As an age group triathlete you are inundated with endless tips and content on what you should focus on or how to get better.
However, if you haven’t figured out by now, triathlon is not the sport where everything can be fixed and perfected quickly. Everything takes time and repetition in this sport.
This makes choosing what to focus on a bit more challenging as there are numerous tips but no guidance on where to start.
So if there are all these tips, what is the number one thing you should be focusing on?
I decided to talk to various triathlon coaches across the country and find out. Below are the top tip recommendations from 27 certified triathlon coaches.
The Top Tips
“Even the shortest triathlon is an aerobic event. Triathletes must prioritize technique first and foremost. When an athlete swims, bikes, and runs with excellent technique they reduce the risk of injury and raise the ceiling on their potential for speed. The prioritization of perfect form yields the greatest results.”
Ian Murray is a Level III USAT Coach and a Level II ITU and USAC Coach. Head Coach of the LA Tri Club, TTS Jr Elite, and USOC’s pick as Head Coach for the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjig, China
“It’s common in triathlon to hear of athletes doing all their runs on tired legs, only tired legs. The run on race day is always on legs that are fatigued from the swim and bike, that’s a given. Training on tired legs is important to prepare you for the demands of your race and help you run efficiently when tired. But, when working to improve your run (faster, healthier running), plan for key sessions (long run, speed, tempo, etc.) on fresh legs. This gives you the most benefit your quality sessions.”
Melissa Mantak, MA is USA Triathlon Level 3 and USA Cycling Level 1 certified coach and has a Masters degree in Sports Science. Coach Mantak is a former ITU World Cup Series Champion and USAT National Development Coach. As a full time triathlon coach, she empowers athletes dreams and goals every day.
“For triathletes looking at more ‘performance’ based outcomes, first you need to know what the demands of competition are. Knowledge, before preparation is key. You should aim to structure your training to meet those demands and progressively you should aim to train to exceed those demands before your target event or events. If you have this knowledge, your training will take on an extra edge and motivation.”
National Development Coach for USA Triathlon. 2016 Olympic Games Coach.
“Make sure you continuously review your top five limiters, and then make it your priority to solve these first. Limiters might include leg strength on the bike, run durability or a big one, fueling. True progress is achieved by doing this review/improvement repeatedly, over time.”
Jesse Kropelnicki is the proud founder of QT2 Systems, LLC brand of endurance sport businesses and an author and triathlon coach who works with elite level athletes.
“We are all under the impression that practice makes perfect. But perfection is a reality that doesn’t exist in triathlon. And that’s actually one of the most exciting things about our sport! There is ALWAYS room for improvement. We can be a better swimmer, be a better cyclist, be a better runner, better our nutrition, our gear, our minds… Perfect would mean reaching an end state; better means the sky is the limit. Want to be better? Practice.”
As an international triathlon certified Coach, an Ironman Certified Coach, and an RRCA running Coach she has over 8 years of experience, Coaching athletes from couch to triathlon to Ironman, 5k to half to marathon, and other endurance events.
Follow Dan Toberman
“My top tip is in whatever you do in training, be consistent, be patient, stay determined and work with an expert. When absorbing all the information you find from the internet, books, and peers it can quickly become overwhelming to build a plan and stick to it.”
Dan is the founder of Training To Race which goes the extra distance to make sure you have everything you need to maximize your training experience.
“Set realistic goals. Begin with a training plan that is modest at best. Don’t look at a pro’s training schedule and think that’s for you. Hire a professional coach to guide you through your training.”
James “J.R.” Rosania, BS, Exercise Science, brings more than 30 years of fitness training experience to Healthplex Fitness Training. His proficiency in training Olympic, professional, and elite athletes has led him to be named one of America’s Top Trainers by Men’s Journal and Vogue magazines.
Follow Caleb Guest
“Learn How to Use your Training Device. Progressive overload, the key principle behind endurance training, relies on your ability to monitor your training frequency, duration and intensity. Fortunately, there are a handful of wonderful devices out there that provide athletes with the tools necessary to keep tabs on their training, but all too often I find athletes confused by, or unaware of, how to use these devices to the best of their ability. Take some time this off-season to learn more about your smart training device and how you can get the most benefit from it. If you are still unsure of where to start locate a local certified coach and see if they would be willing to sit down and go over some of the key features of your device.”
Caleb Guest is the Head Triathlon Coach at Triplex Training. He is a Certified USAT Level I coach and works with triathletes of all levels.
Teaching swimming since 1958, Runner since 1978 – to Ultras, USAT Age Group Worlds Team Short Course Triathlon and Duathlon BS Springfield College in Kinesiology, Biomechanics, Exercise Physiology, Coaching. MS Adelphi University Learning, MEd – Columbia University Motor Learning, Neurophysiology, PhD Motor Learning, Neurophysiology & Neuropsychology.
Follow Beth Lamie
“The most successful athletes I’ve had are the ones who’ve been faithful to the plan. They resist the impulse to do too much too soon, and they ignore the advice of (usually) well-meaning friends and ‘experts’. Simply put, they Stick. To. The. Plan.”
Endurance Coach. Owner of Pegasus Elite Athlete Management. Coached dozens of (self-described) ordinary athletes to the Ironman World Championship, USAT age group nationals and worlds, XTerra World Championships and Marathon Olympic Trials. Owner of The Wheelhouse Cycling Studio. Creator of Progressive CyclingTM, a patented indoor cycling program.
Follow Vicki Edwards
“When working on the bike, include hill repeats. Not just pushing hard up the hill and then recovering but pushing hard up the hill, cresting the hill, and then keeping that effort level or power for another 2-3 minutes and then recovering. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat! Often times you think you are done when you have crested the hill but if you maintain that effort level after you have completed the climb, you legs will get much stronger for it and your climbing abilities will increase.”
Vicki is an accomplished Triathlon coach on the Eastern end of Long Island NY. I have competed and still compete at every distance and have represented the US on the World’s Team in 2011 in Bejing, China.
Follow Billy Edwards
“Understand the intent of each workout. Whether self-coaching or working in a daily training environment, an athlete should always understand what is to be accomplished within the workout and the effects on the long term plan. The intent can be anything from technique/form to working a certain energy system or systems. If you don’t understand, ASK!”
Coach of the National Colllegiate Champions US Naval Academy Triathlon Team, and uses quality metric based training for individual athletes to compete and achieve.
Follow Khem Suthiwan
“Remember to have fun. It’s easy to get caught up in buying the newest, shiny, and most expensive gear as well as analyzing data and everything under the triathlon sun ad nauseam. If it starts to seem more like a chore to train and race, change things up or take a break. Triathlon isn’t going anywhere, so you can always leave and come back.”
Late-bloomer triathlete/cyclist, coach, and human with a hunger for adventure
Follow Peter Alfino
“If you want to improve, be patient, stay consistent, don’t be afraid to take risks and always work on being more efficient. Video tape yourself or have others video tape you and work to improve your limiters. Ask others to critique your form and be open to feedback and trying new techniques.”
Pete Alfino is the owner and founder of Mile High Multisport, LLC.
Susan Kitchen is a Board Certified Sports Certified Dietitian, USAT LII Endurance and IRONMAN Coach, an endurance athlete (2x Kona) and owner of Race Smart
Follow Alison Kreideweis
“My top tip for Age Group triathletes is “don’t sweat the small stuff”. Don’t forget, you’re competing for fun! Every little detail will not go perfectly in every race, so don’t let a curveball throw you off and snowball into a worse situation. Whether you forget your Garmin or had a slower swim than expected, just take a deep breath, make adjustments on the fly and move on. ”
Co-Founder & Head Coach of Empire Tri Club, is a 2x member of Team USA, All-American triathlete and has been competing in triathlons for 17 years.
Dr. Rick Kattouf II
Follow Rich Kattouf II
“It’s important for age group athletes to understand the rules regarding banned substances, as set forth by USADA & WADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency & World Anti-Doping Agency). Many of the substances prescribed at anti-aging clinics (Testosterone, HGH, HCG, DHEA) are on the Athlete Prohibited Substance List. Whether an age-group athlete finishes first, last or somewhere in the middle, following the rules set by USADA & WADA is a key part of competing clean.”
Dr. Rick Kattouf II is a 2x best-selling author, CEO & Founder of TeamKattouf® and TeamKattouf® Nutrition, Heart Rate Performance Specialist and Sports Nutrition Specialist.
Follow Duane Franks
“The best training plan isn’t the one that you follow; it’s the one that follows you. While it’s important to have a ‘big picture’ or periodized plan, its imperative for an athlete to learn how to listen to our body and understand when to push hard and when to recover or rest. This is where feedback from an experienced and knowledgeable coach can help. There are also technological tools available for the self-coached athlete.”
Coach Duane Franks has been competing and coaching triathletes since 1981. He works with athletes of all abilities from novice to amateur world champions. His training plans and articles have been featured in athletic publications around the world.
Follow Suzanne Atkinson
“In order to improve at anything you must EXPOSE your weaknesses. Working on them is not enough, you need to take steps to expose weaknesses you are not aware of. This can include video feedback, coach feedback, training with faster athletes or seeking out mentoring and training camp opportunities. Always close the loop by learning how to get self-feedback on your weak spot and re-evaluating for improvement. This applies to form, fitness, mindset, nutrition etc.”
Suzanne Atkinson has coached triathletes for the past 11 years, including world champions, world record holders and multiple national championship participants. She has authored a book called Fresh Freestyle with 2 master swim coaches.
“Train what you have to train, to be the best you can be without losing sight of your own private situation. I mean that it is not necessary to fill up all your free time with training. You have to have a well organized plan to achieve your own personal goals.”
Peter Vervoort MD., Sports Doctor and active triathlete & runner for over 30 years.
Joan Scrivanich is a full-time certified Coach with a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She works with both local and remote runners and triathletes and she’s been an endurance athlete for close to 30 years.
Alyssa J Morrison
“With a professional background in athlete rehabilitation and coaching for more than a decade, experience demonstrates that training and racing performance is all about the gluts. While swimming, biking and running all work in the sagittal plane, the gluts require efforts in the frontal (yes, confusing) and transverse planes. In order to develop a fully functioning kinetic chain to increase strength and speed, as well as minimize risk for injury, triathletes should do regular glut-focused strength training. Even if a triathlete must end their workout ten minutes early to get them in, it is recommended to do 15-20 minutes of glut-focused exercises at least two to three times per week.”
Coach AJ’s professional experience as an occupational therapist provides a unique holistic opportunity to tie in health, wellness and injury prevention to ensure her athletes reach their optimal performance.
“Make each week count! Have the specifics (intervals, hill, easy efforts) of your training sessions planned in advance and keep track of your results! Each week goes by quickly and is either a missed opportunity for making changes, or a consistent trajectory towards your goals! Every training session has a purpose, knowing and believing in this purpose helps to stay committed and focused through the hard work!”
Sharon Adams has a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology, is a USAT Level 1 Coach and has competed in sprint to Ironman distance races since 1999, recently being named All American for the past 4 years.
“For newcomers to the sport of triathlon it can be overwhelming. Finding a training group of like-minded individuals can help alleviate the anxiety associate with starting a new hobby or sport and provides the opportunity to learn from others.”
Kristen is currently a full-time triathlon coach and running coach for adults, youth, and paratriathletes. Her love and passion for the sport can be seen in many aspects of her life as a competitor, coach, race director, and fitness writer.
Follow Rebecca McKee
“So many “first timers” that come to me for coaching come in with a bike they have had since grade school! They are excessively heavy, not in good mechanical condition and are unsafe. Worse… It doesn’t FIT THEM! Bike Fit = Biking Comfort = A really great day or a really miserable day! You are going to be spending months riding this bike, hundreds of miles, and then you are going to spend a very long day, at an event you have prepared months for, you need a bike that FITS!”
Coach/Owner-USAT LII-USAC LI-ST Swim Coach-Power Meter-USMS L2-Training Peaks-USATF-Sport Nutrition – Top Ranked Age Group Athlete
Follow Anne Jones”
“Train Consistently. Consistency is necessary for building a strong base and preventing injuries.”
A Multi Endurance Athlete for many years, Anne can help you achieve your goal, whatever that may be.
“Rest is as important as training – make sure to take your rest days seriously and actually rest. Your body needs the time to recover and recharge.”
Heather is a youth/juniors elite triathlon coach from Anchorage, AK that started Alaska’s first kids triathlon team.