Triathlon has seen exponential growth in the past 10 years. Ironman triathlon (swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles and run 26.2 miles) is described as the world’s most grueling single day endurance event. Incredibly, most Ironman triathlons in the United States sell out in only minutes. To some the idea of swimming, Lifeguard certificate biking and running all at once seems crazy. But to the triathlete it seems like a great way to complete body fitness, a continual source of intriguing stimulation and great personal satisfaction. If you want to get the most out of triathlon (and your ability) you will need a coach.
TRIATHLON IS COMPLICATED
When first starting there is a lot to learn. Often someone who takes up triathlon is accomplished at one sport and thinks it would be fun to add the others. Even if you are a great runner, you still have to master the complicated aspects of cycling and swimming. Cycling performance is highly dependent upon technique. Even if you have powerful legs, you still need to pedal efficiently to make the most of the bike course. Perhaps even more importantly, you need to be capable of riding so efficiently that you have enough energy in your legs to run after you get off the bike. Coaches know how to help you pick the best cycling gear to match your cycling ability and form.
Swimming is also about technique. It’s just about impossible to make an analysis of your own swim stroke. But this is easy for a coach to do as she walks along the edge of the pool watching you swim. Minor adjustments in body alignment, hip position or hand entry into the water could translate into big gains. Your coach will help you make the changes that produce faster swim times.
In order to succeed in triathlon you must organize both your life and your gear. Let’s face it, most of us must earn a living, maintain a sane family social life and somehow find time to exercise. You’ll have to juggle swim sets, bike rides and run workouts to get stronger and finish your triathlon faster. This is hard to do without the help of a coach. On race day you have to set up your equipment and organize your gear. Listen to your coach’s experience and you may save enough time in transition to cover a full mile on the run.
Life has it ups and downs and so does training. At some point your job, marriage or other life experiences may sap your energy and detract your focus. An experienced coach will sense when desire is waning. This is part of the game. Your coach not only knows this, he expects it. Triathlon coaches understand and can often predict the peaks and valleys you’ll go through in training. He’ll help you stay on course in spite of them. The ability to keep training in spite of adversity is critical to success.
To excel in triathlon you have to put in lots of hard work. Very few people who undertake the sport lack motivation. Many are hard charging folks interested in new challenges. Others see it as a way to personal transformation. But all have a tendency to push on when the going gets rough. The unfortunate reality is that many triathletes suffer from the “no pain, no gain” mentality. It is beneficial to push on when exhaustion is pounding on the door. Ignoring the minor pains that signal an emerging injury can put you out of the game. Your coach is someone to filter those aches and pains through. You need the voice of reason and experience telling you when to back off.
Injury is your nemesis. A stress fracture in the foot will equal huge fitness losses while the bone heals. If you tear your Achilles tendon, you may never run the same again. If you feel an odd pain, talk to your coach about it. She will then make adjustments to avert disaster while keeping your training on schedule.
Overuse injuries are common and preventable in triathletes. Preventing them requires 1) personal experience in the sport 2) solid understanding of biomechanics, and 3) the ability to craft a plan that will build strength without inviting injury. Triathlon coaches have all three. Your coach will help prevent running injuries by analyzing your gait and helping you choose the best running shoes. Your coach will also suggest cleat position and saddle adjustments that minimize stress to your knees while cycling.
Injury prevention isn’t just about holding back when tendonitis flares up. It begins with a sound analysis of your abilities. It includes a personalized training plan that will work relentlessly on your weaknesses while building on your strengths. The fastest way from start to finish is to swim, bike and run as fast as you are capable without stopping. The only way to do this is to train as hard as possible without stopping to heal an injury or recover from burnout.
Hire a coach who will take the time to understand your triathlon goals and build a training plan around your career and family life. Follow that plan and talk to your coach whenever you hit a bump in the road. With the right coach you’ll reach a level that will be unthinkable on your own.