Mark Allen's Five Triathlon Mistakes to Avoid

3. Switching Training

Just about every training program has its merits. Many coaches use similar philosophies to help get their athletes ready for racing—each adding in some kind of special sauce to differentiate themselves. Most are likely to make you faster and give you a better overall experience in your triathlon endeavors. However, every good training method—whether it's something a coach provides you or a training plan that you find on the Internet—needs time to work.

New triathletes sometimes try to mix and match too many training ideas together into their training regimen. It's easy to be swayed by the latest great training session your favorite monthly magazine puts out, but switching from one training method to the next can be worse than just training by how you feel. Our bodies improve fitness gradually—it takes time for any training method to fully play out.

Unfortunately with the speed of social media, we want our fitness to make heaps of gains in a week or two. A training methodology that promises huge gains in a very short period of time is likely to be the one that also burns you out after six weeks. When you train smart and give yourself time to adapt naturally, the improvements are small and incremental week to week.

4. Lack of Race Taper

It's so easy to keep adding in more training, harder sessions and bigger volume. Everyone loves to hit new, harder levels in training and in fitness. While this makes sense during the season, a well-planned taper will enable you to reap the biggest gains from all your solid and consistent training.

A taper is a gradual decrease in overall training volume and intensity over a set number of weeks to help you stay rested for your big races. A study in Europe found that over 90 percent of all endurance athletes go into their final big race slightly overtrained, meaning they did not taper down long enough to give their bodies ample time to freshen up to maximal levels. They found most endurance athletes start tapering down their training about three weeks out from their big events, but it actually took most people four weeks of gradually tapering down their training to arrive at the start line of their biggest race completely fresh and ready to go at optimal levels.

I didn't discover this until my final IRONMAN in 1995. I normally did the standard three week taper down, gradually cutting my overall training volume by about 25 percent each of those final weeks. I won a lot of races with that method, but I also saw that I actually felt even better the week after the big races. So in 1995 I cut things back starting four weeks out rather than three. It ended up being my best IRONMAN ever in my career. Rest up!

5. Trying Something New On Race Day

This one is so simple to avoid, but so seductive that pretty much everyone has done it at one point or another if they race long enough. We are all trying to find that last little piece of extra savings to help us have the race of our lives in the final days leading up to big races.

Whatever you do, never ever employ something on race day that you have not tried and tried over and over in your training. It's not worth running the risk of it holding you back from the performance you planned for.

Whether it's a new wheelset, a different brand of sports drink, a wetsuit or any other piece of equipment, try it a number of times before you make the decision of whether you will use it or not. Rely on your own feedback to tell you if they are making a difference in your speed and efficiency rather than taking the word of the representative who got you to try the product. Become your own expert on all new products by trying it out yourself. Most of all, never use your race to test new products.

Mark Allen is a six-time winner of the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona and is considered one of the greatest triathletes of all time. The California native retired from professional racing in 1996 and now operates his own coaching business, MarkAllenCoaching. His 'mindful' approach to racing revolutionized the way many high-caliber athletes approach the sport.

Recent Articles: 

This article is part of an exclusive series available only to Active Advantage members. To read more tips and training advice from the world's top endurance athletes, visit Active Advantage and sign up for a 30-day trial for only 99 cents.

Connect with us on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Pinterest for more tips, recipes and ideas to fuel your ACTIVE life.

Active logoReady to Swim, Bike and Run? Search for a triathlon.

  • 2
  • of
  • 2

Discuss This Article