Triathletes are a different breed of endurance athletes. In addition to finding tremendous fulfillment and satisfaction in multisport racing and training, most triathletes are continuously seeking self-improvement in their endeavors.
Contrary to popular belief, training harder and more often is not always the best approach. Many triathletes bang-out the miles but fail to acknowledge the science and biomechanics behind their training. So instead focusing on more mileage, consider embracing these three effective ways to evolve into a better triathlete.
##Train Slow to Race Fast## While it may seem counter-intuitive, there’s a growing (and scientifically-supported) philosophy surrounding the benefits of very slow, aerobic training. This is particularly effective for Iron-distance athletes during the build phase of their training.
The concepts behind train slow to race fast center on heart rate (HR) training and maintaining an easy, fat-burning pace that never exceeds a certain HR. In short, the objective is to stay in a comfortable, aerobic zone 1 or 2 during your workout. While there are many formulas and tests to determine your HR zones, this page offers some benchmark insights.
There are a host of benefits to training slow to race fast. Some of which include:
- avoiding over-training, especially leading up to a race
- building endurance and strength in tendons and muscles
- becoming more fat adapted and fuel efficient (less reliant on glucose)
- cultivating greater form and running economy
This is all not to say speed work doesn’t serve a purpose to triathlon training. But rather, incorporating more aerobic-based training into program (especially early in the season or during the off season) is a powerful approach to help you become a better triathlete.
##Develop a Mobility Practice## One of the biggest barriers to actualizing your fullest potential as a triathlete is restricted mobility, or range-of-motion. Poor mobility is also a contributing cause of poor form and injuries. As a result, developing a mobility practice is great way to optimize your ability to train and race at optimum levels.
Try dedicating (at least) 10 minutes a day working on your “hot spots,” or areas of your body that are tight or restricted. Some of the most common areas that plague triathletes are the:
- Hips - tensor fasciae latae, gluteus medius, psoas major/minor and illacus.
- Legs - rectus and biceps fermoris, soleus, tibialis, gastrocnemius, vastus medialis, adductors.
- Ankles & Feet - extensor digitorum longus; anterior, posterior, and peroneal tibial muscles
- Back, Neck, & Shoulders - trapezius, latissimus dorsi, sternocleidomastoids, deltoids, rhomboids.
Although it’s not necessary, it does help to know the anatomy and physiology behind your hot spots to better pinpoint weaknesses. In essence, seek what’s tight and restricted, and take the time to stretch, smash, and mobilize those areas until they feel better and the tissues become more pliable and soft. Some resources for mobility exercises include Mobility WOD, Better Triathlete, and Breaking Muscle, to name just a few.
Lastly, invest in some mobility tools, such as a lacrosse ball and roller (for smashing - the Rumbler Roller is a good options) as well as mobility bands for stretching and mobilizing (the bands at Rogue Fitness are good investment.)
##Hire a Triathlon Coach## A good quote from Ken Doherty is “a coach can be like an oasis in the desert of a runner’s lost enthusiasm.”. For Iron-distance athletes, this rings true.
Hiring a triathlon coach can be the key element to take your training and racing to the next level. Beyond enthusiasm, triathlon coaching can lead to more structured and disciplined training, better fueling and form, and accountability. This is why all professionals and most competitive age groupers have a triathlon coach.
The decisions to hire a triathlon coach center on the degree of coaching you’re needing. If you want a coach who will assess your form and will be there during some of your workouts, then you’ll want to scout for local triathlon coaches. If those things don’t matter as much, and you simply need help structuring your training and programming your season, sometimes online triathlon coaching can be a more efficient option. Consider what kind of coaching dynamic you need, and explore options from there.