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Top 9 Triathlon Training Tips From Top Coaches

Adam Nakada


  1. Let the water clear. The biggest mistake triathletes make, says Scott Berlinger, founder of Full Throttle Endurance, is “training too hard all the time. We call it muddying the water. And if you keep the water muddy, you won’t perform well.” Respect your rest weeks and, he says, “stay within the confines of your workout.” Yes, even when your archrival passes you in the park. Remember, he may be doing speedwork, you may be doing distance.
  2. Focus on the process, not the outcome. “Micro goals help you achieve success,” says Paul Weiss, PhD, founder of Asphalt Green Triathlon Club. So instead of fixating on winning, turn your attention to the process – staying aero, keeping your cadence up, getting your nutrition right and all the other little pieces you need to put together to have a top race. That keeps you in the zone. “Achieving process goals cumulatively results in macro goal achievement.” In other words, do what you need to do and the successes will add up.


  1. Train what’s behind you. “A strong butt is the key to a happy life when it comes to running.” That’s straight from Jordan D. Metzl, MD, sports medicine physician at NYC’s Hospital for Special Surgery and Triathlete contributor. How so? Strength in the glutes keeps the pelvis from tilting from side to side (among other things) and has the potential to eliminate some classic running injuries including IT band friction syndrome. Work with a coach or physical therapist to determine which strengthening exercises are exactly right for you.
  2. Keep your feet under you. Should you run on the forefoot? Midfoot? Barefoot? Among the spectrum of sometimes heated opinions on the issue, nobody’s debating one point: “What’s important is where your foot falls underneath you,” says Rob Maschi, PT,  DPT, of NYC’s Hospital for Special Surgery. It should fall directly under your center of mass, not in front of it, or you’re basically braking with every step.


  1. Drop some drills. “You don’t need to do 1,642 swimming drills to become a better swimmer. You can do a few drills that have a very specific purpose and become a better swimmer,” says Earl Walton, head coach for TriLife Coaching, NYC. The one drill everybody needs? Side lying kick drill. “If you’re a bad swimmer, you’re killing your momentum,” he says. “You need to get comfortable in the water and get your body position correct.” This drill is an essential way to do that. It’s not the only drill you need to do, but if it’s not in your repertoire, it’s worth putting there, he says.


Strength train to become a better triathlete, not a better weight lifter. Photo: John Segesta

  1. Don’t strength train to become strong. “When you’re an Olympic weightlifter, the point is to move weight from point A to point B to demonstrate your strength.” To do that, you might need to hold your breath, arch your back, or use momentum. “For any other athlete, your reason for strength training isn’t to demonstrate strength. It’s to gain strength,” says Jonathan Cane, exercise physiologist and head coach at City Coach Multisport. That means doing your weight work with excellent form and letting your muscles, not your ego, get stronger.
  2. Keep it simple. Sometimes when you do crazy complicated exercises, “your brain gets better at doing them, not necessarily your muscles,” Cane says. So you’ll be better at doing one-legged tractor tire balances, rather than at swimming, biking, and running. Keep your workout simple and focus on the big muscles as well as the muscles that stabilize you. And don’t stress about whether you should be using free weights, resistance bands, kettlebells or something else. “Your muscles aren’t that smart. They only know if they’re working or not. And if you get the muscle to fire, you’ll get stronger,” he says.


  1. Stretch for speed. Stretching helps you maintain your range of motion, and poor range of motion means poorer power, says Marisa D’Adamo, PT, former physical therapy coordinator for the ING NYC marathon. “Stretching helps you get faster without speedwork. You can’t work on your power or strength when your joint doesn’t have the range of motion it needs.”


  1. Determine what’s made of glass. Douglas Schwartz, coach at Multi-Sport Partners, asks his athletes to imagine balls made of three materials: marble, rubber, and glass. They have to label the balls according to what they’re juggling – for instance, friends, family, work – and say why each is labeled that way. You see where this is going: The most precious one is the glass ball. Each athlete needs to figure out what in their life is made of glass and how not to drop it. Glass equals family for you? Schwartz suggests a way to make your training more efficient so you can spend more time with family: On your next road trip, have your significant other drop you off 30 minutes away from home and run the rest of the way.

Top 9 Triathlon Training Tips From Top Coaches

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