If only I new then what I know now
If I could go back in time this is the advice I would give myself when I was new to triathlon.
1. Get a coach! You don’t know what you don’t know and a small amount of knowledge can be dangerous. Early on I made many mistakes-trained too hard all of the time and didn’t focus on building a strong foundation that fitness could be built upon. A good coach can help you navigate the many pitfalls that await you when you are new to triathlon.
2. Get a good bike fit. Your position on a bicycle is in many ways more important than the bike itself. A bad position can lead to muscular imbalances which
ultimately will leave you vulnerable to injury and will likely be a limiting factor when it comes to proper bio-mechanics, form and technique. Finding a position that offers the perfect balance of comfort, aerodynamics and power production is VERY difficult and in my opinion is one of the most important investments you will make in this sport.
3 Do strength work religiously. One of the main causes of injuries in triathlon is muscular imbalances. Triathletes tend to have strong quads and week hamstrings and glutes as well as strong chest and weak upper back muscles. We all naturally have imbalances and riding a bicycle(especially a triathlon bike) is likely to make them worse. Also, there are big performance gains to be made with strength training especially as the distance you are racing gets longer. For me personally I had a very aggressive position on my first tri bike and I was not centered on the saddle which caused me to develop my right quad more than my left and my left glute more than my right. These imbalances have caused me an INCREDIBLE amount of problems over the last ten years. Being balanced muscularly from left to right and front to back is one of the main foundational keys to injury prevention, endurance, efficiency, speed and ultimately reaching your athletic potential.
4. Get a road bike. Even though you won’t ever race on it there are many benefits to riding a road bike. The biggest benefit in my opinion is that riding a road bike is going to help you to strengthen your glutes. When properly positioned on a road bike you sit much further back behind the crank set and pedals, this position is much more likely to engage your glutes than a typical(aggressive) triathlon position in which the saddle is moved forward in order to open up the hip angle and allow the torso to drop lower(more aerodynamic). This forward saddle position is very quad dominant and can leave the glutes under used or even turned off completely. A road bike is also
much more comfortable when climbing or if you are riding with a group and is easier to control because you are in a more balanced position(more centered over the pedals not so far forward).
5. Get regular massage, foam roll stretch and massage yourself. I know massage is expensive, but just think about what you paid for your bike or the price of that last race/trip. Understanding your muscles, knowing their names/functions and knowing when they are tight and how to get them to loosen will MASSIVLY improve the amount of stress/training you can handle and help prevent injuries. I get a massage once a week and when training is full on I spend around 30 minutes every night foam rolling, stretching and self massaging myself.
6. Sleep as much as you can. Of all the things you can do to recover nothing beats a good nights sleep. I try to sleep at least 8 hours every night and when training hard I usually get between 10-12 hours. I am not the best at napping but I try to nap when ever possible, even if it is only 5-10 minutes I find it really helps. Stay tuned. My next blog will be on sleep and recovery tips/advice.
7. Patience and consistency are the key. We want it all and we want it right now, but anything worth having takes time. Triathlon is very complicated and it is very difficult to reach your FULL potential. Even if you are the most naturally gifted athlete in the history of the sport it will take years of dedication and hard work to reach that point. Make good decisions, have intelligent and experienced advisers, focus on you weaknesses while maintaining you strengths. Improvement takes time and dedication so don’t think it will happen over night.
8. Have fun. The triathlon journey can be incredibly fun if you don’t get to caught up in the parts of it you can’t control. It is easy to get obsessed with results and it can take all of the fun out of the entire process. Remember life happens now not in the future. It’s ok to want to improve but not if it prevents you from experiencing the joy, excitement and fun that the sport has to offer. You only live once so try to enjoy the ride!