Top Ten Resolutions for Triathletes

This article tidbit went out on the COTT Listserv this morning, and I thought it was worth sharing.  It also made me feel much better about the training plan I just put together.  Enjoy!!!

For Inside Triathlon
Top Ten New Years Resolutions for Triathletes
© 2004 by Ken Mierke and Joe Friel

The new year is finally here and it is time to start preparing for the big races.  So many triathletes are telling themselves, “This year will be different.”   Before you get too hyped up, remember that there are many little steps that contribute to your success on race day.  Make plans right now to incorporate the following strategies into your preparation.

Resolution #1: This year I will work hard on technique and efficiency in all three triathlon segments. Genetics plays a huge role in endurance performance, and several years of consistent training bring athletes very close to theirpotential for sustained energy expenditure. Even a mid-packer who already trains hard isn’t going to get that much stronger, but every triathlete can become much, much more efficient. Even professional athletes improve efficiency bymore than 4 percent working specifically on running technique. No amount oftraining would make them four percent stronger. Working on technique in allthree triathlon segments is the number one way to improve for any athlete beyond the beginner phase.  Use tools like videos from Total Immersion (TotalImmersion.net) for swimming technique, Optimum Fitness Results (CyclingVideos.com) for cycling technique, and Evolution Running (EvolutionRunning.com) for running technique to perfect the efficiency of your movements.  Top coaches will tell you that this is where the real speed is.  If you only improve one thing this year, this should be it.

Resolution #2: This year I will swim like an endurance athlete in workouts, not like a sprinter. While a pool swimmer’s races require quick bursts of energy, even a sprint triathlon is an endurance-based, aerobic event. Most triathletes train with masters swim teams, which emphasize short, fast interval training. This may be fun, and it definitely has its place in training for an open water swim, but this type of workout should not be the primary mode of swimtraining. While most athletes at Masters workouts enjoy these sets, the workouts should not be designed solely for entertainment. Include easy swims of 30-plus minutes and reps of 500 meters or more at race intensity on a regular basis. Leave the sprinting to the sprinters this year.

Resolution #3: I will get enough rest between workouts. Self-coached athletes tend to train medium hard all the time, which is very ineffective. Well-rested athletes have better workouts. Pro triathlete Ryan Bolton once told me “The very top guys maintain balance in their lives. They are not the crazy, obsessed type.” Only two or three key workouts per week really improve your speed and endurance. Between these longer or faster workouts, go easy and get well rested for your next key workout.

Resolution #4: I will focus as much on mental preparation as on physical.Working on mental skills is the most neglected aspect of triathlon training. Most athletes work out to make their legs stronger, but many ignore mental strength. Focusing on mental skills is not a sign of a weak mind any more than focusing on long runs is a sign of weak legs. We train, physically or mentally, to make what is already strong even better.  Developing mental skills improves an athlete’s ability to focus on the task at hand and get the most out of the body despite the pain.  Many athletes think about anything but the effort and the pain of racing at the red line (disassociate).  Top athletes stay intensely tuned in (associate) to the pain and effort in order to constantly monitor the body’s condition, pace appropriately, and maintain efficient technique.

Resolution #5: I will consume much more protein this year. Giving the body the right nutrients during training, racing and recovery is critical. Few athletes consume enough protein. Recent research has determined that hard-training athletes need about 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight, significantly more than previously thought. Read The Paleo Diet for Athletes for further guidelines.

Resolution #6: I will train more in a wetsuit and in open water this year. Pool swimming is cross training for triathlon swim racing. The dynamics of swimming in a lake or the ocean are quite different from swimming in a pool, enough that they are almost like two different sports (road cycling and mountain biking). Try doing a hard 500 without pushing off the wall and you’ll see what I mean. Practice swimming in open water in your wetsuit as often as possible.

Resolution #7: I will prioritize brick workouts this year. Running a fast 10K or a fast marathon is a different proposition after 40 kilometers or 112 miles of hard cycling. Brick workouts train the legs to transfer from cycling to running quickly and efficiently. Getting these workouts in consistently makes for better race day experiences.

Resolution #8: I will develop and maintain a process orientation instead of a product orientation this year.  It is easy for a serious triathlete to get so caught up in race goals and split times that we lose perspective on the process that will most effectively get us there.  Getting a lot faster or doing a longer race can be overwhelming. Breaking it down into smaller steps and staying focused on one workout at a time is key.

Resolution #9: This year I will get guidance from a qualified coach. Someone who spent four years studying exercise physiology knows more about how your body willrespond than you do. In addition to deeper knowledge, a coach can be objective about your training and racing, which is impossible for the racer himself. Your bike costs thousands of dollars, isn’t the guidance to help make a stronger engine worth an investment as well?  Be careful accepting advice from a fast triathlete.  Genetics plays a huge role in race performance.  Just because an athlete is fast does not mean that he is knowledgeable.  Shaquille O’Neal can’t coach you to be 7’3”

Resolution #10: I will enjoy my training and racing this year!!!  Isn’t this really the most important of all?  Research consistently shows that athletes perform their best when having fun.  We all perform better in hedonic mode verses achievement mode. Even if winning races is more important to you than having fun, science says that having fun will make you faster.  Putting a smile on your face may help as much as putting that disk wheel on your bike.

Ken Mierke, author of The Triathlete’s Guide to Run Training and developer of Evolution Running is head coach of Fitness Concepts (www.Fitness-Concepts.com)   Joe Friel, author of The Triathlete’s Training Bible, Going Long, and The Paleo Diet for Athletes.  


Matthew Smith said...

Those are some impressive goals. I think that if you can do half of them, they'll make your year amazing. If you accomplish them all, well, look out Chrissie Wellington! :)

Katie Duffy said...

Great article! And for the record, I didn't enter the Vega giveaway because I have wanted to pass out at 8 like an old lady every night this week and missed. I wish I'd entered - I'm a documented lover of free stuff and the 50% odds could not be beat!

Suzie Thomas said...

After you have built up your strength in your abdomen, you need to get up from the floor. Use a stability ball when you do your lower abdominal exercise workouts, such as the classic sit-up and crunches. This will reduce the base support, and more muscles will be put to work.