6 good triathlon training habits to develop

Good triathlon training habits will last you a lifetime, so lose the bad ones, says Joe Beer. Here’s how

Change bad habits to good

When it comes to training, there are plenty of things you can, and should, keep constant throughout the year. But now firmly ensconced in the off-season, it’s time to make subtle but key changes to your weekly regime to ensure the following months are filled with good technique work, endurance building and equipping yourself ready for the new season. 


But before you do anything too drastic, remember, it’s still early days, so don’t go too hard too soon. It’s all too easy to panic at this time of year and start incorporating speed work. What you should be doing is concentrating on the following six ‘good habits’ of highly effective training and begin to pull your training in line with your goals. Your A-race isn’t next month, so don’t train like it is!

You need to progress with some of your more ingrained habits and at the same time introduce some new ones to your toolkit of training methods. What this means is adding an extra session or two into your week or tweaking others until they work best for you.

So use these following pointers to inspire and motivate you to do the things you’ve been putting off. It’s
like that turn on your favourite route that you’ve always been meaning to take, but have just never gotten round to doing it. Well, now’s the time. Seize the day!

Habit 1: The 3:1 ratio

Your body is a cyclical beast, and works in approximately four-week blocks. So if you plan your training accordingly – building consistent training ‘blocks’ and adaptation ‘down-times’ into your training plan – you’ll almost certainly get
the best out of yourself.

This 3:1 plan makes you think ahead, and makes sure you adapt by reducing volume in the fourth week. It’s not hard to do. On the adaptation week, use the extra time gained from training less for body work, admin and seeing friends and family.

Action: work back from key races in four-week patterns, planning your raining months in advance.

Habit 2: Know yourself

Sit down with last year’s training diary and identify what was good, what wasn’t so good, and what was an absolute disaster. Then figure out how you’re not going to make those same mistakes again: the hardest part of training can be breaking old habits or making new ones.

If you don’t keep a training diary, start one. All that data can prove very valuable when, post-race, you’re trying to understand why things went well or went badly. And be honest, every slight bending of the truth equals time lost to the competition. Honesty can provide big gains for very little outlay.

Action: Look for three things you did wrong between January and April last year and come up with three ways in which they can be rectified this year.

Habit 3: Share the work

I’ve always stressed that it’s important for athletes to pick the right sessions for them, and not just join in with whatever the local club happens to be doing. Groups tend to tailor what they’re doing to a wide range of abilities, but we’re not all equal, so why do we think we can all train together? It’s fine to have mixed abilities for certain sessions, but it still has to meet the needs of everyone. Speed work for some is endurance pace for others.

Having said that, mixing fun into group sessions and occasional mini races can make winter and spring more enjoyable. Do it the ‘Top Gear’ way: decide on a destination and plot a different route to get there for each group ride. The losers buy the coffee! Run out-and-backs, turning at the same time so everyone arrives home together. Or mix abilities in the pool and do intervals, tagging each other after each length and making sure everyone puts in the effort. Be inventive with your training time and you’ll reap the benefits of training with others.

Action: Find athletes of a similar level to you to link up with and plan some worthwhile group sessions and fun races.

Habit 4: Use your race bike

You’d be daft not to use your race bike in winter, so mount it on the turbo, get in the aero position and work those racing muscles. It’s also the perfect opportunity to make tweaks to your bike and position.

Keeping in touch with your bike keeps your goals in the forefront of your mind. There’s so much tech on a bike compared with the other two disciplines, but I’d also recommend running off the bike in your race shoes and doing a session or two in your wetsuit. This way you won’t lose the feel of the kit you want to use come race day.

Action: Plan a turbo ride at least once a week on your race bike or spend time on the aerobars if you have a ‘does-it-all’ bike. For example:

Turbo power inclines

Warm-up: 20mins, mid Zone 1 (Z1) or 40-50% peak power.

Primer: 3mins, to include 4 x 6secs accelerations.

Main set: 3 x 8mins big gear or 60-65% peak power seated. Moderate to high resistance around 60-65rpm, HR build to 75-83% max, 3-5mins easy spin in between.

Cool-down: 5mins easy spin followed by 10min ‘shake out’ run.

Habit 5: Do weekly triathlons

Don’t panic, we don’t mean running dripping wet from the pool in 3°C temperatures before getting on your bike. Rather, mix a few sessions and mimic a triathlon. For example, pool swim, gym bike, treadmill run; swim cords, spin bike, outdoor run; rowing machine, rollers, treadmill; Vasa bench (shown above), turbo, XC run. It makes for an interesting, varied session and keeps things quick and time-efficient. Remember, there’s no need to race or turn it into a HIT session.

Far too many athletes look at triathlon with a single-sport mindset, and then get flustered on race day. Doing these mini triathlons will keep those triathlete-fibres twitching.

Action: Plan regular, tri-simulation sessions. Such as:

Mini tri

Set-up: Use pool with gym.

Swim: 30mins: 22mins skill work followed by 8mins of fast swimming, going as far as possible. Towel down, change into cycle gear.

Gym bike: 40mins: 10mins steady then 6 x 1mins out of saddle at 75rpm, with 4mins  light spinning. Transition off into run gear.

Run: 20min treadmill (or outdoors), with first 10mins at triathlon 10km PB pace followed
by easy 10min run.

Gym bike: 5-8mins light spinning.

Habit 6: Look at energy levels

Whether you’re taking in more energy than you need and gaining weight, or possibly lacking the correct nutrition to help you recover properly, you need to think about energy. Because sadly, energy levels don’t just balance themselves out as you work, train and compete.

For some athletes, you’ll have to cut out a few treats – not starve yourself, mind, just make sure your eating habits line up with your racing goals. For others, who don’t plan their nutrition or who have read one too many weight loss articles, you could be harming your recovery and day-to-day energy levels.

Check back through your training diary to see how often you get ill or how hard you find it to recover, to see whether your eating plan needs some attention.

Action: Look at the quality and quantity of your food intake, and look for habits that help or hinder your relationship with your body/food.


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