5 Ways to Stay on Track for an Early-Season Triathlon

Five ways to stay motivated and on track for your first triathlon of the year.

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The alarm goes off at 4:30 am. You hit snooze It goes off at 4:40 am. It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s wet. You turn that coffee machine on. You shuffle to throw on your swimsuit. It is 25 degrees out and the thought of getting into a pool does NOT sound appealing.

You ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Yes, you have that early season race, maybe 70.3 Oceanside or 70.3 Texas.

As you are preparing for your early season triathlon, know that there are many other triathletes doing the same thing, and they are all dealing with different elements and challenges.

So how do you balance your indoor training with your outdoor training for that early season long-distance race? As someone who lives in the south, we feel pretty lucky to be able to train year-round for the most part, but we too struggle with finding a balance with indoor and outdoor training.

With this in mind, here are five ways to stay motivated and on track for your early season long-distance triathlon, regardless of what Mother Nature might throw at you.

Find a Masters swim group (or friends to meet you at the pool regularly)

The best thing about swimming with a Masters group or your friends is the accountability factor. You know that the Masters group will be there and you hope that your friends will show up as well.

So many newer triathletes tend not to go swim with a Masters group because they may feel that they are not fast enough. Not true! The swim coach will be able to adjust the workout to your level and while you may be swimming next to a 65-year-old knocking out 1:30’s on the 100’s or swimming next to an Olympian, they are still pushing you on your 100’s. Once again it is all about the accountability factor.

Another reason to swim with a Masters group is because the workout is provided for you. However, you must chat with the coach and tell them your goals. They will know that you don’t need to work on your butterfly or your breaststroke. Although, practicing those other strokes actually makes it fun for your triathlon training and helps switch things up a bit. And, working with a Masters group can help those of you still learning how to do a flip turn.

Tip: Check out the U.S. Masters Swimming website to see if there is a Masters swim group near you.

Get on a Cycling App to Motivate You

Some of the best training rides other than being outside is jumping on the trainer with a smart trainer or a cycling app, especially if you do it right. Check out this article to learn about several apps that suit a variety of cycling needs.

One thing that you want to remember about training indoor versus outside is that there may be a difference in your numbers and this can be frustrating. For example, you may do a 40K time trial inside to get a baseline for your indoor training and then you will head out to do a 40K TT, maybe a week later. Your numbers may be higher outside or lower outside, which is kind of an individual thing. My advice to you is that if you do have different numbers from outside or inside, don’t get frustrated by it, use those specific numbers for what ride you are doing that day.

Tip: Get a baseline for your numbers indoor and outdoors. Use the numbers that you figured out for each type of workout and try not to do more than what your coach puts you down at.

Learn to love the treadmill

I’m truly impressed by those who will bundle up for their long runs and come back with snow/ice on their eyelashes. If you don’t have that thick skin, then the next best option would be the treadmill.

Many treadmills will “cut” you off at an hour and automatically shut down. My suggestion if you are doing a longer run than an hour is to run for about 20 to 30 minutes, jump over to the next treadmill and finish the run (obviously this works best in a gym with multiple treadmills).

The biggest learning about the treadmill is to make sure you place your treadmill at a 1 percent grade.

Tip: Check out Treadmill Pace Conversions. I thought it was a very helpful article to see where you are at with pacing and incline.

Finding that “why”

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” ~Mark Twain

“Why” is a hot topic of discussion when it comes to life, job, family, and training for that early season race.

Ask yourself, WHY do you do triathlons? There are so many reasons: to feel better, to show my kids that hard work pays off, to relieve stress, to have a better lifestyle (not resolutions) and heck, maybe to look better in your swimsuit. Regardless of what your why is, figure it out. When you look at that clock at 4:40 am and it is cold, dark and miserable out, you must know the reason why you get up.

Tip: Trying to figure the whole “why” thing? Check out Simon Sinek TEDx Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”

Suck it up buttercup

Yes, I said it. Remember, you made the decision to sign up for the early season race. Yes, it is going to stink getting into the pool at 5:00 am with it being 30 degrees outside. Yes, it is cold outside. Yes, it is snowing out.

As I tell my athletes, you paid to do this race, and you chose to do this race. Now, as coaches, we want you to go out there and make it happen not only for yourself but for that “why” as well.

Tip: It is okay to whine and moan every once in a while, you are human. If you are whining more often than not, maybe it is time to reevaluate your goals.

As coaches, we may see athletes signing up for that early season race, only to watch them get frustrated with their training since some of them may not have the options above (Masters group, treadmill or smart trainer). Remember coaches, it is our job to really sit down with our clients to make sure we are giving them the good, the bad and the ugly.

As an athlete, signing up for that early season race can be pretty tough during those cold months. There are many tools and options. Remember to surround yourself with your family, your tribe, and your coach to motivate you to get to that early season race. You want to start your triathlon season off with a positive experience and carry it throughout the year.

This article originally appeared at Trainingpeaks.com.

Jen Rulon is a USA Triathlon Level I Coach of 16+ years and owner of Jenrulon.com.

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