In the Middle… the sweet spot when training triathlon
Athletes (and coaches) are forever trying to focus on two things: progressing strengths and eliminating weaknesses. But in training triathlon, the peaks and troughs really isn’t where we should spend our time.
On one hand, the athlete with a weak swim must spend time getting better in the water. Traditionally that would mean monotonous drills, making weird shapes as they move at snail’s pace through the water. It’s archaic that this is still a default approach to triathlon swimming.
Add to that the “endless hours approach” used to “develop” that athlete, spends a lot of time going nowhere, breeding frustration boredom and ultimately disenfranchised.
On the other hand, that same swim-limited athlete who rides hard with perceivable ease, tolerating hills, headwinds and high cadences is told that they must always ride that way in order to never lose their “gift”. The bike is their strength and that dominance props up the remainder of their endurance success.
But that’s easy to them, they know how to ride like that already; they become complacent, overconfident, and disengaged.
You can swap these examples out for whatever disciplines of triathlon that you like. Even for single discipline endurance sports, I think this applies (think: marathon runners who are only good on flats).
I believe that this strengths V weaknesses mentality is actually what holds a lot of people back. There’s just enough focus, time and energy on developing the middle.
The middle is where you find the junction between the helpless flailing and frustration and that cocky complacency. The middle is where progress actually happens.
Let’s stick with the swimming example.
Replace those stupid drills with something that will actually bear tangible, measurable fruits; something the athlete can see and feel each session. Something that allows them to understand how they are swimming, that allows them to feel where they can improve, something that creates a better self-awareness.
For EC, we love simple sessions in the water, that cover the fundamentals of swimming for training triathlon. So we use warm-ups designed to engage that proper body position. Then we apply the “meat” of the set with learning to swim at a sustainable pace. And if that’s a challenge, we support the athlete with the right tools to help them feel (learn) more about what their restriction is. Doing this for only one lap isn’t helpful, so it must be done on repeat. And when they feel they have a firm grasp, we move the needle a little further.
It’s that time in the middle where we really see true progress because we get that brilliant mix of little wins and manageable challenges. You still struggle, but it’s not all struggle. You can still see the bigger picture and with some patience, you start to get closer to the goal.
So, if you feel as though you are constantly bashing your head against the brick wall of stagnant progress, maybe you should stop, and take a look at what you are focusing on – is it that strength vs weakness battle?