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Tackling Your Triathlon Weaknesses - Speed Kills

January 22, 2018 - Swim - Bike - Run vs Speed - Strength - Endurance - Technique. Pick you poison and lets get faster!

 Most triathletes are now well into a winter build phase with the goal of putting down the groundwork of base fitness. With that base fitness phase, many triathletes also are setting a foundation or improving on their weakest link. I tell athletes this all the time; your sport is to swim, bike, and run. Notice I did not say your “sports”, because we need to treat triathlon as one sport and not three. The first step to improvement is realizing that you do indeed have a weakness. Too many triathletes identify as a runner at heart / cyclist / swimmer, and devote too much time to be the fastest runner / cyclist / swimmer. By no means do you want to lose your competitive advantage, but you may need to allow your best discipline to take a backseat while you focus on the discipline that holds you back the most.

 Figuring out which discipline is your weak link is the easy part. Each discipline has its own nuances and aspects you may need to work on the most. Within that discipline, what is holding you back the most? Do you lack: speed, strength, endurance, or is it biomechanical / technical? Depending on what aspect is your weakness, you will have to attack your training differently. Before we dive into some strategies for improvement, I will state that 90% of triathletes need to improve their swimming technique before anything else. ANY equipment is meant as a tool to ADD upon someone who already possesses good stroke mechanics.


·       [Bike] Many longer distance athletes lose their ability to go hard and go fast for those shorter efforts or races. Doing those epic rides are great fitness builders. However, we cannot neglect the short hard efforts. A great way to incorporate some speed work can range from joining a group road ride; road cyclists usually ride steady until planned attack points where you are going “Full gas” for a brief period of time. These efforts build immense power output and will make your steady pace feel easier. Another way is to incorporate speed sessions such as Tabata’s or 1-3 minute all out efforts in the early season. These sessions are quite the bang for your buck, and can be done in as little as 45 minutes!

·       [Run] Speed for running must be built up cautiously. Too much intensity too soon can easily lead to injury. Any good runner will tell you, “speed kills”. Depending on what distance you are training for, the amount of speed work you need to do will obviously vary. A great way to start incorporating speed into you training is through fartlek runs. Fartlek work is simply a designated time where you are running fast vs running easy or steady. You can slowly ramp up the time of intensity to focus more on speed. Another tried and true way is the typical track workout. Sprint sessions are a fantastic way to not only build speed, but to improve your running economy. Running fast requires more motor unit recruitment and forces your body to activate more muscle fibers than normal and forces you to increase your range of motion.

·       [Swim] Speed for swimming is unique. Many of you have probably encountered times where you are swimming harder and going no faster. Just because your arms and legs move faster, does not mean you swim faster. It all starts with your ability to control rotation. Ditch the paddles for now, and put on some fins. First work on your kick, then the rotation, then your catch, and finally your turnover. Any swimmer knows that speed sessions in swimming are 70% drill and technique work and 30% swimming fast! These sessions should be kept short and should exist without intervals; they really shouldn’t be going over 45 minutes. Warmup, Drill, and swim fast! The goal is to focus on your technique and your “feel in the water”.  

-The most important thing is to have fun with it! Going fast is fun!


 Christopher J Lee

Triathlon Coach @ AJ Baucco Coaching

Former Head Coach CU Boulder Swimming

NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioining Specialist

FMS Funtional Movement Systems Lvl 1

NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist

Stages Cycling Certified


AJ Baucco Coaching is world class triathlon coaching for age group athletes of all ability levels. We specialize in Full Service Triathlon Coaching, but we also create Focused Training Plans for athletes that like a more hands off approach. Feel free to contact us with any questions or to set up an informational phone call.

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