Don't Know or Forgot

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By Bob Byard
Certified USA-Triathlon Coach and Fitness Trainer

Whether it's the off Season or you're just getting fired up, NOW is a good time to highlight some of the other-than-obvious differences in the three sports of triathlon -- and some things to remember when combining two or more of them. Some of the following may be new to you or at least something to reconsider when training or in competitions involving multisports.

To begin with, SWIMMING is usually a person's weakest sport, particularly if you don't have a swimming background. Thus, we either spend an excessive amount of time training and/or are basically intimidated by the simplest requirement of swimming: energy efficient forward motion. A couple of things to remember about swimming are important to having a sense of well-being, confidence and in gauging progress.

GET HELP: Bad techniques are easy to pick up (there are a lot more of them than the good ones). Get into a Master's Program, get someone knowledgeable to watch you swim and critique you, get filmed in the water, watch some professionally-made videos - - you're a rare individual who can read a book and go swim like a fish!

BE PATIENT: Perhaps in no other sport, do minor, seemingly insignificant adjustments to your stroke, body rotation, breathing, and kick make such huge differences. The problem with swimming faster/more efficiently is realizing a weakness exists, identifying it, and knowing how to correct it - that refers back to getting help.

BE CONSISTENT: Once you've learned what needs to be changed in your swimming and how to correctly do it, practice, practice, practice, but not necessarily 6-7 times a week. Do it the correct way all the time so that it eventually becomes the replacement for the action that was slowing you down and wasting your energy before.

TEMPER EMPHASIS: This alludes to not spending an excessive amount of training time on improving your swimming for a minor "return on your investment." Spending 2 extra days a week in the pool or lake or an extra hour or two swimming during each workout isn't time well-spent if the progress in time or technique aren't satisfying or significant - you're "over focusing" detracts from other training where the time may be better spend. The amount of emphasis you feel you need to improve your swimming is your decision. The question you need to answer is: is the time spent worth it? Bottom line is that you do need to spend time improving, but at what point is the improvement not worth the effort? It's your call.

Next, CYCLING begins well before getting on your bike when it's nice outside and going from point "A" to "B". In no other sport is the mechanical part of "fit" so important; so many things can go wrong, singularly or in combination. The saying that "speed costs" is only partially correct in cycling; speed also comes from the right equipment, proper maintenance, varying effort, and a realistic objective.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT: Doesn't mean the most expensive; this goes back to wasting your money on buying a bike or component for a performance improvement that isn't worth the cost. You need to answer the question: Are the $s I'm about to invest worth the speed or comfort I might get? (If you're looking for "lighter" and faster, sometimes losing some body weight and training smarter is more practical...:)). Shop around, ride different bikes, talk to store owners and your fellow athletes. Read articles, get questions answered, and get comfortable with not only what you want, but also most importantly, what you can afford. It doesn't matter if you want something you can't afford. Set a price limit on a new bike or an upgrade and stick to it.

INCREMENTALLY UPGRADE: your existing bike's components if the frame fits and you like it. The pluses or minuses of a specific bike change can be directly traced back to your most recent change in equipment. Get new pedals, then aerobars, then seat - as you made these changes, usually necessary adjustments are identifiable and doable. But upgrade with specific objectives. If you buy a totally new setup and if doesn't work, what part of the whole system is specifically good or bad? If you change your seat, seat post, aerobars, and pedals simultaneously and you have back and/or knee pain, what in particular can you identify was the cause?

GET FITTED: to your bike to make sure it fits you, whether it's a new setup or your old bike. Pay a professional to do all the measurements to be sure you're buying the right bike as a package, that what you're going to continue to ride is fitted to you, or as you make major component changes to your existing bike. Your bike frame and all the right components need to fit to you, not you to them. And it's smart to get more than one bike fit a Season; as the miles pass, minor adjustments may be appropriate to avoid big problems in comfort and/or speed "down the road".

DO MAINTENANCE, both preventive and periodic. Paraphrasing the advertisement: "you can pay some now, or you can pay more later." Prevent costly repairs or accidents by being pro-active with your bike upkeep. Keep it clean, lubricated, all parts tight, and check the frame frequently for cracks or weaknesses. Plan scheduled checks of the chain, bottom bracket, etc. and do repairs needed before finding them out the hard way - - more costly repairs and injuries can be avoided by paying attention to the condition and needs of you bike.

Lastly, RUNNING is what many of us have done more than swimming or cycling so we perhaps don't pay as much attention to some parts of it as we do to the other sports. Not smart.

CHECK FORM AND TECHNIQUE: The best feedback is to be video taped or evaluated by someone with experience who can give a clear, simple critique - - with suggestions for drills and/or other ideas to increase running efficiency.

Don't forget to periodically get an expert to EVALUATE YOUR SHOE NEEDS, be it cushioning, orthodics, stability, etc.; running in the wrong shoes is as bad as riding on the wrong bike. Fit is critical to comfort and injury prevention.

ROTATE SHOE WEAR: To extend the life of your shoes; alternating running in different pairs of shoes has the synergistic effect of extending the life of each pair more than if you'd run through one pair and then another. You can lace your shoes different ways to avoid foot problems (circulation, pain, etc.) and keeping them clean will extend their life.

Notice that in none of the above have I given you specific drills, distances, techniques, or speeds; all the above are ideas and practices that will allow you to train safer, smarter, longer, and hopefully faster throughout your Season. To do the training and competitions, you have to do the workouts and preparations smartly and methodically. The same goes for being aware of the many small facets of our sports that contribute to successful training and racing, that we tend to ignore or forget until they become serious; don't step around the elephants and stumble over the alligators.

Training smart doesn't just mean doing specific workouts at specific times for specific reasons. Preparation, correction, repetition, knowledge, attention to detail, equipment, mindset, and feedback - all are training facets "interwoven into the fabric of efficiency, distance, and speed"; heavy huh? But think about it; multisport training and competition can be a very large puzzle with some very small pieces - - pay attention and don't lose sight of any of them; if you do, you'll probably miss the whole picture, or not do the workout, or not finish the race, or…

Stay safe and train smart.

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Training smart doesn't just mean doing specific workouts at specific times or for specific reasons.