Everything I Know about Triathlon, I learned in Kindergarten
By Mark Dillard, D3 Multisport Coach:
Remember when you used to go to the neighborhood pool on the weekend and spend endless hours swimming and playing games with your friends? How about going outside and playing kick the can from the time school was finished and your homework was accomplished! You played until your mom yelled down the street to come in as it was getting dark and it was time to eat dinner? Riding your bike to your friend’s house was fun and riding it to the mall meant freedom? You never thought of any of these as exercise. It was just fun! Triathlon is just an extension of our childhood playtime.
If your mind set was like when you were a child, just fun and no expectations; your open water swim could be thought of in that manner. I hear of many triathletes struggling with the swim portion mainly because they stress out because they feel somewhat claustrophobic. Just relax and swim! When did you stress out as a child playing in the pool? Think of your open water swim as a game, just like when you were young. When you are in the pool try breaking up the swim into little pieces, for example, I will make it to the wall like I am Michael Phelps. Or, if I swim like Sarah McClarty, she would be swimming long and strong. All of these little games will help you to relax during a race and not think about everything else around you.
How about the bike? I remember my friends and I riding to our favorite spot on our BMX bikes and just riding easily on the way there. When we got to our little dirt track, then we would ride like hell!. Wow, that’s oddly similar to my ride last week which consisted of an easy warm up with some intervals in the middle. We cannot go hard all the time or we will be training the wrong system all the time. If we go easy all the time, we will learn to be slow all the time. When you were a kid, you knew when you were tired and you rested. As adults we need to learn to rest as well. Listen to your body like you did as a child. If you are too tired to do the next interval, then rest longer or call it a day. We knew a lot about ourselves as kids and we should relearn to do the same as adults.
Playing kick the can and hide and go seek were all about having fun and racing your buddy to get to the "can" first. (No, not the porta potty, the tin can. I know what you were thinking!) So now that we are older, we need to remember to mix it up on the run as well. I remember as a kid I could run all day long, but didn’t think of it as endurance. As adults we can incorporate fartlek runs. (Meaning speed play in Swedish) I just love to say that word at parties. During a long run add in some speed. For example, "I will run to the tree down there at a 5k pace." Adding in these types of runs can help with leg turnover and form. You should also think a little about where your foot lands. When you are running with good technique, you should land on your mid foot, or think about leaning from the ankles during these harder efforts and you will get faster. Be a kid again and have some fun racing your friends to the next road marker. Just mix up the pace!
What about transitions? I regularly see kids get their shoes on and off faster than many adults. Kids get lots of practice, so spend some time practicing your transitions. Kids don’t think about all the stuff they need to put on to go outside and play, in their mind all they need is their shoes. So be a minimalist in transition and put only what you need next to your bike. Most kids don’t even tie their shoes. Try using speed laces of some sort to keep from having to waste time in T2 tying your shoes.
So think about what you learned in Kindergarten and remember to have fun with your workouts. Make your workouts fun by adding in some games that you can play to spice up your workout so it will less mundane or even flat out boring. The next time you look at your training schedule, see how you can be creative and make it some of the best workouts you have had. I know when I was a kid, I just loved to go out and play!
Mark Dillard is a USAT certified coach with D3 Multisport.