10 Ways You’re Making Triathlon Harder than it Needs to Be

26 June, 2018

10 Ways You’re Making Triathlon Harder than it Needs to Be

Don't over-complicate the sport you love.

by Lisa Dolbear

Triathlon is all about moving forward…stroke, stroke, pedal, pedal, left-right, left-right all the way to the finish line. Simple, right? Not always. 

The mind is a complicated thing, and though it serves as one of the most powerful forces in the multisport journey, it can sometimes stall our best efforts. Here are ten ways you’re making triathlon harder than it needs to be. 

1. You compare yourself to others

Sure, we’ve all had that moment where we’re scrolling through Instagram and notice a shot of a buddy’s watch after a run. One glance at the pace-per-mile, and we suddenly feel we're not measuring up. While some comparison is natural and healthy, doing it obsessively can actually be detrimental to your performance. Whereas other sports quantify success with scores, MVPs and "winner takes all" reward systems, we triathletes celebrate PRs, finisher’s medals and age-group rankings. Look for the smaller victories to validate your progress.

2. You’re too busy #training to train

Speaking of Instagram, how much time do you spend art directing the perfect selfie before you actually get out of zone 1? One of the top obstacles for triathletes is finding the time to properly train—yet some of the workout glamor shots on social media lead me to believe there’s at least 10 to 20 minutes being spent on cropping, filter choice and hashtag selection that could have been used for a warm-up or a core workout. 

3. You’re over-planning things

A good workout doesn’t require much—mostly effort and the right attitude. Trying to accommodate other things within your training can create confusion. Simplify your schedule by stripping away the parts of the equation that have nothing to do with the actual workout. Instead of figuring out the best way to run 10 kilometers miles along a specific route or during your favorite time of day—just seize the best opportunity to run 10 kilometers, period.

4. You’re training with the wrong people 

When it comes to training partners, think of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. For the most part, it’s best to find the people who are "just right" for your athletic ability and goals. If you’re constantly pushing with people that are faster than you, you risk burning out or getting injured. If you spend all of your time hanging back with people that are slower than you, you won’t challenge yourself. In either case, you will have a harder time reaching your goals.

5. You borrow trouble 

Are you always imagining worst-case scenarios? If you’re not sure, do a quick assessment on yourself before your next workout. Did you gather gear for every possible type of weather? Have you Googled every "niggle" you feel from head to toe after yesterday’s workout? Are you constantly feeling the need to prove your "theories" on why things aren’t going as planned? You need to RELAX. For most of us non-pros, training is best approached with a laid back attitude—focus on the goal of the training session and prepare the basics to be safe (spare tire, sunscreen, helmet), then go with the flow. The ability to face the unknown is part of being a successful triathlete.

6. You’re keeping up with the Joneses

Triathlon can be an expensive sport—but it doesn’t have to be. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest when it comes to gear and gadgets, but the "flash factor" will never replace the "fire factor" when it comes to what makes this sport truly enjoyable. You can’t buy passion and drive. 

7. You choose the wrong races

Triathlon has grown to include a variety of race distances and locations, from sprints to full-distance races, and from your local gym to exotic. Choosing an event that fits your athletic ability is important when it come to finding ease in multisport. Find races that feature terrain and climates suited to your strengths, and events that you can easily manage when it comes to prepping gear and traveling. 

8. You set unrealistic goals 

Many athletes dream of getting on the podium or earning the opportunity to race in a world championship. Reaching such goals comes down to several factors that are out of our control—yet we approach race day with the mindset that we can make anything happen as long as we want it enough. Remember that it's not productive to obsess about what place you’re in for your age group. Just focus on the task at hand.

9. You’re holding too much baggage 

Everyone has at least one tale of how things went poorly in their last race, from nutrition woes to DNFs to gadget malfunctions. There are a thousand ways your race can suck, and it only takes one of them to get planted in your brain and mess up your mojo. Leave your negative energy and experiences at the door, and use visualization techniques to help soothe anxiety from your past blunders. Think of your mind like a Bento box—it’s just big enough to fit your essential needs, so ditch the baggage and pack positive thoughts.

10. You’re making the sport too solitary 

There’s more to the multisport world than the independent quest of a single athlete. For many, it’s camaraderie that keeps them coming back for more. Triathlete Cheryl Cook, from Syracuse, NY, says the connection she feels with other people in this sport is priceless. "They’re like family. When I see someone do their first 100-mile bike ride, or their first long brick, then cross a finish line for the first time, that in itself inspires me," she says. Cook also finds some comfort in her training partners. "Sharing the journey with friends makes the struggles easier to handle."

Lisa Dolbear is a triathlete, cycling coach, marketing professional, and mother of two.