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- Top 10 Most Common Triathlon Training Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
- Nutrition and Training information from a 3x Ironman
Hi, I'm Luke. I'm an average guy with a wife and four kids. I work forty hours a week. And I'm a 4x Ironman.
Bzzzz. Bzzzz. Ding. The familiar combination of sound and vibration let me know I had a new text message. I looked to see it was from a friend who had competed in the same Ironman race I had this year.
“I hate to be a cry baby but secretly I'm disappointed with my time. I was way over cooked this year. I swear I think if I followed your plan, with the base I have, I would have went into the race healthier than ever before and crushed my 2012 time. Honestly, I was my strongest this spring before I started the heavy volume trying to keep up with my training partner. I'm just not built for that. You’re going to have to coach me to a 7 hour week PR under 12 hours!”
Then another text came in right after that one.
"This year I ran the race I trained for and it was all wrong for my lifestyle. I'm capable of more. It was really hard on the family, my body, and work.”
It breaks my heart a little every time I hear these stories. And I’ve heard them a lot over the years. A typical athlete preparing for a full distance triathlon trains 20-30 hours a week, on top of working a full time job. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that there is little to no room for anything else. It is so common for loved ones to feel abandoned through the training season. Rigorous training takes a toll on the strongest of relationships. It’s hard to nurture bonds with spouses, children, friends and family when you literally don’t have the time to be physically present!
According to the 2014 USA Triathlon Membership Report, which was recently updated to reflect accurate statistics through August 2015, the average triathlete member is 38 years old, 60% reported being male and 40% female. 63% are married, 11% are in a committed relationship, and 44% have children living at home. 68% report white-collar or professional jobs. The average household income is $126,000/ year.
These statistics say a lot about who you are and what your day to day life may look like. Here are some fairly safe assumptions:
Countless professional and age-group athletes have, over time, shown success in endurance events by training with consistently long bike rides, runs, and swims. This method keeps nearly all of your training at a relatively low intensity, meaning you must devote significant amounts of free time to exercise at a less demanding pace.
I am not disputing the fact that the conventional method works. But it does come with a price—the likely neglect of many things that are important to you like family, friends, work, and other hobbies.
When preparing for a full distance race such as an Ironman, this translates into an average weekend consisting of a six hour bike ride, along with a three hour run. Shorter workouts are also incorporated during the week. Training for the full distance triathlon using most conventional plans, therefore, call for an average of 20-30 hours of your time per week.
Over the course of training for three full distance Ironman triathlons, I knew that I did not want to put in the 20+ hours a week of training called for by this conventional wisdom. Life is all about trade-offs, and training for an endurance race is no different. This belief, along with my desire for balance in life was the motivation for developing my approach to training.
I have observed the conventional high volume, low intensity training that many of my fellow triathletes adopt, and it seems to take a toll on the body, at times making athletes more prone to overuse injuries.
How to train. Which plan is right for me? How much time am I willing to devote to making this dream of mine a reality? What will I use for nutrition? When/ how will I do my workouts?
How to keep everything else, particularly work and relationships, from falling apart. Training 20-30 hours a week, folks are left doing damage control.
Training 20-30 hours a week along with my full time job was never an option, as following that type of plan would have quite literally left me with little or no time with our children or my wife. We equally support each other in following our dreams and doing what it takes to reach our goals, but not at the cost of our marriage or time with family and friends.
Because there weren’t any resources out there on how to train for a full distance triathlon in less time, I did a ton of research on high-intensity interval training and then developed my own plan.
But the local triathlon community talked. Oh, did they talk! “No way you’ll be ready for Ironman!” And when they didn’t say anything, their raised eyebrows sent the message loud and clear. I wished them well as they went out weekend after weekend for their 100 mile bike rides, or 20 mile runs. Luckily I’m not the type of person to be bothered by others negativity, so I kept my eye on the prize and continued on. After I completed my second Ironman, the comments turned from doubt to curiosity. “Seriously, how do you do it?!” and “I just don’t see how it’s possible, but tell me about your plan.”
I’ve now successfully completed three Ironman races training with this method, and countless shorter distances races. After seeing firsthand that it can be done, the “Doubting Debbies" have quieted and are now all ears. They wanted to know. And you want to know.
Figuring out if your current plan is working for you is simple. Just ask yourself “Am I achieving my athletic goals while still giving my relationships the care and attention they deserve?”
Have you trained for a full distance race in the past and been left with the feeling that it was “all wrong for your lifestyle,” as my friend mentioned in his text to me? Did you feel worn down physically and mentally? Was your training just as hard on your family as it was on you?
Do you have time to have breakfast or evening bath times with your small children, or cross country meets and walks to the farmers market on Saturday mornings? Do you consistently have time to enjoy the things that you, your family and your friends love to do together?
If you’re in the same boat as most, the answers are loud and clear. You need more time!
Your dream of crossing the full distance finish line can be realized if you are willing to commit an average of 7 hours per week to following this plan. No slacking. No loosely following. 100% all in, all the time. I share all of my secrets, how I've made it through each race season without any significant injuries, feeling good and refreshed all the time. Absolutely nothing is left to guess work!
"I couldn't have done this year on conventional training, especially considering my and my wife's work demands. This plan allowed me to be more present throughout the weekends and also week nights."
"I love the The Balanced Approach because it takes a family first approach. Luke's results are proof that you can maintain a competitive level of fitness with less hours and more family time.”
"I've taken in very little processed food for nearly 3.5 months. The full body exercises, combined with clean eating have made a difference in performance. I really want to do a full distance triathlon and now have the confidence in my ability to do so."
This guide will show you exactly how to make time for the people you love, your hobbies and work while training for the big event (a full distance triathlon!)
What you’ll get isn’t just a training plan. In order to achieve the results you want in the allotted time you’ll train, this is more of a lifestyle guide. The first half consists of three chapters. In the first chapter, Low-Volume, High-Intensity Workouts, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Mental Toughness is discussed.
In the second chapter, dietary modifications are covered extensively. Fads, inflammation, eating clean, food intolerances, hydration, diet, supplements, and other wellness tips are included.
The third chapter includes incorporation of active recovery techniques, as well as common injuries and how to deal with them.
The second half of the book is the how-to on every workout you will do in preparation for your race. I will guide you through each of the swim, bike and run workouts, along with required strength training. Detailed descriptions along with photos leave no room for guessing what you should be doing on any given day of your training.
You will be able to do what I've done, and what countless others have done on this plan: achieve your athletic goals with minimal time obligation, so you can also enjoy all the other important parts of life.
If a full distance triathlon is still seeming a little bit of a lofty goal, know that you are not in this alone! After all, if your dreams don't scare you a little, they aren't big enough!
Not only do you get the guide, but personal support throughout your training. You may choose to participate in Facebook group, moderated by author and 4x Ironman Luke Powell. This is a members only, private community where you may seek the support of the group to ask specific questions throughout the journey to achieving your goal. I am 100% invested in your success!
100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
I'm an average guy. I work forty hours a week. I like to spend my weekends wrestling with my sons and having tea parties with my daughter. When we can find a babysitter, my wife and I like to go out to dinner and catch up with friends. I have a blog, holisiticathlete.net, that I’ve written since 2009. I enjoy sharing my knowledge about nutrition and training with fellow triathletes within my own community and beyond.
I am a proud Purdue University alumnus, holding a degree in mechanical engineering. Being an engineer comes in handy when figuring gear ratios and analyzing data! Since the beginning of my triathlon career in 2008, I have constantly researched and tested methods of training, nutrition, and lifestyle.
I’m an above average athlete. When I participate in competitive events, I consistently rank in the top in my age group. I am a 4x Ironman and have completed countless shorter distance races over the years. As of 2017, I am a six-time qualifier for the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship, an Ironman All-World Athelte and earned the opportunity to represent the state of Kentucky in the 2015 Best Of The U.S. Championship.
It’s important for you to understand that I designed this training plan for myself, a husband and father of small children, who works a full time job. I didn’t have 20-30 extra hours a week to devote to training and it’s likely you don’t either.
Maybe you’ve already done a full distance triathlon and, although you’d like to do another, you don’t want to go through the hardships again. Or maybe you’ve never done a full distance race and you want to avoid that heartache altogether. Either way, with your commitment to do every single workout in this plan to the best of your ability, YOU CAN DO THIS!
This plan is not for the faint of heart. I had already been participating in shorter distance triathlons for several years before I took this challenge. That being said, The Balanced Approach isn’t suitable for someone who doesn’t have a fitness base. If you don’t have a regular fitness routine and are looking to start, the intensity required may be too much. This plan is ideal if you’ve been training for triathlons for a year or more.
100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
You are fully protected by my 100% Satisfaction-Guarantee. If you decide The Balanced Approach isn’t working for you, contact me within 90 days, show me you actually did the work (describe your dietary modifications, show record of your workouts) and I’ll issue you a prompt refund.
Kudos to you for recognizing that there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. It's important that you choose a plan that is right for your ability and your lifestyle, so let's address some concerns you may have.
The first thing to realize about injuries is that they are caused by placing repetitive stress, or loads, on the body greater than the body can handle. You typically don’t get injured from just one run. You get injured when the body is not allowed sufficient time to recover between runs.
A study conducted by the University of South Carolina studied 583 veteran runners. They found that the most important predictor for injuries was total mileage. Those who ran 40 miles a week or more were more likely to get hurt. This doesn’t mean you should never do more than 40 miles a week in your training, but the research does suggest that, over the long haul, mixing in hill repeats and speed work with the long runs may be the way to go.
Note that the South Carolina study was conducted on veteran runners, not beginners or sedentary subjects. This is important because it clearly indicates the injury rate for experienced runners is similar to that observed in beginner runners. Runners are frequently told that with proper training and time that they can safely and successfully increase their weekly mileage. This study clearly indicates otherwise.
A study shown in Med Sci Sports2 showed that running 30 minutes, 3 days/week resulted in an injury rate of 12% – 24%. Running 30 minutes, 5 days/week resulted in an injury rate of 39%. Running 5 days a week for 45 minutes each time resulted in an injury rate of 54%. This study does a great job of illustrating the increasing risk of injury associated with increasing training volumes. Each increase in training volume results in an increase in rate of injury.
Notice that injury is related to total running volume and not speed work. Conventional wisdom holds that speed work causes injury.
Research challenges that belief.
The strength building portion of The Balanced Approach is essential for injury prevention. Building strong muscles and joints will help prevent injuries as well.
References: 2Pollock ML, Gettman LR, Milesis CA, Bah MD, Durstine L, Johnson RB. Effects of frequency and duration of training on attrition and incidence of injury. Med Sci Sports.
There’s no denying that triathlon is an expensive hobby. At the minimum you must have a bike, helmet, pair of shoes, a swimsuit and goggles. From there you can spend tens of thousands of dollars in pursuit of having the most aerodynamic time-trial bike, lightest shoes or fastest wetsuit. But even the most casual of multisport athletes probably spends more money than they think on gear that will have a very minimal impact on their performance or overall health and happiness.
So instead of upgrading to that $50 carbon-fiber water bottle cage or $60 for the Speedo goggles that Michael Phelps wore at the Olympics, invest that money in a guide that will help you achieve your goal of the full distance finish without sacrificing your relationships, and will give you fitness and nutrition knowledge that will last you a lifetime.
Absolutely. The workouts and strength training would be the same for both men and women. Regardless of gender, the sections on nutrition, supplements and other wellness tips should be discussed with a trusted medical professional prior to implementation.
The training plan that I have outlined is not meant to be a “Couch-to-Triathlon” plan. It’s designed for someone that is already active and preferably has some triathlon training and racing experience. Everyone is different, so you must gauge your own fitness level. The first week’s workouts consist of 30-45 minute running workouts, 60-90 minute cycling workouts and 1200-1500 meters/yards of swimming. You should be able to complete these prior to starting the training.
Of course. We all learn in different ways, and reading/ referencing The Balanced Approach on your computer or device may not be what works best for you. Feel free to print a copy if that better meets your needs.
Due the nature of this style of training, the plan is 36 weeks long. Plans exist that are only 18-20 weeks, but they are high-volume plans that call for 15-20 hours a week of training. In order build the endurance required to complete a full distance triathlon, you need 36 weeks of high-intensity, shorter workouts as the plan calls for.
The plan consists of several aspects – focused training, dietary modifications, supplements, recovery techniques and other general wellness practices. None of these is more or less important than the other. If one or more of these aspects is not followed, it’s impossible for me to say what the results would be. I know how critical eating healthy is to this plan from a performance and recovery stand point. I would not expect to have been able to have made it through each race season without any signiﬁcant injuries, feeling good and refreshed all the time if my dietary choices were different.
This is very simple to do. For example, due to the impending birth of our fourth child at the end of the summer, my 2016 race season consisted of two 70.3 (half) distance triathlons. I followed the plan exactly as outlined, only adjusting the aerobic zone runs and bike rides to 60% of the distance called for in the full-distance plan. The Balanced Approach gives exact details on how to make the adjustments required for the half distance, as well as adjustments for Olympic / International distance triathlons.
Now is the time to invest in yourself and your relationships. You CAN lead a balanced life while training to reach your goal of crossing the full distance finish line! I'll be here to help you along the way, rooting for your success!
Don't let another race season go by, feeling like you have to either put your relationships or your big dreams on the back burner.