Category: Triathlon

Effective Triathlon Swimming

By David Bertrand | USA Triathlon

To become an effective triathlon swimmer, you must be efficient in the water. Improved efficiency comes from mastering these three elements (in order of importance):

  1. balance
  2. rotation
  3. stroke (the pull)

This article will focus on balance. Balance is the most important factor because it has the biggest influence on your ability to swim efficiently and achieve proper body position in the water.  I see a lot of beginners spend enormous amounts of time trying to perfect the stroke first, neglecting balance and rotation. The pitfall of this approach is that you may start seeing results in the pool, but the results do not transfer to the open water.

Open Water Swimming vs. Pool Swimming

To become an effective triathlon swimmer means to become proficient at open water swimming. This suggests taking on a different approach from the traditional teaching methodologies of pool swimming. With triathlon swimming, not only do you want to take into consideration the open water, but also it requires a unique approach because of what comes after — the bike and the run.

Coaching a triathlon swimmer versus a pool swimmer involves two different sets of tactics. For example, swimmers typically breathe every 3 strokes (bilateral) or every 4 strokes. But for triathlon swimmers, we recommend breathing every 2 strokes. There are a couple of reasons for this:

To increase the amount of oxygen you take in (you will cash this in later on the bike and the run), and

For sighting purposes as it a) saves you from looking up, which in turn spares your hamstrings for the run, and b) gives you a better chance at keeping your draft (due to increased frequency in sighting).

Being consistent with your swimming is one thing. Infusing your swim workouts with specificity towards your triathlon goals? Now that’s something new that will lead you to better results.

I want to “save my legs” for the bike and run, right?

I often read in magazines or overhear beginners strategizing about how to improve in the water. One of the most common tips I hear people sharing is, “Don’t kick too much, save your legs for the bike and run.” Good advice, right? This comment fully acknowledges the demands of the bike and the run and suggests a pacing strategy so that your legs are not too worn out by the time you are running. So, yes, actually this is good advice!

But here’s the rub — take a beginner that has average body balance at best, tell him or her to “save your legs,” and what you get most of the time is awful positioning in the water.  In order to receive a benefit from a reduction in kicking in the swim portion of a triathlon, you must already have near perfect balance. And please note that when I say “reduction,” I mean a lessening of the intensity of the kick, not necessarily the amplitude or the continuous nature of the kick.

Check out the rest of the article.

Beat The Heat At Your Next Triathlon

By Holly Bennett | Triathlete Magazine

Michael and Amanda Lovato have a lot of experience training, racing and traveling in hot climates. In fact, over the weekend they served as coaches for Race Quest Travel’s Costa Rica camp at the beachside JW Marriott Hacienda Pinilla Resort & Spa in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Here, they share their tried and true tips for beating the heat, before, during and after a race.


Preparing for a hot race should start well before you arrive at the race destination. There are a few quick tips to get you started down the right path. First, it’s key to do your very best to practice your hydration strategy in training, and to do so as often as possible–even when the weather back home does not merit it. Teaching the body to handle that fluid will help the body absorb and utilize your intake on race day. Next, getting the body familiar with sweating is a key component of your preparation.  There are a few methods we use: sitting in the Sauna for 10-15min (with a bottle of fluid!); riding indoors on a trainer (preferably with no fan); wearing arm warmers (or arm “coolers”) to bring the body temperature up; and trying to do occasional training sessions during the heat of the day. It’s not necessary to overdo these things, but they all help prepare the body to better handle the heat. Finally, during race week we advise our athletes to add extra salt to their food. The closer you get to race day, the more you should load it on.

Read the rest here.

5 Techniques For Recovery From Triathlons

By Nathan Koch, PT, ATC |

When it comes to recovery, timing is critical. Here’s a sampling of some of the best techniques and the ideal time to use them.


A recent Australian study found that athletes can improve their performance in 30 minutes of high-intensity cycling by wearing compression clothing. Choose graduated gear (highest pressure at the ankle), avoid cheap material (nylon and elastane), always air dry and avoid “medical-grade,” as it may actually inhibit blood flow.

Time it right: Timing is not fully understood, although general guidelines include always on flights and long car rides, immediately after hard efforts and when sitting (desk job) or standing (on-feet job) for extended periods of time.

Ice Bath

Used since the triathalosarus days, cold-water immersion is cheap and can reduce immediate soreness. All you need is a tub and ice or a cold river/lake and a thermometer (approximately 55 degrees F).

Time it right: It may be ideal to use compression immediately after exercise and then ice three hours after exercise for 10–15 minutes to allow normal protein synthesis to occur. It’s possible that even though ice may reduce immediate muscle pain/soreness, it may inhibit overall recovery if used too early after effort.


A foam roller, ball, PVC pipe, etc., can bring legs back to homeostasis. If you address adhesions or knots in the soft tissue on a regular basis, it can be extremely beneficial as both a recovery tool and an injury-prevention technique.

Time it right: The best time for a massage is three hours or longer after a race or hard effort. A 2009 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that massage immediately after intense effort inhibited the body’s ability to remove lactate from muscle.

Read more…

5 Triathlon Mistakes That Add Seconds to Your Time

By Marty Munson |

Winning a triathlon—or even just edging out a few more people in your age group—isn’t always about swimming, biking, and running faster. Ranking higher can be as simple as fixing the little errors that allow time to “leak” out of your race.

Even if you’re more worried about crossing the finish line than getting on the podium, it’s worth adding these tips to your triathlon race strategy. Why not gain free speed without any additional effort? After all that training, the last thing you want to do is lose rank just because you fumbled with your helmet in your first transition (T1).

Avoid these five triathlon mistakes in your next race, and you just might cross the finish line ahead of someone who’s usually a little faster than you:

Triathlon Mistake No. 1: Not Swimming in a Straight Line

It sounds obvious, but it’s a time killer; and you don’t get an award for the farthest distance swum in the first leg of a race. “Take a moment to see the direction you’re going in,” says Earl Walton, head coach of TriLife in New York City.

“If you’re not very good at sighting, take a stroke or two of breaststroke. That will ultimately be faster than swimming the wrong way.”

Triathlon Mistake No. 2: Not Loading Up Your Bike

“Minimize and organize,” Walton says. Prep your bike before the race: Put your helmet and sunglasses on your handlebars so you don’t have to bend over and pick them up. Be sure they’re facing the right way so you don’t have to turn them around to put them on.

Also, know exactly where you’re going to put your wetsuit when you take it off.

Check to see if you’re making the other three mistakes.

5 Steps to a Breakthrough Performance

By Rich Strauss | Endurance Nation  (on

How much to train; how far to swim bike, and run; what carbon aero gadget to buy…the list is endless, and the triathlon space has no end of guidance on these topics. But success on race day is more about what goes on between your ears than it is about the details of training and gear.

These are the mental tactics we use to help our athletes prepare for a breakthrough performance on race day:

Step 1: Forget Your Fitness

Understand that all you’ve done in training for the last three, six or even nine months is build a fitness vehicle. Race day is about how you drive that vehicle through the course and across the finish line. All the fitness in the world can’t help you if you don’t know how to drive it properly.

This becomes more important as race distance increases. Simply put, you can’t fake the funk in the long-course game, as evidenced by the hundreds of very, very fit athletes under-performing because they don’t know how to drive their fitness vehicle properly.

Step 2: Separate Yourself From the Outcome

Once the race starts, forget the Outcome. Forget goal times, placing, everything. In our experience, chasing the Outcome will often force you to make decisions in the short term that will prove counterproductive to your long-term goals.


Step 3: Identify Critical Junctions of the Race

Where are opportunities on the course to gain time? To lose time? Where is my competition most likely to make mistakes that I can avoid to help achieve a better outcome?

A few examples:

Short-course racing:

  • Consider swim placement and seeding to take advantage of faster swimmers, currents, and avoid navigation mistakes.
  • Recognize critical parts of the bike course where you can gain time including hills, descents, corners and tailwinds.
  • The same on the run course: where is that downhill that you can bomb? Consider holding back a bit in the first couple miles so you can attack the hills at the end.

Long-course racing:

  • While the notes above apply to the long-course swim, energy conservation becomes more important.
  • On the bike, the longer the ride the more it becomes about not making mistakes. Avoid riding too hard up hills and into headwinds, don’t spend too much time coasting, let off the gas in tailwinds. Rather than actively trying to make something happen to gain time, be sure to conserve energy where possible.

Get the next two steps.


7 Training Tweaks to Improve Your Triathlon Run

By Gale

If you’ve been pouring over last year’s race results and have come to the conclusion that your triathlon run could use improvement, there are several ways to go about getting faster. This column offers seven strategies you can use. You may want to try more than one strategy at the same time, but be cautious about trying to employ all the strategies at the same time and overdoing it.

Rest Up for Key Triathlon Run Workouts

Triathletes that are strong swimmers and cyclists usually love to go fast in those workouts. It’s fun to go fast. If running is a limiter, you need to be sure that you do not put your quality run speedwork day within 24 to 48 hours following a tough swimming or cycling workout. The swim and bike workouts preceding key triathlon run workouts need to be primarily aerobic or form work.

Add One More Run to Your Week

If you’re currently running two or three days per week, add one more, short, aerobic run to your training mix. Some triathletes find that adding one more run workout in the 20- to 30-minute range is enough to boost speed.

Remove a Run From Your Week

For triathletes running four or five times per week, peeling out one day of running and adding more recovery will often help improve running speed.

Include a Run-Focused Training Block

For many triathletes, there is a balance to the number of workouts they perform in each sport, each week. For example, it’s common to have two or three workouts in each sport—swimming, cycling and running—every week.

It’s also common for intermediate and advanced triathletes to include a big block of cycling within one training block, while minimizing or eliminating swimming and running. This is easily accomplished by participating in a bicycle tour. This type of big volume training is often called “crash training.”

Crash training isn’t used as often in running because a big block of running carries more risk of injury. Additionally, overall training volume will need to be reduced if you decide to do a run-focused week of training. For example, if you are currently training 12 hours per week with swimming, cycling and running workouts, it’s fairly low risk to do a week of just cycling at 12 or more hours. It’s high risk, however, to do a week of just running at 12 or more hours.

Read more about improving your run.

What Do I Eat The Night Before A Race?

By Pip Taylor | Triathlete Competitor

What do I eat the night before a race? Do I have to have a special meal or follow a strict diet the day before? Do I ever have a beer or a glass of wine?

I get asked these questions a lot. Mostly the people asking are not as interested in what I eat or drink but secretly hope that their pre-race pizza and lager will be justified or that their lucky steak and chips the night before is the secret to a good race.

So do you really need to join the queue at the pasta party or pester the waiter at the local Italian restaurant as to why they don’t include sports drinks on the wine list? The short answer is no. And the slightly longer answer is a provisional no.

The elements of performance include genetics, training and fitness, nutrition and mental state. Each of these is important on its own, and each influences and interacts with the others.

For instance, for one athlete, knowing she has had ideal nutrition going into her race can boost her mental confidence, but for another, state of mind may be influenced more by his ability to relax and socialize. Similarly, good nutrition plays a role in ensuring one’s ability to achieve optimal training and recovery, yet perfect nutrition will do nothing for performance without dedication and a willingness to work hard.

Still, all of these amount to nothing without at least some natural ability and genetic disposition. The reverse is also true—the world is full of talented athletes who have never gotten off the couch. So the key to performance is to get as many of these elements in sync at one time while recognizing the unique qualities of the individual athlete or situation. So yes, good nutrition is important, especially for racing. But it is not the be-all and end-all of performance and must be put into perspective.

There’s a large scientific basis for preparing well nutritionally for a race. If the race is two hours or longer, there is a benefit to having loaded muscle glycogen (“carbo-loading”), being well-hydrated and making sure to consume foods that your body can easily digest without causing any gastrointestinal upsets or surprises. However, a wide range of foods can meet these needs—the list extends well beyond pasta—and will also depend on your individual needs. Gender, size, fitness, environmental conditions, nutritional status leading into the event and nerves play a role in what and how much you need to eat the day before a race.

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Functional Strength Training Basics for Endurance Athletes

By Kelly Wissolik | USA Triathlon

As an athlete, you know the importance of sport-specific training. You can’t run a marathon if you don’t run. You can’t race a triathlon if you don’t swim, bike and run. You certainly won’t do any of these things if you are injured. Unfortunately, you are likely underachieving if you don’t address your specific physical weaknesses. The best way to avoid injury and achieve better results is by identifying your limitations and turning them into strengths.

Functional training will help you avoid injury and turn physical limiters into a positive force. Sounds good, right? But what is functional training? Functional training, also known as FT, refers to a well-rounded training program that integrates activities that contribute to better, more efficient and safer performance of real world activities or sports movements. The goal of functional training is to create improved balance and muscular control because the human body should be able to achieve and maintain balance and control during movement in a range of conditions, different positions, various planes and a variety of angles, in order to be totally functional.

Focusing exclusively on swimming, cycling and running only works the body in one plane of motion. Exercising solely in the same plane of motion will cause the body to develop muscularly tight areas as well as muscular imbalances that lead to injury, biomechanical inefficiencies and wasted effort. In turn, athletes must include functional training to even out the imbalances and alleviate the tight areas.

As a triathlete, functional strength training should consist of three specific components:
1. Functional sport-specific strength
2. Development of underdeveloped muscle groups
3. Improvement of flexibility and mobility

Check out what else you should consider with functional strength training.


Does Competition Boost Performance?

By Matt Fitzgerald |

The duel between triathlon legends Dave Scott and Mark Allen at the 1989 Ironman World Championship is remembered as one of the greatest races in the history of endurance sports. In that race the longtime rivals swam, biked, and ran neck and neck for eight full hours until, with 1.7 miles left in the 140.6-mile competition, Allen broke away from Scott on the last hill to claim his first Ironman victory after six failures and five losses to Scott.

The battle caused so much excitement as it unfolded that a caravan of trucks, cars, motorcycles, mopeds, and bikes that was almost a quarter-mile in length formed behind Scott and Allen as the rivals scorched the marathon side by side. Among those in the caravan was Bob Babbitt, the 38-year-old publisher of Competitor magazine, who dubbed the epic battle “Iron War” in the next issue of his publication. The name stuck.

What Dave Scott and Mark Allen achieved on that magical day would have been considered impossible by most people. They broke Dave Scott’s 1986 course record by nearly 20 minutes. Third-place finisher Greg Welch was three miles from the finish line when Allen crossed it. And Allen and Scott’s marathon times of 2:40:04 and 2:41:02 still stand as the two fastest run splits in the history of the race. (What’s more, run splits included bike-run transition times in those days before chip timing. Allen and Scott’s actual marathon times not including their transitions were closer to 2:38:49 and 2:39:47, respectively.)

I’ve had a personal fascination with Iron War ever since it happened. Last year I decided to indulge that fascination by writing a book about it. Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen & The Greatest Race Ever Run has just been released by VeloPress. My goal was not just to write the definitive account of the race in its broader context of Scott and Allen’s amazing rivalry and incredible careers, but to explore how they were able to achieve the impossible together on October 14, 1989.

Some of the answers I uncovered in this journey may serve as valuable lessons to other triathletes seeking their own breakthroughs. One of these lessons centers on what might be called the competition effect. When I interviewed Dave Scott for the book I asked him how much slower he thought he would have gone in the race if Mark Allen had not been there to push him. He said maybe 10 seconds. I love the spirit behind that answer, but I don’t believe it!

Check out the rest of the article.

5 Tips For Avoiding Cycling Injuries

By Nathan Koch, P.T., A.T.C. |

Cycling is an extremely repetitive sport that involves long duration and high-intensity training—which can ultimately lead to injury. Much like changing your car’s oil allows it to perform better and last longer, these five injury prevention techniques can help you perform at a higher level and reduce your risk of overuse.

1. Pre-workout: Perform dynamic stretches for 5–10 minutes, such as leg crossovers and scorpions to open up the hips and spine. They will help reduce joint and muscle stiffness prior to hopping on the bike.

2. During the workout:
Keep your cadence at 90 rpm or greater to reduce stress on the knee, specifically the patellofemoral joint (kneecap area). High-intensity training at lower rpm may have rewards but also comes with greater injury risk.

3. Post-workout: Use the foam roller to reduce muscle soreness and tightness. Focus on the iliotibial band, quadriceps and piriformis (a deep gluteal muscle).

Read two more cycling injury prevention tips.