We asked Brandon Marsh, professional triathlete and coach, the best way to start the new triathlon season, from how to set goals and stick to them to finding the right balance in training. Read below for his responses.
What's the best way to go about setting realistic goals?
- Look at past years' performances and set specific goals for swim, bike, and run improvements. These can be pace, power, or just making sure you get out the door and focus on your key workouts more.
- Evaluate you realistic training time, and adjust your goals and expectations accordingly. Improvement will come from training "smarter," training "more," and from the additional year that you have in your legs!
- Try to focus goals on performance as opposed to times or placings...courses differ even year to year. Conditions are variable, so even if the course is the same, comparing a time year to year may not be the best thing, and you cannot control who else shows up at the race. Control the controllable.
How often should I race? What's the best way to put the race season into perspective?
- I like to have two pretty key races close together (unless they are IM events). That way you are not putting “all of your eggs in one basket.”
- The amount of racing you decide to do will probably depend on your personality. With the focus so many have on IM distance events, a lot of athletes miss out on the fun of racing just for fear of missing a long ride or run.
- It helps to realize why you are doing the sport. Is it your job? Is it a stress reliever? If so, try not to allow triathlon to just create more stress. The season is long, so treat it as a long race and pace yourself!
After the off season, when should I start ramping my training back up again?
- Ramp the training back up whenever you feel ready or at least get started with training again when you feel ready. Maybe you feel sick with yourself that you've taken so much time off or eaten so much junk or put on a few pounds. Or maybe you have started to "miss" the training. Those are good indicators that it is time to get going again.
- “Off season” can be a bit of a misnomer for some. A lot of triathletes put in a run focus and end with a marathon in the early spring or late winter. I say do the training but don't run the marathon if you need a run focus. Whatever your “off season” is, it's a good idea to find a loose structure that you can maintain and try to stick to it without being too psycho!
What are some tips for finding the right "balance" in training? How do I find the right mix of volume vs. intensity, frequency vs. duration, and time devoted to each sport? How do I know when more is beneficial and when more is going to get me hurt?
- This really is an individual question as no two athletes are the same. Typically, the injuries that triathletes get are overuse type injuries, and typically they show themselves while running. But, generally I like to encourage athletes to have two key swims, bikes, and runs each week. If you have more time, fit in additional easy workouts around those six key sessions.
- Try to run more frequently, and keep the runs shorter and easier for a while. Begin to add to one run until you reach 60+ minutes. Then start adding to a second run so that you have two key runs a week.
- For cycling, most athletes will be able to handle a little bit more intensity and volume. But, I think that for some a bit more intensity...especially in the winter/indoor months…can go a long way. This can also help us in Austin where it is really easy to be really fit all year. So, you might have one ride that has some shorter efforts and another with longer efforts.
- The swim, same as riding, especially since no one likes getting in a pool when it is cold. Make the sessions count. Put in a good effort when you swim. Don't just get in and float around. Work on your stroke in warm-up and cool-down, but get after it in your main sets.
What are important things I shouldn't forget to incorporate in my training?
- Mainly don't forget to vary your training. We will all gravitate towards workouts we like, but don't neglect doing the ones that you don't particularly like or that challenge you every once in a while.
- Do some of the small things. Personally, I like to do some TPTherapy work in the evenings in front of the TV. I like doing some very basic planks and core work, but you don't have to go out and buy the latest gadget (TRX for example) to make it work. Just a few minutes of those two things can help keep you ahead of the injury game.
- Since most of us have pretty "sedentary" jobs, get up and walk around a bit just to not be sitting all day.
- Keep it fun, and keep it social when you need to. That will help your longevity in the sport more than the latest training fad.
For more info on "Team Marsh," coaching, and more, visit www.team-marsh.com