Training to Get it Done or to Get Faster?

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

I was compelled to write on this topic after years of working with A Type triathletes, who are goal oriented. That is, those folks who will stick to a plan, come hell or high water. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great way to live life and make progress, but when it comes to your triathlon training, too much of a good thing, can start to undermine progress. Here are a few examples of what I am talking about:

1) Not pulling the plug on a workout – sometimes an athlete may have a key intensity workout planned. They start the session only to realize that they are not doing as well as they did last time they did this session. Continuing the workout at that point has the potential to interrupt the super-compensation cycle. That is, they are not recovered enough to stress the system again at that time.

2) Meeting the season plan – if an athlete or coach is detailed enough to have a season periodization plan, a lot of times, the A type triathlete will meet the volume prescribed in that plan come hell or high water. This may mean moving workouts around which leads to poor micro cycle recovery, or making poor choices when faced with a decision between adequate sleep and workout volume.

3) Too hard on recovery days – many athletes take it too hard on the recovery days which ends up undermining their ability to perform well on the hard days. Recovery days are for recovery, not about seeing how much wattage you can push at the very limit of your HR zone as an example. The Q type triathlete just wants to see big/good numbers….this isn’t the time!

4) Pushing to much volume with life logistics – many athletes overdo volume even though their life logistics don’t allow it. That is, they insist that they should peak at 26-28 hours of training a week, even though their life logistics can only handle 20. This leads to pressure from their family (increases stress), and eventually some combination of points 1-3 above.


By carrying out these “sins”, the athlete is really training to get the sense of accomplishment that they have gotten the training done, or are “getting it in”. This is the train for the challenge of training approach. Most folks that I know are not training to achieve that objective, but rather training to get faster in their triathlon races. Unfortunately, these two items are not directly tied to together…. “getting it in” does not directly translate to faster race times. The proper approach is to do the training that will make you faster on race day. Remember that! Repeat after me: “I will only do the training that I think will make me faster on race day”. This takes courage. Whether your sense of what’s right and wrong is correct, is another matter. Your decision making process and criteria is far more important to master before you get that perfect training program. That is, even the best program is useless if you make the wrong decisions as you work your way through it. Most coaches have enough contact with their athletes, to control most of this, but there are plenty of small decisions that the athlete must make on their own and over time, can make or break that athlete.