Make plans for the summer this Easter weekend with our guest coaches. First to fire up your triathlon training is Ironman legend Mark Allen, who now runs a coaching business (markallenonline.com).
Coaches with personal experience in triathlon can help their athletes avoid common pitfalls, as well as guiding them with principles that will help them have their best performances on days that count the most.
The single most common mistake that triathletes make is they overtrain, usually going too hard, too often. Tri is an endurance sport, so the physiology that needs to be worked most is the aerobic metabolism. doing this is not that exciting since it’s usually not taxing to the body. it requires moderating your efforts in most workouts, which in the end will build the internal endurance engine. Of course, to maximise performance there will be periods in training where some high-intensity speed work is needed to get the best race results, but the amount of time required is far less than most people think.
The second biggest mistake that many people make is to stick too rigidly to a training plan. Life is not set up to follow the ideal training programme. Often it becomes essential for a person’s performance to actually cut workouts when life’s obligations become overwhelming. Training should reduce the overall stress on a person, but if they are cutting out precious sleep just to fit in a run before work and only getting five or six hours a night, then it really doesn’t matter how much they train, as their body will be worn down and their performance will suffer.
The final main mistake is to think that peak performance is all about numbers in the logbook. Well, I have news for you: a great race is part training for the body, and part training for the mind. If an athlete has not practised quieting their mind in training, then in the race when i tgets tough, guess what? All those negative thoughts that creep in will impact their performance.
Mark Allen’s Triathlon Training Sessions
1. Swim Further
A key session I often give my athletes is a swim workout that’s up to 150% of your race distance. For examlple, if you are doing an Ironman there should be a swim in your logbook that is up to about 5,500m. This means your body encounters more lenth in the swim than you will need in the race. On race day doing the swim will be relatively easy, which then sets you up for a good bike and run, feeling fresh.
2. Run Fast
I often tell my athletes to include a fast running race in their training. This should ideally be between 5km and 10km, but you coudl go up to a half-marathon. The idea is to run at top speed, which in a running race will be well above anything you can do in a triathlon.
This tells your body what fast can really be, so when you are in your triathlon, even though it’s tough, you know the pace you are going is well below your maximum speed, so the race is relatively easy.
3. Mental Chatter
You can practise this in every session. If you find yourself going through themental chatter when the workout gets tough (it’s too long, I’m too tired…), just tell yourself to ‘shut up’. Silence your mind. Find that place inside that stops the thinking process, but is still aware. Be aware of the world around you; this takes your mind off you and helps you to be internally quiet. I practised this over and over. When races got tough and I started to sabotage my performance with negative thoguhts, I would remember to quiet my mind. it may not happen immediately, but it would happen. When I was quiet, suddenly hope would come back and my body would start working easier and the entire race dynamic would improve.
This article originally appeared in Triathlon Plus magazine. Interview by Matt Anniss.