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5 Beginner Triathlon Training Mistakes to Avoid

I started doing triathlons in 2009 and back then even though I joined a triathlon club and had the support of my club mates I made mistakes!

Some people like to learn from their mistakes but if you would rather avoid the missteps most beginner triathletes make when starting out read on.

Below are the 5 beginner triathlon training mistakes you need to avoid and helping you leapfrog to better race results this year and beyond.

1. Not having a Training Plan

Every goal or objective in life needs a plan to get there. Going into training without a clear plan can lead to a lack of progress and frustration. Training in and ad hoc way will result in ad hoc results.

      It’s important to set goals, create a training schedule, and track your progress to stay motivated and on track. You will get better results much faster and with a good plan be less susceptible to injury.

      You can choose from a pre-built or a custom plan from a coach, and this will help you avoid injury and also ramp your training in a structured and safe way. If you find a free plan on the internet do some research into who wrote it and make sure they are a qualified coach.

      Make sure the plan fits around your present work and life situation plus your current fitness level and target event.

      2. Neglecting Technique and Movement Mechanics

      Focusing solely on building endurance without paying attention to proper technique and movement mechanics can lead to injury and inefficiencies in your performance.

      What do we mean by this? This is to ensure your swim stroke is effective, pedal stroke is efficient, getting a good bike fit to make sure you are in the optimum and comfortable position for long training rides and racing plus good running mechanics. Poor movement makes your more prone to injuries.

      To become an effective and efficient endurance athlete you need to optimise your force output. The force you produce needs to propel in the direction you want to go.  Endurance sports requires a lot of repetitive movements so you need to ensure your joints are aligned in the right way.

      For example, if you knee joint is not in proper alignment when you run and every step you take will be putting force on your joint incorrectly and risks causing pain and damage.

      Another area is muscle activation which is especially apparent if you spend all day at your desk in front of a PC. If you sit all day, you may find it difficult to activate your glutes so spend some time homing in on getting your glutes working when you train. Inactive muscles will not contribute to powerful movement or stabilise your joints and may contribute to injuries.

      It’s important to work with a coach or experienced triathlete to learn proper form in swimming, cycling, and running.

      3. Avoiding Strength Training

      I’m a big fan of including strength training in any triathlon training plan.  Strength training prepares your body to take on the stress that your body will be under when endurance training.

      I hear many people say that will the time spent swimming, cycling and running they don’t have time for strength work but if neglected then can lead to injuries which mean you wont actually be able to swim, bike or run!

      There are various ways to incorporate strength training into your training plan such as strength “snacking” or habit stacking. Strength snacking is where you do a little bit of strength training every day, for example during your lunch break.

      Habit stacking is where you stack a small strength workout with something you do as a habit every day. For example, I do my heel raises whilst I’m brushing my teeth every day. This means I will always remember to do them.

      Some people fear that strength training will make them “bulky” but you only need to follow a few professional athletes to see that all triathletes do strength work and they are not bulky at all.

      4. Not Resting and Recovering

      Many new triathletes jump into hard training every day in a bid to get fit quickly and don’t have any rest days. Most athletes follow some sort of periodised plan where they train for 6 days a week and take a rest day to allow their body’s to rest, recover and build back better.

      Also, most training plans build for say three weeks then have a week of less intensity or easy training to enable the athlete to adapt to the training – which means their body adapts to the increased load of training and gets stronger ready to take on the next block of training.

      These periods of building then recovering are a tried and tested way for athletes to get stronger and faster and improve their performance over time.

      Getting enough rest and recovery will help you avoid piling on fatigue and over training (getting sick) and will help avoid “forced recovery” (injury time off).

      5. Training Alone

      Many triathletes set off on a training schedule and train alone all the time. This can make triathlon a very lonely island. This can lead to lack of motivation and then ultimately giving up on your triathlon goal.

      To help avoid this training isolation seek out a triathlon club or local group rides or runs. If your swimming is weak then look for a masters swimming session to help improve your swimming plus mix with like minded people. Training in a group will also add another layer of accountability and keep you motivated.

      Bonus Mistake: Going Long too Soon

      Many people think doing a triathlon means jumping straight into an IRONMAN event from the start. This can work for some people but training for a long course event takes a lot of time every week over many months and a lot of sacrifice which can have an adverse effect on your home life. Many people who jump straight into a long course triathlon event only spend one season doing triathlon and then sell all their kit.

      If you want triathlon to be your sport for many years then take a leaf out of the professional’s book and start with a sprint event and learn the art of triathlon, learn to train well, and love it plus build some speed.

      Enjoy the racing and the fast transitions and shorter time racing. Then if you want to progress to Olympic distance, IRONMAN 70.3 then IRONMAN events. Some people enjoy the sprint events and training that only take a few hours a week.


      Triathlon training can be both exciting and challenging for beginners. However, avoiding these common mistakes can help you improve your performance and avoid injuries.

      Remember to focus on proper technique and biomechanics, get your strength training done to avoid injuries, get enough rest and recovery, work towards your goals with a good training plan, train with others and avoid going long too quickly.

      With dedication, hard work, and patience, you can become a successful triathlete and enjoy the many physical and mental benefits of this demanding sport for many years.

      FAQ: 5 Beginner Triathlon Training Mistakes to Avoid

      What is the most important aspect of triathlon training for beginners?

      Proper technique is crucial for beginners to avoid injury and improve their performance. It’s recommended to work with a coach or experienced triathlete to learn the correct form for swimming, cycling, and running.

      How many rest days should I take while training for a triathlon?

      It’s recommended to schedule at least one or two rest days per week to avoid overtraining and allow your body to recover. You should also vary your training intensity and incorporate active recovery activities like stretching or yoga.

      Why is it important to include strength training into your training plan when training for a triathlon?

      Strength training is an essential component of any well-rounded triathlon training plan. It helps to improve muscular strength and endurance, increase bone density, and prevent injuries. The repetitive nature of swimming, cycling, and running can create muscular imbalances and overuse injuries, which can be addressed through strength training.

      By incorporating strength training into your triathlon training plan, you can improve your overall performance and efficiency. It can also help you to maintain proper form throughout your races, especially during the latter stages when fatigue sets in.

      How does training with others improve your triathlon performance?

      Training with others can provide motivation, competition, feedback, variety, and skill development, all of which can help to improve your triathlon performance.

      What does adaptation mean when referred to in a triathlon training plan?

      Adaptation refers to the process by which your body adjusts to the physical demands of training and becomes more efficient at performing the activities involved in triathlon (swimming, cycling, and running). In other words, through regular and consistent training, your body adapts to the stresses of exercise and becomes stronger and more capable of performing the activities required for triathlon.

      What does the term biomechanics mean when used in triathlon training?

      Biomechanics refers to the study of the mechanical principles that govern the movement patterns involved in swimming, cycling, and running. Biomechanics can be used to analyze and optimize an athlete’s technique and form, with the goal of improving performance and reducing the risk of injury.

      For example, in swimming, biomechanics can be used to analyze the swimmer’s body position, stroke mechanics, and efficiency in the water. In cycling, biomechanics can be used to analyze the athlete’s pedaling technique, posture, and bike fit. In running, biomechanics can be used to analyze the runner’s stride length, cadence, and foot strike.

      By using biomechanics to analyze an athlete’s technique and form, coaches and trainers can identify areas for improvement and provide targeted feedback and drills to help the athlete optimize their movement patterns.

      Can I train for a triathlon without a nutrition plan?

      It’s important to fuel your body with the right nutrients before, during, and after training to avoid decreased performance and injury. Working with a nutritionist or sports dietitian can help you develop a nutrition plan that meets your individual needs and supports your training goals.

      Why is it important to practice transitions during training?

      Transitions between swimming, cycling, and running can be a crucial factor in your overall triathlon performance. Practicing transitions during training can help you improve your efficiency and save time on race day.

      Do I need to invest in expensive equipment for triathlon training?

      While investing in appropriate equipment such as a wetsuit, cycling shoes, and running shoes is important, you don’t necessarily need to buy the most expensive gear. It’s more important to choose equipment that fits properly and is appropriate for your needs and budget.

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      Karen Parnell
      Karen Parnellhttps://chilitri.com/one-to-one-coaching
      Karen Parnell is a Level 3 British Triathlon and IRONMAN Certified Coach, WOWSA Level 3 open water swimming coach,  80/20 Endurance certified coach and NASM Personal Trainer and Sports Technology Writer. Need a training plan? I have plans on TrainingPeaks, FinalSurge and TrainingTilt: TrainingPeaks FinalSurge TrainingTilt I also coach a very small number of athletes one to one for all triathlon distances, open water swimming events and running races, email me for details and availability. Karen.parnell@chilitri.com


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