Top Pros Share Their Training Epiphanies

Six of the sport’s top pros share their “ah-ha” moment—the one that helped them take that big leap in their careers.

Photo: Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images for Ironman

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If you want to get better at triathlon, there are only two things you can do: Get some better equipment, or train harder. Unfortunately, new gear can only help so much. As for the training harder part? It’s not as simple as smashing yourself to bits every time you swim, bike, or run. 

We solicited a few of the fastest triathletes on earth to learn the philosophical breakthroughs that helped take them to where they are today. 

Have a positive attitude every day

Matt McElroy (U.S. Olympic hopeful; three-time ITU World Cup winner)

Photo: Janos Schmidt/

“Everything started to click in 2019 when I started to think differently. This helped me breakthrough because I shifted my focus to thinking more positively. As a result, I showed up to training sessions and races with more energy. When the gun goes off on race day, things get extremely hard, and doubt can begin to creep in. For a lot of athletes, doubt leads to a bad performance, because negative thoughts are attached to an emotion. The more I was able to practice mindfulness and positive thinking on a daily basis, the more consistent my racing and training was.”

RELATED: Check out our *Active Pass Member Exclusive Story* “Keep Positive Self-Talk in Your Mental Toolbox During Training and Races”

Control every session

Sarah Crowley (Five-time Ironman champion; fastest Australian female in Kona history)

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

“I recently had a revelation that I am in complete control of how I apply my effort and energy towards each session and my career. You have to want it. On the way up, you’re making progress and motivation comes from seeing these regular gains. After a few setbacks, you have to find the motivation from within. It all starts with wanting to be your best and giving 100% to each session.” 

RELATED: Check out our *Active Pass Member Exclusive Story* “Intensity is Essential for Triathlon Success

Process over pressure, riding the trainer

Paula Findlay (Two-time Challenge Daytona champion; 2012 Olympian)

Photo: Eric Lagerstrom

“No single training session matters that much. It’s consistency over time, avoiding injuries, and enjoying the process that leads to the best results. Younger me stressed way too much about every single workout, and since taking some pressure off of myself, I’ve been training and racing better than ever.”

“Also, riding the trainer for three months straight was the only reason I won Daytona. That was an ‘ah-ha’ moment, too.”

RELATED: Check out our *Active Pass Member Exclusive Story* “Keep Your Eye On the Process” and “Four Smart Trainer Modes You Might Not Know About”

Don’t fear failure

Tim Reed (21-time Ironman 70.3 winner; 2016 Ironman 70.3 world champion)

Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman

“My biggest philosophical breakthrough was that ultimately no one really cares that much. Often, after a disappointing race, you’re so tied up in the preparation that you lose perspective that it is simply an athletic competition—nothing more. I think early in my pro career I was so scared of not racing well and living up to other people’s expectations (however real or imagined) that it really derailed my performances at the most important races of my season. Once I let go of that fear of failure, I saw a huge jump in my performances.”

RELATED: Check out our *Active Pass Member Exclusive Story* “Confidence Is the Key to Race Day Success”

Consistency over monster workouts

Lauren Brandon (Ironman Boulder course record holder; former NCAA all-American swimmer)

Photo: Brad Kaminski

“One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve received for triathlon is that consistency over time is key. Of course it’s cool to do epic workouts sometimes, but what really matters is just ticking away one workout at a time week in and week out. That one workout is not going to matter if you continue to just be consistent over long periods of time.” 

RELATED: Check out our *Active Pass Member Exclusive Story* “Consistency is the Foundation of Triathlon Success”

Embrace your support team

Cody Beals (Three-time Ironman champion; Ironman Mont-Tremblant course record holder)

Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images for Ironman

“I used to take pride in being a lone wolf. I thought I could be a self-taught expert in every aspect of the sport. I refused the help of others because I felt like it would somehow cheapen my accomplishments. Eventually—though a series of screwups—I realized that it takes a support team to reach your potential, even if triathlon is an individual sport.”

RELATED: Check out our *Active Pass Member Exclusive Story* “These Companies Get It! 5 Triathlon-Friendly Workplaces in the U.S.”

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