The Most Common Mistake in Triathlon

Solution #1: Monitor Your Heart Rate

As I mentioned above, traditionally there have been two ways of avoiding the most common mistake in triathlon. The first is training by heart rate. Using a heart rate monitor in workouts allows the athlete to see objectively whether his or her intensity level is actually easy, moderate, or hard. Once you've determined the proper heart rate training zones for your fitness level, it's no longer possible to fool yourself into thinking you're taking it easy when you really aren't.

So why doesn't every triathlete train with a heart rate monitor all the time? Surveys suggest that many athletes find heart rate monitors difficult to use and find the theory behind heart rate-based training difficult to master. It seems to require the knowledge of a coach to correctly prescribe customized heart rate-training zones, create a sensible heart rate-based training plan, and execute each workout correctly. This point leads us to solution number two.

More: Use a Heart Rate Monitor and Find Your Threshold

Solution #2: Hire a Coach

A good coach can make avoiding "The Mistake" a no-brainer. Your coach determines the proper training zones for you, creates a sensible 80/10/10 training plan for your exclusive use, and makes sure that you execute each workout correctly.

Except that most coaches aren't actually present with their athletes through every workout to ensure proper execution. Also, personal coaching is pricey. Not every triathlete can afford it. Furthermore, the coach-athlete relationship is like any relationship: It might work, it might not. If you don't have good chemistry with the coaches in your immediate area, you're out of luck.

More: 10 Tips for Finding the Right Coach

A New Solution

Recent technologies offer the promise of a new solution to the most common training error. Last year I started working with PEAR Sports, a company that makes one such device, called the Square One. It essentially combines coaching with heart rate monitoring to give athletes the best of both worlds. As you do your workouts you listen through headphones to a coach who guides you through heart rate-based training sessions. Effective training becomes as easy as pressing one button and doing as you're told—and it's a lot cheaper than a personal coach.

Like anything, the Square One probably isn't for everyone, but I believe that technologies like it hold tremendous promise for helping greater numbers of triathletes avoid common training mistakes. In the meantime, what's most important is simply to recognize the existence of this mistake and choose the best solution for you.

Read Next: How to Balance Your Training Volume

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