9 Ways for Triathletes to Get Outside Their Comfort Zone

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Despite having three sports packed into one, it's all too easy to find yourself stuck in a monotonous training rut when it comes to triathlon. We all have our go-to sessions that are both effective and familiar, but after the ninth or tenth week of similarly structured workouts, a breath of fresh air is always welcomed to keep the sport engaging and fun. 

Make this season one unlike any other. While triathlon should still be the main focus and goal, we've gathered nine ways triathletes can get outside their comfort zone this year. 

Commit to an IRONMAN

You've likely thought about it for a while now, so why not make this year the year of the IRONMAN? Don't let the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run deter you—the distance is more manageable than you think. With proper training, a nutrition plan and a little bit of elbow grease, crossing the finish line and hearing Mike Reilly say "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" can be just a handful of months away.

Find your next IRONMAN here

Practice Transitions

If you're one of the many triathletes who already practices transitions, good for you, but just as many triathletes, specifically new triathletes, don't spend time practicing this key aspect of the sport. Honing your setup and movements in transition is essentially free speed, and a strong transition can be the difference maker when you're shooting for your next PR. Set up a mock transition area and practice organizing your gear and transitioning from the swim to the bike and the bike to the run.

Hit the Open Water

Being comfortable with an open water swim is one of the biggest barriers to entry when it comes to triathlon. Just like any aspect of the sport, it takes practice to familiarize yourself with running through the waves or sighting around a buoy. Take some time this year to work with an open water swim coach or connect with a local swim club and join them for some weekend OWS practices.

Get Muddy

Sure, cycling and running on paved roads is the most efficient way to race, but who says triathlon has to be efficient? Hang up your ultra-aero triathlon bike and instead reach for your old mountain bike that probably needs a little more attention. An off-road triathlon is a great way to stay in shape and switch up your training and racing environment, and the fitness gained from riding and running up and down brutal single-track has direct benefits for the traditional triathlon format.

Find your next off-road triathlon here

Get Muddier

Cross training is one of the most overlooked aspects of triathlon. Obviously training for swimming, cycling and running is important for triathlon success, but cross-training can help promote mobility, decrease your risk of injury and help prevent muscular imbalances caused by tri-specific workouts. Obstacle course racing, specifically a Tough Mudder, is a great way to not only capitalize on a triathlete's strong endurance background but boost physical strength through a series of technical (and just plain gnarly) obstacles. Grab some of your tri buddies, and add a Tough Mudder to your race schedule this year.


Find your next Tough Mudder here.

Get out of Town

If you've raced IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside six years in a row because it's right down the street, it might be time to switch things up. Find a race that's the same distance but in a different location. The new race course will be exciting, and it's always fun traveling to and exploring unfamiliar areas. Pack up the family and make a vacation out of it—why not?

Get Swole

OK, we don't mean you should bulk up here, but regularly incorporating strength training into your triathlon training regimen is crucial when it comes to longevity and injury prevention. Don't just head to your gym and use any machine you see though—that's a recipe for serious injuries. We've outlined some triathlon-specific strength and mobility workouts for your convenience here and here.

Be the Slow One

Nobody gets faster if they're the fastest triathlete in the group. By surrounding yourself with those more experienced and faster than you, you'll naturally be pushed harder and further than if you were training alone or with slower folks. Get out of your comfort zone this year by stepping up to the faster masters swim group or the faster running or cycling group. You may be dropped at first, but stick with it and pretty soon you'll be hanging in there and taking your share of the pulls.

Work on Your Weaknesses

Triathletes don't fit into a "one size fits all" box. While some of us might be strong cyclists, others might prefer running or swimming. It's too easy to focus on what you're already good at, but improving an already excellent discipline results in marginal gains at best. We hate to say it, but you're better off investing your training time and energy into the discipline you dislike or aren't as efficient in. Lean on your coach's expertise to restructure your training plan to focus more on areas where you need to improve the most, even if this means a few extra cringeworthy interval workouts or long rides or runs. 

READ THIS NEXT: 7 Ways to Kill Your Comfort Zone

About the Author

Michael Nystrom

A California native, Michael Nystrom graduated from the University of Southern California with a master's degree in journalism. He is a 2x IRONMAN and has done countless sprint- and olympic-distance triathlons. Follow Michael on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.
A California native, Michael Nystrom graduated from the University of Southern California with a master's degree in journalism. He is a 2x IRONMAN and has done countless sprint- and olympic-distance triathlons. Follow Michael on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.

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