Measuring Your Progress in Triathlon

By Rodrigo Tosta, Coach, Brazil

Triathlon is a sport that requires great organization and discipline. It is not easy to combine the daily tasks, work, family, friends let alone a schedule containing three sports. But triathlon is a natural love and this leads to all aspects of developments in the search for performance. But how does one know if they are on track? What do you need to assess, to have a real idea that workouts are paying off?

This week, an athlete sent me an e-mail describing his concern that his long bike training was well below expectations, with higher heart rate, average speed and power normalized low, as in recent weeks he had good sense and the training data had been much better.

One thing should be clear to every triathlete is that we should not compare each practice as specific and individual. We analyze the average long-term training. This is because many factors can alter the outcome of each workout and we usually have no control over all these variables. When you are in a solid training structure, it is natural that fatigue is a companion of every hour and it can mask the numbers. If you, for example, always make the 20x100m series in the pool with an interval of 15sec and today swam 1min30sec, but last year could hold 1min25sec, know that several days last year were above 1min30sec. So compare workouts with training tired, or better, the average training rather than randomly.


Another thing to be aware of is comparing modes or types of training that are not the focus of the current schedule.  It is not ideal to compare your time trial in cycling, if you are, for example, trying to improve your running and or even trying to lose weight.

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In general, it is important to avoid testing in practice; it can crush your confidence. Tests make strong people feel weak, and make weak people feel strong. And that is not what we want.

With regard to racing, an important thing is not to have specific expectations (eg swimming for 28-29min in 1.9km) because we can never be certain about the conditions and distances and these aspects can influence the rest of the race. I remember the Ironman Brazil 2007, when I left the sea and my time was much more than I expected, but I realized I was in the middle of athletes that until then I had never been able to swim with, which made me understand that it was not my time,  it was bad, but everyone’s time was also higher. Probably, the conditions were unfavorable and in fact I swam better than previous years to be in that select group. Try to concentrate on doing your best and leave the results to come out naturally in the end.

Even with professional athletes that change happens. Your results may differ from a race to another, but this cannot be associated with improvement or deterioration in performance in a timely manner, as these athletes are extremely consistent in their training and assessments and such variation may be related to random events such as weather conditions on race day.

A clear example of this was to see Alistair Brownlee win a round of the ITU World Tour Kitzbuehel running 31min01sec and the following year to win the Olympic gold medal in London running 29min07sec for the same 10km. Considering the maximum that the athlete has trained, it is very unlikely that he has really improved two minutes in his run from one year to the next. What probably happened is that the conditions on the day of the Olympic race were more favorable and the dynamics of the race may have had a greater weight in the outcome of the race stage, among other things that we never know for sure.

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Understand that there are many factors that influence both training and the race results and that it is impossible to master all that is around you. So be consistent in training, always do your best every day and be careful when comparing the average result of all you are doing, looking for context. Remember to only control the controllable and especially to enjoy!

Enjoy your training!

ironguides is the leading Lifestyle Facilitation company for athletes of all abilities. We provide coaching and training services, plans and programs, as well training education, health and fitness products to help you learn and live a healthy lifestyle. Come get fit with one of our monthly training subscriptions, event-specific training plans, coaching services, or a triathlon training camp in an exotic location! ironguides also provides Corporate Health services including Corporate Triathlons, Healthy Living retreats and speaking engagements. At ironguides, your best is our business!

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