FIVE Things Good Triathletes DO and FIVE Things They DON’T Do

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FIVE Things Good Triathletes DO and FIVE Things They DON’T Do

OK, so race season is upon us. Finally! You show up for a race, you race, and then you look at the results. There they are. Some of the same names at the top almost every single race. Overall…and age group. “Man, those folks are good triathletes (or duathletes or aquabike athletes, etc.)”, you say to yourself. “What in the world makes them so fast?”

Here are five things “those people” probably do that land them on the podium almost every race…five things that maybe we all should be doing no matter where we land.

  1. They train consistently. They may not be putting a huge volume but they keep after it. They know that a little is WAY better than nothing. They may simply try to swim twice a week, bike twice a week and run twice, but they DO that week after week after week.
  2. They pay attention to their gear. They may not be riding that $12K bike or have that $900 wetsuit, but what they have works well for them. They check and double-check that everything is working well before the race. Goggles. Are they new enough so that they don’t fog? Bike. Have I had a tune-up in the last six months? Have I tightened all the screws and bolts? Are my tires in good shape and inflated correctly? Have I used these shoes and socks in training and know they don’t cause blisters?
  3. They have a positive mindset. The pre-race scene can be intimidating. Muscular shaved legs. Confidence oozes from the studs and “studettes”. The murky water waiting for you with unknown creatures below. Nope. Good triathletes aren’t buying it or, at least they’re not thinking about those things. They’re dialed in and confident, knowing they’ll do their best and let the chips fall where they may. They think about past races that went well. They think about the training that they’ve gotten in and because of points one and two, they’re ready to go. They’re playing their favorite music in their ears so that they have tuned in their head as a background while they race.
  4. They concentrate. They don’t race aimlessly. They think! They use their heads! During the swim, bike, and run, they are thinking about technique. They’re thinking about pacing. They’re thinking about hydrating at proper intervals.
  5. They race THEIR race. They don’t get caught up in the craziness of the swim start and end up hyperventilating. If someone passes them on the bike, they stick to their plan. As they run, they’re looking at their watch to be sure the pace they are running is one that they can hold. They use nutritional products that they’ve been using and knows that they work for them vs. taking a free offer of product XYZ from a friend before the race to give it a try.

And, for free we’ll toss in one more just for fun…

They are willing to take risks occasionally. This may seem the opposite of #5 and in some ways it is, but every now and then, they’ll take that chance…an apparent opportunity to maybe do something great. They’ll go outside their normal race plan to try and bust one wide open…or…blow up terribly. It’s OK if they blow. There will be other races.

Now, for some things really good triathletes DON’T do.

  1. They don’t overtrain. They know that strength is only gained through thorough recovery. Workouts make them weak, not strong. Proper recovery is where gains are made. They pay attention to post-workout nutrition, especially during that 30-minute window immediately after.
  2. They don’t lollygag around in transitions. They practice transitions. They don’t cruise in and sit in a lawn chair to catch their breath. (I’ve actually witnessed that.) They don’t rush around frantically, but there is a controlled quickness exhibited. They know exactly what they’re going to do in a planned, orderly transition.
  3. They don’t make excuses. No one’s training has gone perfectly leading up to a race. Very few start a race without some kind of little niggle or injury that they’re nursing. They don’t blame the older bike, the busy work week or the crying baby, though all those may be true. They do their best and accept what the day brings to them.
  4. They are not haphazard in planning their race season. They don’t just grab a race here or race there but rather think through seasonal goals, targeting an “A” race that all other races build towards, typically towards the end of the season. They work from an annual, big-picture viewpoint knowing that the training will vary depending on the time of year it is.
  5. They don’t talk about themselves and their accomplishments all the time. They focus on others, asking how their race went. They give back and offer tips and input for those still learning. They’re proud of what they’ve accomplished but don’t brag about it. There’s a humility to them that is endearing and not repulsive.

OK, there’s five things to think about both positive and negative. Lean into the first five (or six) and stay away from the second five as much as possible. Learn from those really good triathletes and if you’re not one of them yet, you can be! Of course, “good” is a bit subjective. Maybe I should have used the word “smart” instead of good. Oh well. You get the point.

Lincoln Murdoch
Lincoln Murdoch
As an accomplished endurance athlete, Lincoln has been competing in running events for 40 years and racing in triathlons for 25 years. He is a 3x USAT National Champion, 14x USAT All-American and 3x ITU World Championships Top-Ten finisher. Lincoln is passionate about helping athletes meet their goals through books, online resources, coaching and motivational speaking. You can learn more at
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