15 tips for the intermediate triathlete

1. Swim turns

“You need at least two mates to complete this swim workout. Swimmer 1 and 2 place themselves 6-8m apart to mimic swim buoys. The third swimmer sprints past both before turning around 2 and back to 1. The swimmer changes with 1 and now becomes a buoy. Recovery is treading water while each one of the two other swimmers completes the circuit. Repeat this 18 times, six times each.” Mark Kleanthous, triathlon coach

2. Race-specific training

“Heading into race season, you should simulate the type of riding you’ll encounter when racing, which should equate to time trials and hard, hilly rides. These sessions instil confidence because you know you’ve been through it all in training. Additionally you should spend time pedalling at your racing cadence.” Tom Bishop, GB elite triathlete

3. One-legged pedaling

“Using a turbo trainer, undertake one-legged pedalling drills to improve technique. To take this to the next level, hold the opposite hand off the hood as well so that you’re engaging your trunk. This is particularly good for your abdominals and obliques.” John Dennis, bike fitter and physio

4. Stretch and recover

“When it comes to running, one of the most common weaknesses is in the quadriceps. It’s damaged by overuse, lacks stretching properly – especially post-exercise – and, in general, today’s sedentary lifestyle. A tool that relieves the situation is a foam roller. It helps to lengthen the quadriceps and is also useful before stretching.” Alison Rose, physio

5. Cool helmet

“As long as you use them correctly (not constantly lifting your head and so adding drag), it’s worth going for an aero helmet for racing. It saves you time over vented helmets, and there shouldn’t be too many worries about over-heating. Despite what people think, the amount of heat you dissipate through your head is actually really small. Your body provides 95% of the surface area for heat to dissipate.” Chris Boardman, former Olympic cycling gold medallist

6. It’s all about the 2:1

“During long rides or similarly lengthy endurance efforts, consume gels and/or sports drinks that are a mixture of glucose and fructose. Research has shown that a 2:1 ratio boosts carbohydrate uptake to the cells. Don’t overdo it, though: too much glucose will cause intestinal issues.” Mayur Ranchordas, nutrition lecturer at Sheffield University

7. Remember to recover

“Don’t fall into the trap that more training equates to improved performance.” Steve Lioyd, tri coach at Absolute Tri

8. Techno advances

“Invest in a suitable tracking device or smartphone software. This will allow you to monitor your training volume and chart your progress. And with the increase in social media access within these devices, your friends and family can provide a valuable support network to help you reach your goals.” Paul Paterson, tri coach at RG Active

9. Feeding on the fly

“Learning to drink more efficiently will save time and energy. Work through the motion of removing the drinks bottle from its cage, simulating sipping the drink and then returning it fast. Do this on a turbo trainer or on quiet roads when riding solo. Follow this same template if using a bike hydration system, making sure you keep aerodynamic.” Mark Kleanthous, triathlon coach

10. Open-water simulation

“You can still practice specific sessions in the pool that’ll help when racing and training in open water. These comprise sighting practice, swimming on a partner’s feet, incorporating dives and 25m hard efforts at the start of longer reps. This all simulates race-day situations such as sighting for buoys, the fast start to races and drafting. If you have a diving start to your race (although these are rare), this section will help. It’s also a great upper-body strength session, as well as simulating the transition of going from the horizontal swimming position to standing up. Okay, on to the 10-step 3km session…”

  • 400m relaxed swimming, with bilateral breathing, followed by 10secs rest.
  • 300m using a pull buoy, focusing on a strong pull to your stroke, especially when breathing. This avoids any pause in the stroke.
  • 10secs rest.
  • 4 x 50m drills as heads-up swimming for 15m then swim out. Focus on good arm cadence and a strong catch.
  • 100m, building speed over each 25m.
  • 12 x 25m as 25m max effort, 25m easy, going off 30secs.
  • 8 x 50m starting outside the pool. Dive in and swim hard 25m followed by 25m easy before climbing out and repeating. 10secs rest.
  • 4 x 100m at threshold pace (fast), sighting every six strokes. Focus on that strong pull, maintaining good alignment and body position when sighting.
  • 2 x 200m at threshold, ideally with a partner. Practise drafting, swapping over halfway. 20secs rest.
  • 1 x 400m. Aim to hit the first 25m of each 100m at perceived race pace, before easing off to your threshold pace.
  • 200m easy warm-down.

Fran Bungay, triathlon coach at Goal Specific

11. Video analysis

Have a coach video analyze your swim technique. Small changes to your front crawl can make a big difference to speed and reduce the chances of injury.

12. Fit on aerobars

The lower position will cut drag and increase speed. However, don’t just slap them on – make sure they’re fitted properly and complement your position.

13. Go off-road

Cross-country running strengthens your legs and improves stability. It can also break up the monotony of road miles.

14. On-track

Track sessions develop speed and refine pacing, as well as being a great environment for undertaking technique drills.

15. Get strong

Gym work should reflect triathlon by containing swim-, bike- and run-specific exercises that target calves, glutes and core. Your focus should be to eliminate imbalances and strengthen your control of unwanted lateral movement from hips and knees.

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