When to Push Past the Pain in Triathlon Training

Summer marks the time when triathlon training becomes more focused and athletes take serious aim at key races.

Training to swim, bike or run faster or longer can be uncomfortable for elite triathletes and newbies alike. Some might say it's even painful.

There will be times when your arms and legs are burning and self-doubt creeps in, tempting you to quit. Instead you go further. After some recovery, you are faster.

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Pushing through physical and/or mental discomfort, giving the best you have on that day is "playing to win." This type of discomfort is a special type of pain and tolerating it physically and mentally, is part of becoming the best athlete within your personal reach.

As your level of fitness improves, tolerance levels for discomfort also increase. You become capable of managing discomfort for longer periods of time. Embracing discomfort becomes part of growth and improvement.

Discomfort Versus Pain

There is, however, a significant difference between discomfort and pain. Physical discomfort is typically muscular in nature and goes away once you've decreased the intensity or pace.

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A second type of physical discomfort shows up a day or two after a tough swim, bike, run or weight-room workout. This kind of discomfort is called DOMS or delayed onset of muscle soreness.

These two types of discomfort are common to athletic training. As you develop as an athlete, you should expect to be uncomfortable.

Pain, on the other hand, comes in various levels. Some pain needs the attention of a physician. While other pain can be treated with proper rest.

Stages of Pain

Pain that surfaces after a ride or run, like a bit of knee soreness, but goes away either the same day or within 24 hours is likely nothing to worry about. Note it in your training journal and keep an eye on reoccurring problem areas.

Pain that occurs during a workout, but does not force you to stop, can be treated the same way as post-workout pain. In this case, consider taking a day or two off of training or reduce the training load to err on the side of caution.

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About the Author

Gale Bernhardt

Gale Bernhardt was the USA Triathlon team coach at the 2003 Pan American Games and 2004 Athens Olympics. She's worked as a World Cup coach and delivered education training for the International Triathlon Union's Sport Development Team. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's easy-to-follow training plans. You can find some of her training plans on Active Trainer to help you succeed.

Gale Bernhardt was the USA Triathlon team coach at the 2003 Pan American Games and 2004 Athens Olympics. She's worked as a World Cup coach and delivered education training for the International Triathlon Union's Sport Development Team. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's easy-to-follow training plans. You can find some of her training plans on Active Trainer to help you succeed.

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