Tips & Tricks: Back To Basics

I find myself as a coach regularly fielding questions from prospective triathletes looking to enter into the sport. The one thing which I always look to highlight right from the start when discussing how to go about tackling triathlon is that everyone is an individual and that nothing is “set in stone” when it comes to training. What may work well for you, more often than may not work for someone else. We all have different limiters in our lives with time available to train around work, family and what your goals may be.

Now we are into the new season, it is never too late to return to basics no matter how experienced we are. It is easy to make things more difficult than they really need to be. So, adhering to the old saying of keeping it simple will go a long way to ensure your continued progression.

To progress from year to year, one must increase training stimulus over time otherwise you won’t keep improving. Consistency, of course, is the key to whatever we do. Also knowing when to push and when to back off at the right time is not something that you can learn straight away. It takes time to learn about what your body can and can’t do, and sometimes learning the hard way is the best way to learn a lesson. The human body is a unique piece of work and the body can adapt to most stresses placed upon it as long as it is done progressively. The problem with most of us is that we usually don’t want to wait to get the results. Many forty-something former athletes in their youth look to resurrect their past sporting glory by taking up triathlon for a new challenge and may have experienced a few idle years on the physical training front while climbing the corporate ladder and raising a family.

You can’t make it happen overnight, but by having a goal and a plan to start with makes the big picture so much easier to follow. Even though a busy age group athlete may only have from 6 to 10 hours per week to train, doesn’t mean that they can’t progress. You do need to have the right combination of training, rest and focus more on what may have been once neglected areas (read training smart) within your own program. There is so much information available these days regarding training, racing and how to be a better athlete that it’s easy to become confused and frustrated. The one thing for certain though, is that if you stick to it, you will improve each season and it has been said that is takes up to seven years to reach your endurance potential – provided it is progressive, kept real and will still allow some recovery and down time and the end of each season.

The principles that I focus on as a coach work equally well for the beginners and the more elite age group athlete. Many people I know decide their training plan only 5 minutes before they walk out the door. Each person has different goals and each person also only has “x” amount of time to allocate to their training each week. You must be honest with yourself when it comes time to planning your training and race schedule for the upcoming season. There is no point in plotting your training program for 12 hours per week training, when you can only realistically train for 7 hours due to work, family and a busy lifestyle.

Each and every session that we do should have a purpose. Some sessions are long; some are short, some fast, some slow. By dividing your training year and season into stages i.e., Base, Intensity, Peak, Racing and Rest or active recovery, you accomplish a number of different benefits over training in an “ad-hoc” no direction kind of fashion.

Some things to consider for your planning are:

  • Identify weaknesses – with the help of a coach or by knowing what this may be yourself, emphasis should be allocated to your weakness, eg the one you may like the least!
  • Keep a log book/training diary. Plotting your session content, how you felt and any other relevant information you feel important
  • Build up a support network of specialists such as a physiotherapist, massage therapist, sports doctor, nutritionist, bike shop. Shop around until you find a network that you’re happy with and one that you feel comfortable working together with.
  • Purchase a Heart Rate Monitor and learn how to get the most out of it.
  • Test yourself in regular time trials in all disciplines during your build phase leading up to the season.
  • Find your threshold heart rate by doing a 30 minute time trial in bike and run (done on separate days) to be able to train efficiently to Heart Rate and set your training zones.
  • Get into a club training group or squad that has a coach involved or at least an experienced mentor. This will help in so many areas for progression and assist greatly in developing you to be faster and avoiding some of the pitfalls.
  • When you get to the events this coming season, remember what your goals were at the start. Your original aim was to maybe just finish a triathlon and get some fitness in the process. Build on this and don’t forget to have some fun and enjoy the ride.


Nick Croft

Nick Croft is a former professional triathlete, Australian Triathlete of the Year and two-time winner of the Noosa Triathlon.
With 19 years coaching experience under his belt, Croft provides online training programs for athletes of all ages and abilities through and runs Noosa Tri Camps in Noosa Heads, Australia.

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