*** Many thanks to Paul Miles for this blog post ***

We are triathletes for all sorts of reasons: the challenge; fun; social; travel; competition; to qualify; camaraderie; to stay fit; weight loss; continual improvement etc etc. Some are new comers and some are seasoned triatletes but I think it is useful to take a step back and ask yourself some fundamental questions each year, preferably at the start of the season (ie now for Dubai residents) in order to focus. 

  • What are your targets for the year (races or otherwise)
  • How will you measure your targets (or even if you want to!)
  • How will you achieve your targets
  • How will you be able to check if you have improved over the season and compared to previous years/seasons.

As triathlon involves 4 activities (swim, cycle, run and transitions) I think we all can get carried away with training and not really focusing on our targets, or even just going through the motions to "get the kms in".  

We all have our views on training and there are many plans in circulation that you can try, or a qualified coach can perhaps short cut the trial and error and focus your time and efforts.  Which ever you choose it is worth questioning yourself on each session:

  • What is the purpose of this session?
  • What can I do to make it more effective?
  • Will I be able to measure/judge the effect either immediately or long term?

I am not suggesting you turn your sport into a numbers game and you go out and buy a power meter (I stopped using mine 4 years ago for that very reason) or other fancy devices but measurement of performance is useful.  However I have had some of my most enjoyable sessions without any heart rate, speed, power or stroke measurement as you can judge other tactile parameters such as feel of the water, flow of your running style, spin of your cadence or spring in your step after a transition, which can be as rewarding and beneficial as gaining that extra 20 watts of power.

Most of us create targets that involve us being "better" and this ofter leads to us needing us to be faster or quicker. The normal scenario is that we pick a race and aim to beat our last time, or target a time that we perceive to be a challenge. We then embark on our training and often achieve our faster times by increasing our training volume. Although your times might be better, ask yourself if you are actually improving by simply adding training hours?  

Perhaps a more objective way to assess if you are actually improving is to measure your performance AND your training volume - this would challenge us all to train smarter all the time rather than just throw precious hours at our sport.  Perhaps triathlon could even switch to a handicap system like golf but let's call it something more flattering like a "Talent Score".  Although professionals will always chase faster times at any cost, perhaps the future of amateur triathlon racing is a Talent Score where we can be rated properly, such as achieving a 10hr Ironman time on 10hrs training per week, or a 2hr 15min Classic distance time on 6hrs of training per week. This should enable us to make a proper comparison with ourselves and our competitors, and alleviate the current theme of new comers thinking they can't be a "good standard" without having to spend endless hours training. 

So next time someone asks you how you did, buck the trend and say you achieved your target (whatever that may be), or even better say you improved your Talent Score......