Mistakes Triathletes Make

Friday, July 1, 2016 by Coach Tommy
  1. Judging their training success in hours and distance trained
    Many athletes focus too much on achieving a certain number of hours of training or a particular distance. They judge the success of their training on how much training they can get in during the week. They don’t give any thought to the other aspects of training such as, the athlete’s goals for his triathlon lifetime, his season, his race; what are the athlete’s weaknesses or limiters that the training plan should address; at what intensity should each workout be done; and failing to build in an effective recovery plan.
  2. Not getting enough sleep
    Age group athletes are notorious for not getting enough sleep. Everything else in life takes priority over sleep – training, work, kids, etc. Sleep is essential for your body to recover from the stress of training.  Not enough sleep will lead to excessive fatigue and burn out.
  3. Not refueling immediately after a workout
    Some athletes think they should work on ‘body composition’ by not eating after a workout. Additionally, athletes who are looking to lose weight may believe this is the time to restrict calorie intake. Big mistake.  Your body is primed for restoring muscle glycogen stores immediately after a workout.  And you’ll need this fuel for future workouts.  It is recommended to eat within about 30 minutes after finishing a workout.
  4. Not eating enough calories to sustain their training volume
    This is similar to number 3 above but has another issue. Athletes training for half ironman and ironman races may not being eating enough to sustain their training volume. Again, some athletes want to work on ‘body composition’ or try to lose weight.  There are ways to do this without restricting calorie intake.  You need those calories to support the training volume required for Ironman distance races.
  5. Not going easy enough on easy days
    There are at least 2 types of easy days – recovery workouts and endurance workouts.

Recovery workouts deliver fresh blood to tired muscles.  These active recovery workouts should be very easy zone 1 and only 30 – 40 minutes in duration.  A 3 hour zone 1 bike ride is not a recovery workout.

Easy endurance workouts are the key to building a fitness that can go the distance.  Your body responds to easy (zone 1 and 2) workouts by building more mitochondria, the energy factories in muscle cells.  Be sure your endurance workouts are in the easy zones 1 and 2.  80-85% of your training time should be easy endurance workouts.

  1. Not going hard enough on hard days
    Endurance workouts build more mitochondria. Hard workouts trigger those new mitochondria to do their magic and produce energy. Your hard days should be hard – zone 5+.  Workouts like hill repeats, track workouts, sprints on the bike are hard workouts.  Make the hard days hard and avoid the ‘gray zone’ of moderate workouts.
  2. Doing all workouts at a moderate intensity
    As endurance athletes our training needs to be polarized (see 5 and 6 above). The easy workouts need to be easy and the hard workouts need to be hard. As a coach, when I look at the training history of my new athletes I can see that all of their training has been at a moderate intensity.  They have been training in the same mid intensity zone for all of their workouts.  Or worse, all of their training has been done at a high intensity.   This leads to plateaued performance, excessive fatigue, burnout and overuse injuries.  The first thing I do with these athletes is make them train at an easy intensity for a couple months.
  3. Being married to a training plan
    Some athletes will stick to a training plan no matter what – “the plan is the plan” attitude. The athlete’s training plan should be dynamic. Smart changes should be made to the athlete’s training plan based on criteria like – workouts successfully completed; workouts missed; the athlete’s performance in test races; improvement in the athlete’s weaknesses and the results of lab or field tests, etc.  These are just a few of the criteria on which to base changes to the training plan.

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