The Biggest Training Mistakes You Should Avoid, Part 1

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Training is a sport that requires a lot of dedication, many hours of training, and good planning. Most triathletes take their training seriously. However, I also see most triathletes make some common mistakes over and over again. Eventually, those turn out to be the biggest training mistakes in terms of gaining momentum and impeding progress.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. – Dr. Seuss

I have already mentioned a few times about the complexity of triathlon training. For time-crunched athletes, it gets even more difficult to manage all 3 sports. So, it’s very easy to make mistakes, in fact, I did too. That’s why I’d like to talk about the five biggest training mistakes and why you should avoid them.

Training in the “No-Man’s Land”

This is the most common and biggest training mistake I see most of the time. It feels very rewarding to train in this zone but the return is pretty nominal.

First of all, let’s explain this gray area. There are various training zones, by heart rate or by power, but in general, they can be divided into these 3 zones- easy, medium and hard. It’s that middle zone we tend to get stuck and make one the biggest training mistakes.

You should not train more than 10-15% of your total weekly volume of training at this intensity. If you exceed the recommended volume, initially you’ll feel improvement but slowly the gains will plateau and you’ll build up a ton of fatigue. This “comfortably hard” zone is ironically neither comfortable nor hard enough to stimulate improvement.

Too many hard sessions

Do you believe that the only way to get fast is to train fast? Yes, you need hard and fast sessions but too many times we’re guilty of making every session a hard one. This is a recipe for burnout and even worse, creating injuries.

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Usually, it’s best to schedule two hard sessions per week. Any more, and you risk compromising other sessions. Also, try to train more in the “easy” zone. You’ll achieve a lot of training benefit but will not be tired. It might sound surprising but 60-70% of your total training should be in the “easy” zone.

When I say “easy”, I really mean easy. Too many times, we fall in the trap of making an easy workout hard. As a result, fatigue builds up, muscles and joints suffer from inflammation and soon you find yourself unable to continue training or worse stop training altogether due to tiredness or injury.

Lack of recovery

We triathletes are motivated, disciplined, and willing to work hard to improve but sometimes we also take things a bit more seriously. The key to getting faster is through proper recovery. Our body only gets stronger when we allow it to heal and then put it through grueling training.

Hence lack of recovery is one of the biggest training mistakes. Whenever you schedule a training plan, think about your recovery as well. Too many times, we focus on the workout duration but ignore the recovery aspect. If you plan a high-intensity session, plan enough recovery valleys between the hard repeats.

Don’t be afraid to have a proper rest day either. Schedule one day in a week as a complete recovery day. if you want to do an active recovery session, keep them very EASY and SHORT. Another training mistake is to make a recovery day hard. The main objective of a recovery workout is to recover, not adding more stress. In that case, it’s better to skip it completely.

Ignoring strength training

Avoiding strength training is another training. There’s a fear between some endurance athletes that strength training will make them heavy and bulky. That is not correct at all. Triathlon puts a lot of stress on the body and unless we build a strong muscle, we’ll be able to cope with the stress nor perform on as per our expectation on race day.

The biggest benefit of strength training is the ability to prevent injury. I can’t stress enough the importance of weight training. Not only it builds a strong body, but it also helps strengthen joints and ligaments. You also develop core strength and become more efficient at saving energy.

You don’t have to schedule too many days for strength training. A couple of days in the gym is more than enough. Include workouts that are specific for swim, bike and run. Spend around 30-45 minutes doing strength routine and some core workouts.

Doing or following the workouts that others are doing

Every human body is unique although we’re made up of the same biology. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. Some are good in a sprint and some in endurance. The most important part of training Is to first know yourself and your body. You have to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.

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Yes, it can take some time to figure out and probably will need some patience but that’s the beauty of the sport. It’s you vs the challenge and you need to find out a training plan that’s relevant. The biggest training mistake is following something without knowing or what others are doing because it may be completely incompatible with your body and goals.

Sometimes we forget that we’re time-crunched athletes and try to follow what professional athletes are doing. We must remember that it’s their job to train 8 hours a day. Having a day job is stressful enough and to augment more training stress does add up. Can you train 15-16 hours per week? if you can’t then don’t try to squeeze them in. Your planning should be realistic. Fit the workouts around your life, not the other way around.

In summary

These are the five biggest training mistakes we tend to make. There are more too. I hope to write about them in another article soon enough. Thanks for reading today though. See you soon again.

If you want to read part 2 of the article, please click here.

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