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Triathlon Peaking – Your “A” Race!

You have set a goal to complete, and compete, in the upcoming triathlon for months. You may have sacrificed time with family and you probably neglected work, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With these sacrifices, and others, you want to make sure you reach a peak for this triathlon.

Every athlete is different with his or her training. Some of you have more hours to train in a week than others. Many of you plan to compete in several triathlons during the year while others only have one or two races planned. In either case, you want to do your best in your “A” race. When planning a season, racing is divided up into three categories. A “C” race is a race that breaks up the training regimen. This is a race you train through and it may not even be a triathlon, but rather an event of just one of the disciplines. You also use a “C” race to gather information which lets you know where your fitness level is at a certain stage in your training program. A “B” race is a high profile race where you want to do well, but you don’t want to have the race interrupt your ultimate goal. You may rest some for this type of race, but you won’t be fully rested. An “A” race should only be planned two to three times a year. This is your goal race of setting a personal best. For some this may be the only race of the year. Let’s plan on preparing for an “A” race to achieve the most of our potential.

Probably the one week that causes the most anxiety and second-guessing among athletes is the week before an “A” priority race. What do you do in those final days before going to the starting line? It's just as possible to do too much as too little this week. Either way, you may ruin an otherwise perfect race preparation. Many athletes think peaking is simple; just reduce the volume of training (taper) for several days before a big race. Although reducing volume is important, there are additional ways to improve your peak preparation.

When a true peak comes about, an athlete will experience an increase in fitness like never before. The physiological changes that come with a peak include increased power, reduced lactic acid production, increased blood volume, greater red blood cell concentration, and increased glycogen storage. Top these physical changes with sharper mental skills such as visualization, concentration, confidence, and motivation and the athlete is in top race form.

Triathletes must be willing to change their training for several weeks before an “A” priority race. However, most have become so familiar with the feeling of chronic fatigue and overreaching that change is frightening. A rule of thumb is it is better to go into a race under trained, than over trained.

How to Peak

Several scientific studies of the peaking process have shown that manipulating the elements of training can usually produce a performance peak at the right time. However, this is not always the case because training is as much an art as a science. You may use all of the following recommendations with great precision and yet fail to come to a peak as planned. We're humans, not machines. A well-rounded athlete has not just physical talent, but also mental talent that allows for a great race. Here are six recommendations for peaking that have emerged from research on the topic as well as my personal experiences as a coach and athlete.

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