Best triathlon training comes in many forms.
Of course there are general principles we all stick to but there is so much variation in terms of volume, intensity, diet, sleep and other commitments that everyones experience is quite different.
Tell anyone you are a triathlete, and instantly they will have many assumptions about you.
I’m sure you’ve heard them all…
This is the picture in their head:
• They assume you bounce out of bed at 430am to do a 2 hour training session before work
• Turn up to work whistling, smiling, with a spring in your step because you are so fit and healthy
• You disappear to train at lunch time
• Return from lunch training and eat a mountain of carbs
• Constantly suck fluids out of a sports bottle
• Leave work- go training
• Home to a healthy dinner (no wine) and go to bed early
• Spend all your non work life in lycra (even when you are not training ☺) just because – you can!
• Weekends are training or racing
Well I am 90% sure that is NOT the reality for most of us who have a family, work a full job with stresses, travelling, commuting, deadlines, bills, family or social obligations.
But even with the best triathlon training plan is the world, it is still a mighty juggling act all the time- and sometimes we get it wrong.
Beginners think there are just three disciplines in triathlon to master.
As you get more experienced, you start to realise there are many more.
The best triathlon training systems, cover 7 disciplines…
(most people only train the obvious 3 disciplines….big advantage for us!):
4) Transition (the dreaded 4th discipline)
6) Mind set/mental toughness
7) Listening to your body
Listening is what I will discuss today.
This is developing the ability –and having the humility- to listen to your body.
Many triathletes never pay attention to this, they keep training blindly and either burn out and give up or get injured and quit.
This is an incredibly important skill to develop in the best triathlon training.
It will help you accelerate your triathlon performances.
It will help you avoid burn out and exhaustion.
It will help prevent injury.
It is actually easy to get a triathlon training programme set up.
Simply download one from the internet.
Or if you are part of a club or have a coach they will make it more specific for you.
Either way- this is fairly easy.
You wake up in the morning- you know what you are doing that day- and you do it!
At the end of the month you have done a certain mileage of swim, bike and run and you can see if you are on target and make adjustments.
However triathlon is also an art form.
Life throws up challenges and stumbling blocks to test us along the way-even with the best triathlon training plan.
We either listen to the message it is sending, make small adjustments and continue to succeed or continue foolishly on and get derailed.
Triathlon training does have a certain ego about it.
There is a culture of doing more simply for the sake of it.
There is a culture of ploughing on no matter what.
There is a culture of “even though I can barely drag my body out of bed in the morning, a 2 hour hard tempo ride is on my schedule, so I will do it no matter what even though I have a fever, it is raining outside and my right knee feels like there is a hot poker going through it!”
The best triathlon training does teach us this important skill of resilience- that we can block out pain, block out discomfort and get the session done.
As we develop as athletes though we need to learn to distinguish when it is a normal human feeling of “I just don’t feel like it” and we make ourselves leave the comfortable bed, go training anyway and feel amazing afterwards.
Or when it is actually a feeling of “I have felt run down for 3 weeks now, I have not scheduled enough rest in my programme, I need to adjust the schedule and add an extra rest day”.
Maybe on the rest day- you do 30 minute stretching programme that you don’t normally make time for.
Or you book a sports massage to loosen off all the knots that develop in muscles over time.
There are no hard and fast rules for this.
There is no formula.
We must listen to our body, make adjustments to our training plan, our nutrition, our mind set or our lifestyle and then continue. This is training smart.
Training programmes that you download are only guides- to give you an idea of the volumes and frequency of each discipline.
You must gradually make adjustments for yourself to eventually determine the best triathlon training plan for you.
It depends on how much baseline fitness you already have.
It depends on whether you have swum, cycled on run your whole life and now you are just putting them together. Or for some people one of these skills will be completely new.
This causes a lot of stress in both the body and brain. Imagine if you are an ace cyclist and a good runner. But you are learning to swim.
It is incredibly stressful knowing you are super fit and yet after 50 metres of swimming you have to stop because you are gasping for breath.
You look up and see a bunch of 9 year old girls whizzing up and down the pool putting out times you can barely dream of!
It is easy to get angry and swim harder. The problem is though unless you have taken the time to learn good technique- you will likely get an injury in your shoulder and then need 6 weeks off training.
Instead listen to your body- learn to “feel” the water. Watch good swimmers and try to mimic their action.
Remember strength comes through relaxation. The best swimmers look like they are hardly trying.
It depends on whether your work is under control and not too taxing or whether you hate your job and are fighting with your colleagues and boss.
It might be you have a deadline coming up and have to do a few all-nighters to make it happen. Well sometimes you will need to take a few days off training. It is not the end of the world and may give your body a well-needed break.
Use your training journal to note down how you are feeling BEFORE a training session, DURING and AFTER.
This is a good practice to get into early so you can track your progress and notice any patterns.
It will allow you to be objective and make adjustments in your training plan before disaster strikes.
Much better to have 2 days off training, than push yourself and be struck down with a virus and need 3 months off.
It depends on if your diet is amazing all the time filled with distilled water and packed with anti oxidants or whether it is very average- full of processed chemicals, sugary drinks and sludge.
A good diet is essential if you want resilience to colds and flus and if you want the best performances you are capable of.
Rubbish fuel in will yield rubbish results.
It depends on if you have a supportive partner or family who are supportive of the time you spend training or whether you get grief every time you leave the house to train.
These are few of the phrases I have heard over the years:
“You love that bike more than me!”
“You are not going training again are you? You have already been 3 times this week- isn’t that enough?”
“Anyone would think you are having an affair with someone in the tri club, you spend so much time there”
And so on…..
This can be very stressful, sap the enjoyment out of your sport and make you feel very tired.
Listening is very important here.
Shouting back a sarcastic remark probably is not the best strategy here.
Make sure you talk about it. Discuss your goals and why training is important to you. Communication will solve most issues in this area.
But make sure you do make time to make the people in your life feel supported along the way.
Maybe you need to take an evening off training to go to parent teacher night.
Or take a weekend off for your wedding anniversary.
There are lots of stressors that can complicate the best triathlon training programme. Lots of these will contribute to a feeling of chronic fatigue.
We must learn to distinguish what the problem is- and address that problem. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with the actual training plan- but it is something else in your life that needs to be addressed.
Listening is one of the disciplines we must develop as triathletes.
It will give you superior performances in triathlon training and racing.
Listen to your body- give yourself a rest when you need it (and certainly before you REALLY need it.)
Listen to the other people in your life –make sure as much as possible their needs are met- and they will be so much more supportive to you.
If you feel tired all the time, do an honest self-audit.
• How many quality hours of sleep you are getting?
• Are you putting the best quality food in your body?
• Are you hydrating enough?
• Are there any external stressors you can eliminate? (extra projects at work, long commutes, working overtime, communicate your needs better)
• Are there any internal stressors you can eliminate? (drop the ego- if you need a rest day, take it, if it takes you 8 weeks to learn to swim instead of 8 days- so what?)
Keep a training journal- track everything.
Track your progress, your sessions, your times.
Track how you are feeling- ie write down little niggles- knee pains, shoulder twinges. Most of these may go away by themselves but if anything persists, see a sports physio to sort it out before full blown tendonitis appears.
Also track how fatigued or energised you are feeling. This will help you develop the best triathlon training schedule that serves you and makes you stronger, faster and better instead of making your life miserable and training a drudgery.
Most of all – remember we are doing this for fun!
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