3 biggest triathlon mistakes to avoid – according to Tom Bishop
British Triathlon elite Tom Bishop is beginning to turn his hand to coaching, and tells 220 the common errors he’s seen through a career spent in multisport
Tom Bishop is one of the leading British triathletes of the past decade. A consistent performer in the World Triathlon Series, the 29-year-old has a career-best result of runner-up in Abu Dhabi in 2017.
With Covid-19 having played a hand in curtailing his 2020 season, he’s turned his focus to coaching, launching a new business with fellow triathletes, his twin brother David and Josh Daniels.
Tom spoke to 220 to share a few of his coaching secrets, and here he reveals three of the most common mistakes he sees triathletes making… and how you can avoid them.
MISTAKE 1: TRYING TO COPY OTHERS
“While a specific training regimen might work for one, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for all. Even in elite racing, triathletes try to copy the methods they’ve seen others use to be successful – and it rarely works out well.
“Each of us needs to find our own strengths and weaknesses and then focus on maintaining or improving them. This could be through lab testing or just by experimenting with test sessions in a controlled environment.
“Don’t underestimate the importance of having conversations with those around you too. It might be your coach, training partners or even family members.
“Sometimes we find it difficult to self-analyse effectively. If they’re involved with your performance in any way, ask what they think your strong suits are and where you can improve.”
MISTAKE 2: REPEAT. REPEAT. REPEAT
“While it’s essential to be consistent, this doesn’t mean continuing to do the same thing over and over just because you’ve had success in the past.
“What’s got you so far, won’t necessarily take you to the next level. There’s a need to change and adapt to keep things fresh, or performances tend to plateau.
“I used to spend a lot of time riding at sub-threshold – the sort of effort you might sustain for a distance between 10km and half-marathon on the run.
“At first it got me fitter on the bike, but I put all my focus into it and neglected the other areas. I slowly started losing form, not just on bike, but on the run too. Without the top end stuff, my biomechanics changed, and I stopped running as fast.”
MISTAKE 3: OVERHAULING TECHNIQUE
“This is particularly relevant to the swim, which is the most technical of all three discipline and requires a relatively high level of skill to catch the water and move forward.
“But completely trying to change technique in a short period, from a shorter, choppier stroke to a nice long pull stroke, for example, doesn’t work because your body has years of ingrained training to combat.
“It’s especially true the older you get, where the more you should maximise what you have, and refine and tweak to become more efficient.
“I’ll admit this is quite a controversial view as a lot of coaches like to overhaul strokes when they see errors.
“But I believe you’ll save a lot more time by focusing on the basic stuff like swimming in a straight line and being able to go around a turn buoy fast.”
Tom Bishop has launched 99Triathlon, offering bespoke triathlon training plans tailored to the needs and desires of each individual.
He cites his mum as one of his biggest influences to start coaching. “She was a marathon runner and county level swimmer who later moved to tri,” he says. “She taught me a lot about making sure I enjoy what I’m doing, or the motivation won’t be there – always encouraging us to find the right balance between training, education and a social life.”