It's been a common theme in my training program over the past couple of months to be spending an increased amount of time swimming, this is with the goal of trying to improve my weakest discipline in triathlon. It's fairly common for an age group triathlete like myself to lose a significant amount of time to competitors in one of the three disciplines in triathlon. This is primarily due to less experience in some disciplines or less time spent training on them. This has driven the discussion of this blog to be about
'the best ways to improve triathlon weaknesses'
I strongly believe from experience and common sense that a triathlete has to acknowledge that if they want to improve a weakness they must be prepared to alter training in a big enough way that can give focus to your weak discipline. To be good at 3 disciplines is tough and to attempt to focus on all 3 equally while at the same time improving your weakness is almost impossible, unless technically proficient in each. It's also common for age groupers and some pro's to get in the routine of working on the disciplines that they enjoy or are better at, but it's not the most sensible plan for an overall improvement.
Things to consider to improve weaknesses for triathlon:
1. How can you make the biggest and smartest improvements on weaknesses within the training resources available to you?
2.How can you incorporate improving these weaknesses into training whilst maintaining other disciplines?
3. How much time and for how long should I focus on weaknesses before building back my strengths?
Firstly identifying the main causes of the weaknesses are key. For many this may need the advice of someone more advanced in your weakest discipline. This enables smart planning for improvement, and gives you the platform you need to get a balance of how much time to spend on each discipline while focusing on your weakness at the same time. As most weaknesses emerge due to lack of specific training sessions, weakness in the main muscles or fitness of the discipline or technical deficiencies, altering training to accommodate for this should be the priority.
When improving weaknesses its important to cleverly maintain your strengths to not hinder your overall performance and to keep you motivated. Most triathletes, being supremely competitive don't like to give away anything on the aspects of their race they are good at but improvement involves sacrifice. Planning is the best way to achieve the right balance. The temptation is to still to try to maintain the same routine with your stronger disciplines due to a fear of losing fitness, but there are other clever methods of maintaining this. For example, working out where to fit key workouts into your program first. Block in what you see as the most important workout (long ride, running intervals etc) to maintain your strength, then you can look at the basic structure of your program before adding the rest of the activities. Time management and balancing recovery are key.
Here are my 'Words on Weaknesses' from lessons I've learned and had grained into me by coaches:
1. Use preparation or transition phases of the season for focusing on weaknesses . Here maintaining strengths isn't as important and can be addressed later in the program. The improvements made in this phase can allow for less focus on these weaknesses during the season.
2. Be time efficient and smart. Limit 'backing up' sessions if you are struggling for time when you can achieve the same outcomes in one quality session, do a simulated brick or just one session instead. If you have time, back up session to vary the amount of time on each discipline.
3. Keep key sessions relevant to your goals and be specific. A long steady endurance set is great way to develop aerobic base and maintain fitness rather than intense efforts, it's easier to build speed later rather than fitness. If its technical improvement that's needed then structure training properly and make it the focus of the day, NOT just another session!
4. If you have a focus session for a discipline then make sure you are in the right frame of mind before you start and reinforce to yourself the goal in mind. Use technique, HR or recovery to monitor changes and improvement in your weaknesses, and don't necessarily get carried with time or other people's performances.
5. Talk with others more experienced than yourself to decide if improvement has occurred and when enough improvement has been achieved to allow focus and building in other disciplines.
6. Persist and believe in your program and planning. There is no guarantee that significant changes will happen over night and you need to incrementally work your way towards improvement knowing that you may plateau at some point. Motivation and re-evaluating goals are key to progress.
Remember: - Acknowledge your weaknesses! - Give weaknesses the time and effort they need! - Plan how to approach your improvements! - Seek feedback from others! - Persist and persist some more!
"I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying"