Here are 3 training mistakes that will sabotage your triathlon season and limit your improvement:
1) Most of your rides are long and slow.
Somewhere along the way we as triathletes were programmed to believe that longer is better. All of a sudden a 3 hour ride wasn’t quite good enough because your training buddies were doing 6 or 7 hour rides. The problem with the longer rides is that it often comes at a cost. Naturally, you have to slow down to complete this distance, resulting in conditioning your body to ride at a nice and easy pace which is not good for improving race speed. For most athletes training for an ironman, a 3.5 hour ride with some scheduled intensity can be far more beneficial than a long 5 – 6 hour ride. Don’t get me wrong. Those long rides have their place, but their purpose is more for pacing and race execution.
You might want to rethink the social rides if you are getting into the race specific period of your training. I love training with others as long as we have an understanding that when the “work” portion on the ride begins, we are all on our own. If your ride consists of many stops and regroups, you are missing out on the race specific training that your body needs. As your race gets closer, the need to ride at race pace becomes more important. Most “social” rides are not conducive to this unless you connect with a group that will push your limits. Social rides are more appropriately placed early in the season when race specific intensities are not as important. Just be sure to mix in some surges and hard efforts on these rides.
2) You refuse to get on the indoor trainer
The trainer is a great way to maximize your training time, especially early in the season when the weather is not the best. You’ll save lots of time in ride prep when you ride indoors. Not only time savings, but you can also schedule very focused intervals and intensity that may not be practical on the open road. The trainer is also nice for those who don’t have a power meter and want to ride at very specific and repeatable intensities. Check out trainerroad.com for a great way to monitor your intensity. Another solid option is the Sufferfest video collection.
3) You lack basic functional strength and mechanical efficiency.
This becomes most evident on the run. Our bodies struggle to go faster because we lack some basic mechanical efficiency. In order to run a fast half marathon or marathon, you need to be able to run a significantly faster 5 k or 1600 meters. The mistake I see so many make is trying to get faster by logging more volume, especially in the off season. The biggest bang for your buck is to target your ability to run fast with proper form. Now keep in mind, this does not mean that you go out and hammer all of your short runs. In fact, this can cause injury if your speed work is not targeted. Speed should be carefully sprinkled into your training; a little goes a very long way. You’ll train your body to become more mechanically efficient and this will carry over to your longer distance runs. It’s also a great idea to video record yourself running at faster speeds as this may reveal some basic gaps in running mechanics resulting from a weakness in the kinetic chain. Address this before anything else.
Another area you need to address is your functional strength. Are your gluteals weak? Tight hamstrings? Lack of mobility? Poor core strength? All of these will reduce your efficiency as a triathlete and, when you’re less efficient, you’ll slow down. Every year I head into Sports Conditioning and Rehab (SCAR) to get a functional assessment so I continually address the gaps in my fitness. The folks at SCAR put me through a series of tests and then identify my weaknesses. The cool thing is that I can compare my improvement from year to year. They set me up with targeted exercises to bridge the gaps. This is well worth the time, energy and money.
As the off season approaches, consider changing up your routine to target the gaps in your fitness. More biking, running and swimming will not make you faster. Sure you’ll be able to complete the distance, but if your goal is to complete the distance at a faster pace, then you need to structure your training to help you make these speed gains.