There is something impressive about someone who can individually swim, bike or run fast, but that doesn't matter much with triathlon training and racing. Sure, it can impact your fitness but you have to know how to put the pieces together and that is what triathlon training is all about—creating new limits but knowing how to stay within them.
I take training very seriously, especially at the IRONMAN distance, as there is a lot to learn within the journey. Many athletes get so caught up in the miles and fearing the distance, but I believe that we must not rush the journey and recognize how important it is to focus on the key workouts that make up great race-day performances.
A recent workout session done by my husband and myself showed us that like many athletes, you have to respect your own fitness level when training for an endurance event. I love training with my husband but with four weeks until race day, the training is very specific to both of our bodies. We can continue to share this journey together but at different paces, intensities and volume.
So as I was collecting my thoughts after the tough training session, I couldn't help but think about the progress I have made on my bike, and I thought I'd share some of my top tips for becoming a better, smarter and stronger cyclist. Having been coached by my husband on the bike since we met in 2006, I have learned a lot about cycling and how to properly train on a bike, as well as how to be more comfortable on the bike.
- You can always get better as a cyclist. Don't ever give up.
- Train with a power meter.
- Learn how to change your gears appropriately and how to adjust gears before stopping. This includes how to anticipate changing terrain and adjusting gears appropriately.
- Learn how to switch from the big and small ring while drafting.
- Be sure your bike is set up with a hydration system that is easy to access (ex. rear bottle cages) and that all bottles are secure. Plus, learn what your nutrition needs are for each individual workout.
- Learn how to brake properly, especially before stopping or if slowing down in a group.
- Relax on the bike.
- Maintain good position of your seat bone on the saddle.
- Learn how to pedal smoothly.
- Learn how to climb based on your size/height (I generally climb in my small chain ring and standing).
- Don't be afraid to ride with others but be sure you are not taking your time away from your own specific training.
- Don't ride scared.
- Learn how to change a flat tire.
- Learn how to anticipate other objects around you, possibly getting in your way (react quickly but smart).
- Learn how to embrace the pain to get stronger (good pain, not injury pain).
- Just ride your bike for fun—get more comfortable on your bike in all types of conditions (be smart).
- Practice scenarios similar to race day. Set up your bike, wear clothing, wear HR monitor, stuff jersey pockets, etc., similar to race day to get use to what "it" feels like.
- Be sure to have a bike that fits you—don't buy a bike and then try to fit it.
- Trust your mechanic. Be sure your mechanic understands your individual needs and goals.
- For most triathletes, there is no reason to be "aero" on the bike with a flat back. Avoid an aggressive aero position on the bike and get a Retul fit by a fitter who is qualified to fit you with the Retul system.
- Know how to dress appropriately on the bike and invest in comfortable shoes and helmet.
- Use your gadgets appropriately. Use a bike computer, separate from a running Garmin so you can fix it to your bike and not on your wrist. Rather than being stuck on speed, consider lap times every 10 to 30 minutes so you can better pace yourself.
- Create sets that will allow you to progress with fitness and remember that athletes will peak at different times.
- Do not get frustrated on the bike as cycling is one of the best activities that you can do for a lifetime (like swimming) that is easy on the body.
- Ride safe, wear a Road ID and have fun!
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Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, LD/N is the owner of Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition LLC and works as a clinical dietitian at Baptist Medical Center Beaches. Marni holds a master of science in exercise physiology, is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach and a seven-time Ironman finisher. She enjoys public speaking, writing, plant-strong cooking and traveling. She recently finished her third IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, with a PR of 10:37:10. Learn more at TriMarniCoach.com.