the twelve-year-old "why do I have to swim two more laps when the other two racers in my lane are done." This seemed especially odd since "I had lapped both of them." The twelve-year-old was not moved by my logic. Math must not have been his best subject in school.

7) Beer. I would seriously advise to avoid all triathlons that are not sponsored by a brewery. Not only does a post race beer greatly help in the recovery process, but it also helps one forget all the mistakes that you made in both training and the day's racing. Plus as a added benefit, after enough beers that big girl on the mountain bike won't seem so big anymore.


© Wes Hobson Performance Inc.