From Recreational to Elite Level Athletes
By Chuck Graziano, USAT Certified Triathlon Coach

People attracted to endurance sports are hard driving and results oriented. They also share another characteristic: they tend to make the same mistakes in their training! These mistakes oftentimes cost the athlete the very thing that they’re driving for: a peak performance. Being aware of and taking action on these pitfalls can not only improve performance, but might also help avoid injury, overtraining and burnout! Here’s a list of what to avoid in your training.

1. TRAINING TOO HARD- Many athletes believe that training has to feel hard. With the exception of a measured amount of interval training, training should be comfortable and there should be no pain or soreness tomorrow. In fact, during certain times of the training year, training may feel “too easy”.

2. TRAINING TOO LONG- To many, competing in a triathlon, cycling event or marathon seems insurmountable due to other commitments (family, career, etc.). The way most successful people manage to “fit it in” when it comes to training is to train smart. Every workout should have a purpose, which will allow you to maximize the benefit of your limited training hours.

3. TRAINING FOR SPEED- The easiest way to get fast is to be economical (focus on technique). As example, trying to swim faster by doing speed work is vastly ineffective if your technique is off. Work first on the technique of your stroke (or stride or cycling) and you’ll achieve “free speed” by cutting down on your resistance against the water. Save any speed work for after you’ve improved economy.

4. IMPRESSING YOUR FRIENDS WITH YOUR TRAINING HOURS- Some believe that they have to train every day and that the more hours of training they put in, the more fit they’ll become. This is a dangerous belief. Your body gets stronger when you are resting, not when you are working. Taking rest days every week, easy days between hard days, and easy weeks in your training cycle allows your body the time to repair cellular damage. You’ll also be more mentally refreshed for your harder efforts.

5. BEING IN PEAK SHAPE YEAR-ROUND- Attempting to maintain your peak level of fitness results in a staleness that is costly both physically and emotionally. It is important to take a “transition season” which might extend from a few weeks to a couple of months. During this season, you’ll maintain fitness, but will engage in different activities and at a lower, less structured level. Your mind and body will thank you when it’s time to train for your club rides in the Spring.

6. BUILDING ON YOUR STRENGTHS- Sometimes it seems that if you’re a strong runner, you should focus on being the best runner you can be, so that you can surge at the end of a triathlon. Human nature is to gravitate to what you’re good at. More effective is to train your limiters so that you can be well rounded, avoid muscular imbalances and avoid overuse injuries

7. I TRAIN SO I CAN EAT WHAT I WANT- This is probably one of the better known myths. It simply doesn’t work for you to train hard and then pack your body with an inappropriate fuel. Think of a finely tuned Ferrari! How would it run on a watered down, cheap fuel? You’ll feel better, have more energy for that “honey do” list, and be able to train on consecutive days without feeling exhausted. Eat an abundance of high-quality carbs with some protein and healthy fat.