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Seven Steps to Triumph at Your Next Triathlon



Do you want to shuffle to the finish line or finish strong at your next race?


If you’re like me then you want to kick butt and collect your finisher’s T-shirt and medal knowing you came prepared and gave it your all.  This means you’ll have to do more than log the minimum swim, bike, and run training to ensure you make it to the finish line.


You’ll need a plan that’s specifically designed to get the most out of the training time you have available. And then diligently execute it!


Doing this takes commitment, passion, and focus.  But that’s true for anything meaningful you want to accomplish in life, isn’t it?


To get started, here are 7 crucial questions to answer:



Do You Know What You Want?


What is the tangible outcome you want to achieve?  This is about your dreams and not about SMART goals.  Do you want to win your age group at your next race?  Or maybe you were the homecoming queen in high school and you want to shed that extra padding clinging to your back side before next summer’s high school reunion.  There are no rules other than to make sure that what you want is deeply meaningful to you!



Do You Know Why You Want It?


This may sound the same as what you want but it’s not.  Why you want what you want is the source of your intrinsic motivation.  It’s that emotional fire in your belly that connects you to your deep desires so you get out of bed day after day ready to train.  Maybe the reason you want to win your age group is to serve as a role model for your children.  Or you want to make sure your old high school pals don’t whisper behind your back about how cute you used to be before you got so big.  Whatever your reason, remember it’s about you and how you feel.



Where Are You Now?


Now that you know where you want to go, it’s time to take a hard look at where you are right now.  What are you willing to do, to give up, or to change in order to accomplish your dreams?  Getting clarity on the gap between where you are and what you want to achieve is the starting place for taking small steps that progressively move you forward.


Tip:  Build positive momentum by measuring backwards… focus on how much you’ve accomplished not how far you have to go!



Do You Have What You Need?


Triathlon is a demanding sport so before you create your training plan get a handle on the list of resources that will support your success.  If you’re new to triathlon and unsure what you need then ask someone who is in the sport some questions.  Meantime, at a very minimum, consider the following:


  • Do you have enough training time to achieve your goals? Your days are already full so that means you’ll have to stop doing some things in order to fit it in.  Piling triathlon training onto an already busy schedule rarely works for long haul.
  • Do you have the financial resources to effectively participate in the sport? The cumulative expense of equipment, race fees, travel, etc., can be significant so be prepared.
  • Do you have access to training routes and facilities? Safe cycling and running routes and quality swimming facilities are key to your success so know what you have to work with.
  • Are there experts available to help you quickly shore-up your weaknesses and improve your technique?


Do you know how to build your plan?


Crafting a plan that’s customized to your life is more art than science.  While all training plans have common features, such as key workouts and rest days, it’s essential to adapt it to your situation and personality in a way that gets you tri-fit and that’s fun for you.  Here are a few important steps to help you get started.


  • Always start with the end in mind; write the “A” races in your calendar first so you have your timeline sketched out from the start.
  • Next, build in key workouts such as long run, bike, and swim days…this usually applies more to IM 70.3 & IM distance races.
  • If you’re going to include lower priority races into your schedule, then jot them into the plan next.
  • Now begin to detail what you intend to do each day. Personally I like to work with a three-week training cycle where I have one full day off each week and every third weekend focused on recovery.


Understand that no plan that covers weeks and months will survive the reality of your day-to-day life.  Stay flexible because things will happen that impact your ability to train.  Expect it, adjust to it, and move on.



Do you need to share your plan?


It’s rare that your decision to take up triathlon only impacts your life.  Before you commit all your free time to training be sure to review your plans with people whose support you’ll need in the weeks and months ahead.  There are lots of great reason to do this early in your planning process.  Here are a couple:


  • Most of us get a much-needed reality check when we share our plans with family and friends. If they’re not buying what you’re selling, then you’ll need to resolve this before you go any further. Without their help and support things can get ugly fast.
  • This is your chance to avoid or minimize any schedule conflicts and ultimately limit any drama that might pop up.


Are You Ready to Change?


What you do every day determines your success in triathlon.  If you haven’t already established solid training habits, then it’s time to start.  The bottom line is that almost all change fails so it’s important to start small and build positive momentum if you want the change to stick!


Start by listing one or two activities you’re going to focus on each week and get to it.  Here are a few questions to get you thinking:


  • Do you have a morning routine that supports your goals? Something as simple as consistently logging a 20-minute run or spending 10 minutes stretching will get you moving in the right direction.
  • Are you properly fueling your body to meet your training demands? You’re putting a lot of stress on your body so quality nutrition is a must…don’t use the training as a reason to eat a bigger piece of cake!
  • Are you carving sleep time out of your schedule to make time for training? This is common and wrong…you need more rest not less so your body and mind can properly recover.

If you take the time to go through these seven steps, you can expect to finish strong and have more fun at your next race.



Posted on Categories Cycling, Running, Swimming, TriathlonTags , , , , ,
Jay Zacharias is a USAT-certified coach, an Ironman Certified Coach, and a licensed primary sports nutritionist. He's been involved with triathlon since 1981 and is co-founder of TriathlonExperts.com, the leading community for self-coached triathletes.
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