Triathlon Training: 5 Pitfalls to Avoid

by Cherie Gruenfeld May 09, 2017 2 min read

A couple starting to do a running race on top of a hill in a valley.

Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned competitor, it takes a lot of hard work and determination to prepare for an Ironman. Completing a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile ride and 26.2-mile run—there’s a reason only a select few are able to successfully complete these back-to-back events, and even fewer who excel.

“There is no escaping the fact that training for a successful race is demanding,” notes Matt Dixon, Ironman master coach. “Having to combine three disciplines into a single sport creates a challenge for anyone, but especially new triathletes.”

Dixon explains that the culture of the sport unfortunately drives most athletes into chasing an unsustainable approach to performance. For many, he points out, “the barometer of success in training is based [on] the accumulation of hours or miles of training (overall volume).” Success and readiness for these athletes are measured by how many hours a week of training can be crammed into life, “with most believing that more training equals a higher shot at success.”

For very busy people in many cases, Dixon adds, the “result is an ever tightening noose of over-scheduling, an accumulation of fatigue from training stress and life, and race performances that are not comparable to the hard work invested—it's a frustrating cycle for any passionate and motivated athlete, and one that can lead to under performance.” In this cycle, work and family suffer because the athlete is spread too thin.

Dixon and others invite us to remember that stress is stress. Nobody can ultimately beat physiology. Dixon sagely advises: “While you can be tough, you're not invincible; the first step is recognition of the significant challenge long-course triathlon proposes, and adopt a pragmatic mindset in your approach to proper training—this begins with knowledge.”

Dixon invites us to recognize the following common triathlon success blockers and to enlist training, rest and fueling strategies to avoid them:

  1. Poor eating and fueling habits (Great nutrition can truly fuel exceptional tri-athletic achievement).
  2. Poor execution and not being practical/realistic (Don’t try to get it all done—be confident yet pragmatic; forcing training hours and slaving through sessions every time is not the best approach).
  3. An unwillingness to adapt (as Dixon says, “Life is not a spreadsheet—If you have a massive work commitment that leads to late meetings and high stress, those track intervals may not be the optimal choice for your day’s training.”).
  4. Stress overload (As Team BodyHealth member Major Ed Arnston says, “Be considerate of your family when you train—especially on the weekends, when many people don’t work, and your kids aren’t in school—and train with your spouse/significant other if possible. These are two ‘easy’ wins as you continue your journey on the fitness path and should make it much more enjoyable as you incorporate an element of selflessness into your journey.”)
  5. Not enough restful, restorative sleep (Sleep is vital for health, and is especially critical for runners and triathletes). 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.