Triathlon Training Tips from USAT

by Alan Ley, former USAT Coaching Education Manager

Looking to take your performance to the next level or just looking for some tips to help you get to the starting line? USA Triathlon Certified Coaches have written numerous articles and how-tos designed for the beginning to the advanced multisport athlete.

Whether you are racing in your first sprint triathlon or if you are considering tackling an Ironman, this is your resource to help guide you on that journey. We will continue to add new articles to this section of the website.


I often wobble with my personal discipline. I’ll go for days eating properly, consuming fruits, vegetables, quality proteins and drinking only water, tea and juice. I stretch slowly after every hard workout. I swim religiously, run on dirt trails and bike, feeling like I can go forever. I can stick to my strategic fitness plan for weeks and never miss a planned session unless an emergency arises. Then mysteriously, I miss a few days, get out of my routine or eat some junk food and before I realize it, I can’t even spell the word “discipline.” I feel lethargic, my motivation wanes and I mentally beat myself up, “I must get back on track! I know how good it feels to eat right and exercise consistently. What happened?” I wonder.

I realized over the years that it’s more important to get back on the road to feeling better as quickly as possible than it is to find out why I took a wrong turn. Why waste time dwelling on the problem when what I need to do is focus on a solution?

The first step has to come from within me. I have to throw away all the external reasons of blaming others for this and that. The old saying, “If it’s going to be it’s up to me” has never been truer. Now how do I make it happen? I have made promises to myself like, “I’ll never eat badly again” or “I’ll exercise six days a week for the rest of the year” only to find that I have failed. What I discovered to be successful is to write a plan for the next three days. I have to keep the time period short and simple so I succeed at my goals. I find magical motivation when I physically take a pen to paper and document what I want to happen and how I will make it happen. The magic occurs when I make a commitment to myself on paper. I’m not sure if it’s looking at what I am writing down and realizing that I am taking control of my actions or if it’s because I am focusing on the action plan and solution. Maybe it is both, however there is no need to waste time analyzing the meaning of the “Why writing down on paper in a journal works.” What I need to do is remain in the moment of taking action, the action of writing down what I am going to do, when I’m going to do it, and where I will do it.

To be more specific, write the plan in a notebook that you can close. Any bound notebook with lined paper will work fine or select one of those beautiful journals available. Try following the suggestions below to get started.

1. Make the first journal entry on the inside cover. Write your name and date then begin writing your action plan.
2. Write the date at the top of your entry: Thursday October 23, 2006
3. Next, put when you will start: I will begin Saturday October 25, 2006.
4. Document what you are going to do and be specific? I will wake up at 6:00 am. At 6:30 I will complete 12 knee bends, 12 arm circles, 12 hip circles, and 12 toe hops. I will walk/jog for 30 minutes. I will gently stretch my hamstrings, calf muscles, lower back and other tight areas for seven minutes. I will exercise two consecutive days and the third day only stretch. My goal will be to maintain this rotation for six weeks.
5. Every day you must write down what you did. Try to make your entries at the same time of the day. The evening seems to work best.
6. Place your journal/notebook in a comfortable place that’s easy to get to and yet in your own space. We usually carve out spaces in the house that’s “our” unspoken territory.
7. Keep your entries as detailed as you have time for but this is NOT a diary. This is a motivational/planning journal. Keep it positive and realistic.

The magic motivation for whatever reason happens when you “write it down!” Put the pen to paper and you’ll see that writing will help with the wobbles.

Training, Swimming
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