By Sam Wade
As triathletes, we are hard-wired to push ourselves to the limit and often fed the notion, through social media, that we always have to be pushing to see continual improvements in fitness.
However, gaining fitness and improving as an athlete requires more than just working yourself into the ground. Without adequate recovery after sessions or purposeful intent during your key hard workouts, you can quite easily begin to see a plateau in your performance and ultimately a degree of burnout.
Below are some three key areas which after years of experimentation, I have found can be strong pillars in an athlete's quest to achieve their best levels of performance:
3 Keys to Optimal Triathlon Performance
Recover To Adapt
The true potential of your training is realised when you are recovering. Growth hormone is released during sleep which helps the body grow and repair itself from the days training. To get the most bang for your buck from those key weekly workouts where you are pushing yourself close to the limit, it is important to priorities sleep on those evenings following the session.
Allowing yourself extra time in bed will give you greater gains and most likely give you a higher chance of avoiding illness and injury.
Save Your Mental Energy | using RPE (Rate of Perceived Effort)
When there are many added life stressors, it is important to wisely use the mental energy you have. The body does not distinguish between stress from hard training or the stress caused by everyday life, which may come from things like family or work.
I find using 'Rate of Perceived Exertion' (RPE) to be a good way of keeping a lid on my easy training session so that my mental energy and enthusiasm can be saved for the week's key workouts. On a scale of 1-10, those easy sessions should never venture above 4-5 in terms of effort (your intense workouts will be between 8-10 on this scale). By adopting this approach, you are more likely to crush your intense workouts and get more enjoyment from your easy aerobic sessions.
Hard Days Hard, Easy Days Easy - Using Metrics for Training
It can be easy to be drawn into the trap of trying to flog yourself every day to try to achieve your fitness goals. This can lead to overtraining, and ultimately you not achieving your targets as your body is never allowed to absorb and adapt to the stress you are putting it under.
Using Metrics to Optimise Training
On my easy days/workouts, I ensure that whilst going off of how I am feeling, I also have several metrics to hand on my watch or bike computer to monitor how hard my body is working. These include:
Heart Rate (HR)
Your HR at any given moment can provide you with an objective measure of how hard your body is working. If you know your HR zones, you can set a limit (for me, this is 120 bpm) which you should aim not to venture above during easy aerobic workouts to limit the stress you are putting your body under.
One downside of solely using HR is that there is a delay in responding to changes in intensity which ultimately could lead to you spending time above your Zone 1-2 training zones during easy exercise. Power can provide instant feedback on the forces you are exerting during training and so is a great tool to help you keep a lid on things whilst training.
Power has become a common metric used by cyclists to help enhance training and racing performance. Recent technological developments now mean power is available for use in running as well in a form of the Stryd foot pod, which I have been using for the past couple of months. Where pace and HR are variable, power is always constant and can be a valuable training tool when aiming to measure your effort during training or racing.
About Sam Wade
Sam began training and competing in triathlons when he turned 18, and had been competing in biathlon events beforehand. From 2012-2015, Sam was the most successful British Universities multisport athlete and
He is now 29 and is fully focused on the 2021 season, including the Challenge Championships which is now taking place in August 2021!