How can I get better and faster!
How can I improve my sprint triathlon times? I’d like to try to qualify to represent my country as an Age Grouper but I’ve hit a plateau.
Getting a balance of technique work alongside actual fitness work is really important. I’d suggest 10 – 15% of most sessions on some aspect of technique (drills, focus on form). Do it but don’t get carried away with it! Check out our other blogs for the best drills to improve your swim, bike and run.
Should I focus on making my ‘strong’ disciplines stronger or improving my weaker ones?
It’s important to focus on your weaknesses. BUT look at where you have most opportunity to gain time within the race you are doing. How hard / much training would you need to put in to save 1 minute on the swim / bike / run. Focus on the one that gives you best ‘bang for your buck’. For example your swim may be weak but it might take so many hours of training to actually improve it. You may be better off simply “maintaining it” while working hard at your bike to save you several minutes over a 20k ride.
Remember to factor in the difference it will make if you make a faster ‘pack’ in a draft legal qualification race though! Here it may well be worth working hard to improve your swim by 30 seconds and being able to ride in much faster pack. The net gains would be much bigger!
I want to get better but I don’t have enough time to do more training. What can I do (apart from give up!)?
As above focus on where your training brings you best ‘bang for your buck’. Experiment with HIIT style training where some short very hard 10 – 20 minute interval sessions may bring you some excellent results. Focus on other aspects that you can control outside of training – sleep, nutrition, stretching, psychology. Find ways to incorporate training into everyday life – commute by bike or run. Run with your dog instead of taking it for a walk. Get up earlier! There’s always a way if you want it enough!
If you are weak in a particular discipline, what would you suggest? For swimming, running…
If you are a weak swimmer get some lessons – moreso than anything else this will make a massive difference. Swimming is such a technical sport – if you have major technique issues you can train as hard as you like you will never get much faster! Running and cycling – generally find a way to do more but gradually increase your mileage and mix it up with 80% easy, 10 – 15% threshold, 5 – 10% anaerobic (fast).
Most triathletes don’t do proper threshold training, usually they are training too much in the grey zone – too hard to build aerobic base fitness, too easy to gain speed or strength. 5 x 1 – 1.5km once a week at threshold with a short recovery will make a big difference to your sprint tri run time.
Don’t neglect strength and conditioning work – this can really deliver some great improvements in your times and help you to stay uninjured.
How much time do I need to devote to training if I want to get better?
It really depends how good you want to become and where you are starting from. If you want to qualify for age group championships then you probably need to be training 10 – 15 hours per week – if you are equally strong on all three disciplines then a ration of 3 / 4 / 5 running, swimming, cycling works quite well. I reckon 1 hour run takes the same toll on the body as 2 hours cycling.
Build you weekly training times gradually and tweak the ratio depending on weaknesses or preferences. Also remember your are much more likely to get injured running than swimming or cycling so be careful how you build your run training load and stay healthy.
Allow time each week for Strength and Conditioning, Mobility and Stretching.
Should I hire a coach to help me improve?
If you really want to do well it is a complex puzzle to get the most out of yourself. For many people having a coach will make a big difference. It will keep you focused on a programme and if you find a coach you can fully trust you can forget about fitting all the various bits of the puzzle together. Trust your coach and do the sessions they have set you. Trust the process.
A swim coach is absolutely vital if you struggle with swimming. A few sessions will be worth their weight in gold as you learn to swim with better technique you will get faster and find swimming easier and training more pleasurable.