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Train Like A Professional Triathlete

Some of the sport's top athletes discuss goal setting, strength work, open-water swimming, brick workouts, race prep and more.

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For newcomers to the sport, triathlon can be overwhelming. The options for gear, training techniques and nutrition are endless—and often unwieldy to tackle on one’s own. We reached out to 14 triathlon veterans for their best advice and insights to make your triathlon experience even better. Each day this week we’ve shared their advice on a different topic. Today, the pros discuss their training techniques, plans and progress.

Rachel Joyce: Getting into good habits early on with strength and conditioning is essential to avoid frustrating niggles and injuries. You may initially get away with it, but loading up on training without a good strength and conditioning program will catch up with you eventually.

Terenzo Bozzone: Set goals along the way so you have something to work toward. It may be as simple as finishing a half-Ironman or getting through the marathon of an Ironman without walking.

Linsey Corbin: If you have the opportunity to get into open water, practice! Most newbies are super scared about the swim, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll become. Practice in your wetsuit so you don’t panic or get claustrophobic—even in a swimming pool if you don’t have access to open water, just so you know what it feels like.

Mary Beth Ellis: Don’t rush straight into Ironman. Spend some years enjoying and building your skills in short-distance events and then move up to the big daddy of races.

Jimmy Riccitello: Consistency will bring results. When you map out your training plan, be honest with yourself about the amount of time you have to dedicate to training, and then scale that back a bit. Running two days per week, week in and week out, may be consistent for you—and that’s fine. It’s better to consistently run two days per week than to run six days per week for two weeks, then miss the next two weeks of running because you’re fried, injured or ill.

Meredith Kessler: You will always have “WEB” workouts: Why even bother? These are workouts where your body just doesn’t have it on the day. Try to power through the workout and don’t give up. These lessons will shine through on race day on the last miles of the run.

Cliff English: Run off the bike often. Even if it’s just an easy 15-minute run off the bike in the off-season, the muscle memory of bike-to-run is important to reinforce year-round.

Michellie Jones: I tell people to set three goals. One beginner progress goal (for example, to run 5K by a certain date), one the actual race, and one further out. Think beyond the race or achievement you’re training for so that you don’t feel let down wondering what’s next once you accomplish that goal.

Leanda Cave: I am a creature of habit. I like to do the same training week in and week out on the same roads. It’s the best way to judge my fitness.

Jimmy Riccitello: Initially, keep your training bouts short and sweet, and train frequently. This makes it more likely that you will complete your training, and will allow you to gradually increase the intensity and speed of your workouts without breaking down.

Linsey Corbin: The treadmill is a great tool for developing a fast turnover when you’re learning how to run. I also like the treadmill for running off the bike because it’s a controlled environment. You can have your drinks and nutrition right there, and you can control the speed.

Cliff English: What are you preparing for: a hilly race? A flat race? An off-road race? A hot and humid race? Training should be geared specifically to address these factors.

Tim O’Donnell: Be ready to hurt. The good results hurt more!

Michellie Jones: Don’t just concentrate on what you’re already good at—concentrate on the discipline where you need to improve!

Train Like A Pro: Nutrition
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Train Like A Pro: Recovery And Injury Prevention
Train Like A Pro: Gear And Gadgets