Hello North Devon Triathletes!
We are entering a new, exciting time in triathlon; the re-emergence of racing, and getting back to training with clubmates again. Time to start hearing that common phrase being shouted at the finish line:"Go Green!"
As a qualified triathlon coach I have spent much of my time using the recent pandemic to work hard on a) keeping the triathletes I coach as motivated as possible and b) learning the most comprehensive and successful way of coaching a person towards their desired goals. Every coach is different, and this is just my take on how I like to roll!!
As your attention may be turned towards races you have booked, getting back into the swing of triathlon, or thinking beyond this year into 2022, I wanted to explain 4 pillars of sports coaching, and how this fits into training for a triathlon.
There are 4 pillars, or boxes as I like to think of them, that very neatly house everything we work on in tri, to get us to the next race in the best shape possible. You will be surprised to note that only one of them involves endless hours and miles of swimming, biking and running, getting that aerobic engine primed for race day.
These 4 ‘boxes’ are named:
So let’s look at the easy one, the one we all work on weekly, the one synonymous with endurance sport; the physiological ‘box’. In this box you have all the areas and ‘zones’ you work through in each session. When you leave your home, you should have a good idea what you are trying to achieve physiologically with your upcoming training session; speed, endurance, strength, vo2 max etc. The best way to train is with intention, so knowing what you are trying to achieve physiologically with each session helps you to build a strong engine for your upcoming races, that is able to deal with the demands of your sport.
How often do you think about technique in triathlon? I’m sure you are all aware of the impact of working on technique in swimming with it being a highly technical sport. But are you aware of the technique that goes into running and cycling? Well, there is a lot! You could shave off as much time on each discipline through technique focused training as you on the physiological elements. Just think about transitions, and how much time you can save by being technically slick with your T1 and T2. Run technique will not only help you with speed, for no extra effort, it will also help prevent injury if done correctly.
Are there tactics in a sport that is so individual? Isn't this reserved for team games? NO WAY JOSE! Tactics are crucial in tri. Take long distance for example, you have your race plan all sorted, but you realise you can make good headway on the bike if you ramp up the speed. But will that leave you tired on the run? You are constantly using tactics and this isn’t even highlighting the fact your race plan may be to race others for an age group position, so you have other athletes to take into consideration when planning your tactics.
What about shorter distance racing, and in a sprint you find you want to catch the person in front on the run, but you don’t want them to see you so you hang back, drafting on their shoulder. These are all tactics that you can learn and develop as you spend more time in the sport.
In training tactics also come into play. Training is all about juggling life and commitments with the desire to get fitter for your races. Maybe you can use your commute as a bike ride, a chance to catch up with friends as a jog, or will you go out with someone faster than you to help your training? That is all tactics, carefully thought out to help you become a better triathlete.
I have saved the best one till last, this is my personal favourite. This can help you win you a race, and it can reduce you to a mess on the side of the road, all in the same season! (Believe me, Ive experienced it!) To have the intuition and understanding of your mood, relationships, motivation, and desire to train/compete, you will be in a hugely advantageous position over your competitors. To know yourself psychologically and how you react to support, adversity, motivation, discomfort and stress, you will be able to control the controllable and have much more fun in your triathlon endeavours.
With these 4 boxes I wanted to share with you the breadth of thought that needs to go into a training plan, whether downloading one from the internet and making it your own, to working with a coach on a one to one basis. Ensure you are thinking about all 4 boxes when you train and race, and your experience will be all the more balanced for it.
If youre interested in reading more about the psychological aspects of triathlon, I can highly recommend a book called by Matt Fitzgerald called 'How Bad do you Want It'.
For many years now this book has been at the top of my kit list. I would read it for night after night leading up to a race. I was then ready for when the inevitable negative thoughts and questions started popping into my head on race day, when the desire to quit was strong because it got so tough.
It would also help me answer that classic question many of us have standing on the water's edge at the start line of a race;
“what the heck am I doing here?”
I hope after a long break from racing you are all chomping at the bit to get going again, and enjoy returning to sociable club training sessions.
Stay safe, and have a great season
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