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Given the mostly-lost triathlon season of 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it feels a bit eerie that the 2021 race season is only a month or two away (at least in theory), depending on where you live. But, I’m sure I’m like thousands of passionate and committed triathletes who are already training hard in pursuit of their 2021 triathlon goals.
Because triathlon training is so complicated and difficult, I want to share with you Taylor’s Ten Laws of Prime Triathlon Training that will provide you with a way to approach your training that will maximize both its effectiveness in preparing you to race your fastest and its efficiency, given that we all lead busy lives and need to use our time to its utmost.
First Law: Prime Triathlon is not achieved on the day you compete, but rather in the days, weeks, and months before the competition. Many triathletes believe that if they’re ready to go on the day of the triathlon, then they are prepared to perform their best. But I have found that success is determined more by what you do in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the competition. If you’ve put in the time and effort to develop your physical, technical, tactical, and mental abilities, you will have the capabilities and the belief to perform your best on the day of the triathlon.
Second Law: Take responsibility for everything that impacts your triathlon performance. The only way that prime preparation can be achieved is if you know every area that influences your triathlon performance. These areas include all of the components of physical, technical, tactical, and mental preparation. They also include areas outside of triathlon, including sleep, work, school, relationships, and tech use. If you address every one of these areas, you can be sure that when you are about to enter the water, you will be totally prepared to perform your best.
Third Law: Triathlon preparation is about the Grind. To be your best, you have to put a lot of time and effort into your training. I call this the Grind, which involves having to put hours upon hours of time into training, well beyond the point that it is fun and exciting. If you let these immediate negative aspects of your training override your long-term goals of working hard and putting in the time, your motivation is going to suffer and you’re not going to get the most out of your training nor perform your best on race day. When you get to the Grind, you need to keep on going!
Fourth Law: Prime Triathlon requires smart mileage. Training for a triathlon demands that you put in large amounts of mileage in swimming, biking, and running. However, there can be a tendency among triathletes to believe that more is better. This attitude can lead to overtraining, burnout, and injury. A well-planned triathlon training program will balance high mileage, quality mileage, and, most importantly, rest. The physical demands of a triathlon training program call for smart training, not hard training.
Fifth Law: Patience and persistence are essential to achieving Prime Triathlon. Triathlon fitness takes time to develop and you will experience plateaus and down periods along the path to Prime Triathlon. You may become frustrated, impatient, and want to quit. If you let frustration and impatience overwhelm you, you will never achieve Prime Triathlon. If you understand that progress takes time and that there is no way to hurry the conditioning process, you will have the patience to achieve Prime Triathlon. Drawing on that patience, if you persist long enough in the face of setbacks and obstacles, the improvement will come, and you will achieve Prime Triathlon.
Sixth Law: Prime preparation requires clear purpose, prime focus, and prime intensity. You must have a clear purpose that tells you what you’re doing in training every day. You must consistently maintain focus on your purpose during training. Your body must be physically capable of performing the purpose by being rested and healthy.
Seventh Law: Consistent training leads to consistent triathlon performance. Consistency is essential for Prime Triathlon and is one of the most important qualities that put the best triathletes above the rest. Consistency in a triathlon comes from consistency in training. Consistency relates to every aspect of training and life. In addition to the obvious areas such as conditioning, technique, and tactics, it also pertains to attitude, effort, focus, intensity, emotions, sleep, and diet. Any area that influences your performance must be consistent before you can be consistent in a race.
Eighth Law: Failure is essential for Prime Triathlon. There cannot be success without failure. Failure shows you what is not working. It means that you are moving out of your comfort zone and pushing your body and mind to new levels. Failure means you are taking risks. Failure teaches you how to deal positively with adversity. Quite simply, if you are not failing, you are not becoming a better triathlete.
Ninth Law: Prime Triathlon comes from “one more thing, one more time.” You can assume that most of your competitors are working hard to become the best triathletes they can be. If you want to defeat them, you must ask yourself, “What can I do to get the edge over them?” Here is a simple rule I learned from an Olympic champion: “One more thing, one more time.” When you feel you have done enough, you should do one more lap, do one more set of weights, or do one more mile. By doing one more thing, one more time, you are doing that little bit extra that will separate you on the day of the competition. Note: This law needs to be balanced with the Fourth Law related to smart mileage.
Tenth Law: Prime preparation is devoted to readying yourself to perform your best under the most demanding conditions in the most important triathlon of your life. I’m not interested in you performing well in unimportant races, under ideal conditions, against a field that you know you can defeat. The ultimate goal of Prime Triathlon is for you perform your best when it really counts. Prime preparation will allow you to achieve Prime Triathlon in your equivalent of Ironman Hawaii.
Do you want to take the next step in training your mind to perform your best in training and on race day? Here are four options for you:
- Read my latest mental training book: Train Your Mind for Athletic Success: Mental Preparation to Achieve Your Triathlon Goals.
- Listen to my Train Your Mind for Athletic Success podcast.
- Take a look at my online mental training courses.
- Schedule a 1:1 session with me.
Jim Taylor, PhD, psychology, is an internationally recognized authority on the psychology of endurance sports. Jim has been a consultant to USA Triathlon and works with Olympic, professional, and age-group endurance athletes in triathlon, cycling, running, swimming, and Nordic skiing. A former alpine ski racer who competed internationally, Jim is a 2nd-degree black belt in karate, sub-3-hour marathoner, Ironman, and USAT nationally ranked triathlete. Jim is the author of 17 books, including The Triathlete’s Guide to Mental Training (with Terri Schneider) and Train Your Mind for Athletic Success: Mental Preparation for Achieving Your Sports Goals. Jim is also the host of the Train Your Mind for Athletic Success podcast. To learn more, visit www.drjimtaylor.com.