Improving Your Weak Areas
The majority of new triathletes come to the sport as runners, and it's not uncommon for bikers to make the transition to multisport competitions. A much smaller percentage of beginners have only swimming as their athletic backgrounds, so that aspect of the triathlon is likely to provide the greatest challenge to most new competitors.
Being a poor or below-average swimmer does not have to mean you should take on some other challenge. There are ways to get yourself to the point where you feel the swim segment won't be your undoing, and with proper assistance, you can even make it a strong point.
Few people instinctively know the right way to swim. In that sport, technique is everything. The best way to get better as a swimmer is by enlisting the aid of a coach. A coach often works with a group, watching each swimmer in turn and offering tips for better technique and form. Fortunately, most facilities with big pools also have programs that include coaches as part of their master swim classes.
As a runner, you train yourself to move in short steps with quick foot turnover. Long strides are inefficient and waste energy. A good rule of thumb for running is about 180 steps per minute.
In the pool, your goal is a long stroke that carries you a greater distance. At the start of a triathlon, you might see a group of twenty-five to thirty expert swimmers seemingly in a frantic scramble, thrashing about as they try to get ahead. Once they settle down, however, the strokes are long and smooth, not short and choppy. They literally glide through the water. Good swimmers don't stay in the flailing mode for more than a few seconds.
If swimming is your weakest area and you have the time leading up to the triathlon season, hit the pool five days a week, even if it's just for short workouts, say twenty or thirty minutes at a time. You don't want to do that much swimming when you are in full triathlon training, but the repetition will make you feel more confident where you need that feeling the most and leave you better prepared to take on your new challenge.
If you feel least comfortable in the cycling part of the triathlon, you can gain confidence with training on hills. Riding your bicycle on hills is similar to weight training, and you don't want to do a lot of that during the triathlon season. As with running, hill workouts add a lot of leg strength, which you need in both sports.
If you haven't done a lot of riding, you may be surprised at how tough it is to negotiate a hill on a bicycle. With each workout, however, it will get easier, and your confidence will grow.
As with training for any sport or endeavor, there will be days when things just don't go well: everything seems to be a struggle, or fatigue overtakes you sooner than you expected. You can't let these minor setbacks get you down. Learning to shrug off the bad workouts instead of obsessing about them is part of your growth as an athlete.