Most of you will have come into triathlon from one of the three disciplines it incorporates – for most people this is running or cycling. You have some experience of racing in ‘your own’ sport, consider yourself to be fit and want to start stretching and testing yourself a bit further.
Then comes the crunch. Not only do you have to start relearning two other sports (most of us have had some experience of all three disciplines at some time, even if it was way back in our school days) but you have to discover how to combine all three and start treating them as one sport.
Now matter how fit you consider yourself to be, you will benefit from improved technique in all areas of triathlon. A few simple technical improvements in your swimming, cycling and running will help shave valuable seconds and minutes off your race time but most importantly will harness your fitness and energy in the right way.
Sheer guts and determination can overcome poor technique to some extent (although more often than not this will lead to injuries) but good technique can achieve the same results – meaning you have your strength stored up for when you need it most.
Simply put, do you want to be an athlete who trains to the limit then falls over the line exhausted in a disappointing time or do you want to train smarter and smoother and see real results on race day?
Use this section to get the basics correct for your two ‘weaker’ disciplines, but also revisit your strongest discipline to look for any improvements you can make. Remember you now have to train across three disciplines, which means the time previously dedicated to your sport will be reduced. So, for instance, if you came into triathlon from a running background you may now find yourself out on the road only two to three times a week instead of five or more because of the time you need getting your swimming and cycling up to scratch. Good technique can counter this drop in quantity.
And there can be no better place to get things right than at the transitions. Progressing from the water to your bike and later from your wheels to your feet can make or break your race. It’s not only the time you lose by fumbling around at transitions but the momentum you lose as a result. A nice, smooth transition that goes as planned, can act as a mental boost and keeps your mind focused on the real job at hand.
For most of us new to triathlon, swimming is the least favourite part of the race. Concentrate on a smooth stroke and getting your body position, leg kick, hand entry and breathing right and swimming, even in open water, needs hold no fears.
Cycling offers many opportunities to improve your technique so take time to look at all the aspects you will encounter, from hill climbing to downhills, to cornering to drafting (when allowed). Save a few seconds at every corner, every climb and every descent and your race times will tumble. Again, smoothness is everything, so work on your pedal stroke and eliminating the ‘dead spots’ (see pages 42-45) at the top and bottom of each pedal cycle, which waste so much time.
As you tire, an efficient technique becomes more and more important. As you enter the running phase of the triathlon, confidence in your technique will help you overcome fatigue and carry you home. Work on the small elements of technique during your running training and learn to listen to your body to see works for you. Keeping your style loose and relaxed is the key, and it will hold you in good stead as you approach the final, gruelling part of your triathlon.