Triathlon is a unique sport that combines three very different sports, and it can be hard to balance all three disciplines, especially if you find yourself not liking one of them. Here are six common mistakes that many triathletes – both new and experienced – make.

  1. Work too Hard on the Bike

It is great to be a fast biker. It’s awesome to have a blazing bike split. However, if that bike split costs you a terrible run (in most cases, making it a walk), then it becomes a bad bike split because you overextended. Triathlon is not a bike race – there is still a run afterwards, so you need to plan for it. Stay within your means on the bike to give you an overall better time.

  1. Go too Hard on Easy Days and too Easy on Hard Days

In order to achieve peak performance, there are certain zones to stick within during each workout. Racing your long runs is actually more detrimental than beneficial to your training. Same goes for your speed work – on those days, you should be pushing yourself to the limit.

  1. Focus on the Wrong Numbers

More does not always equal better. Many athletes try to rack up miles as if s/he who does the most miles wins. It’s really not about quantity; it’s about the quality.

  1. Too Much too Soon

This is a glaring mistake that many long course triathletes make. Particularly in the Midwest, once the weather turns, athletes start putting in more miles regardless of when their “A” race is. The simple truth is that if your Ironman event is in September, you really needn’t be doing 100-mile bike rides in May and June. Taking more time and building a stronger base is more beneficial than hammering out longer or more intense workouts too early in the season.

  1. Improper Planning

Sure, most triathletes follow some sort of plan, whether it be from their coach, from a book, an online program, or even something they laid out themselves. The problem is either lack of big picture goals or the lack of focus on each particular workout. If the goal of your swim workout is to improve technique by eliminating your arm crossover, why are you trying to get your fastest 50-yard freestyle time? Every workout should serve a purpose. It might be power, it might be speed or it might be technique; the goal is to focus on the purpose of every given workout and not turn it into a “how fast can I do this” workout.

  1. Improper Goal Setting

When setting goals, they should be realistic, obtainable, but also make you work and reach for them. Goals should be “SMART” – S-specific, M-measurable, A-achievable, R-realistic, T-time-bound. Where many triathletes fall short is the “realistic.” If you are running 10 minute miles in a flat-out 5K, why do you think you can run 9:30 minute miles on the back end of your Olympic distance triathlon? If your goal is to run those 9:30s in an Olympic triathlon, you’d better start training to do better than 9:30s in a 10K race. You can get there, but you just might need a little more time and planning to achieve those goals.

Triathlon is a wonderful sport, and if you train properly, you can achieve big goals. With proper training and planning, you can achieve great success. Leave your ego at the door, focus on you without worrying what everyone else is doing and execute your plan. This will set you up for a great season.

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MJ Gasik started competing in the sport of triathlon in 2003 and has completed 12 Ironman distance races including the World Championships in Kona, HI. MJ is a USAT Certified Coach, Ironman U Certified Coach, USMS Level 4 Certified Coach and is the founder and owner of Tri Right Coaching. MJ has coached hundreds of athletes from beginners through elite to personal bests in distances from sprint through Ironman.

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