This is another great question and one which will be in the mind of many novice and experienced triathletes. In some ways it implies that improvements can be purchased and whilst that might be what the marketeers would have you believe, there are many improvements to performance that can be had with no financial outlay. Having said that, there are also some very good investments that you can make which will lead to good performance gains.
With that in mind, I’ll provide you with two lists – one containing only free gains and the other which requires you to get your credit card out.
- Sleep – This is by far the best way to make gains from your training. It’s under-rated by most athletes but is the ONLY real time when true adaptations take place. Find a way to getting more sleep and I can guarantee that your performancees will improve both in sport and in life.
- Clean Eating – Nutrition is not only the best way to manage your weight, it also helps you to fuel your training and repair those tired and aching muscles. Over-consumption of refined and processed carbs contributes to inflammation of muscle fibres and connective tissues. This is overlooked by many endurance athletes, but cutting them out of your daily intake can play a massive part in faster recovery from hard sessions.
- Mobility – Many triathlon related injuries arise from a lack of mobility around key joints. Most experts in the rehab field agree that we should be doing around 15 minutes of mobility for every 1 hour of training. Most athletes do not achieve this. If you have more time to spend on your training, a very simple gain could be had from spending that time doing more mobility versus additional training. By avoiding injury, your consistency improves and so does your fitness. Another benefit of increased mobility is that it improves movement efficiency. Thus you are able to swim, bike, and run at the same velocity with less effort.
- Physio Assessment – Every athlete has joints which are weak or tight. As a result, they are potential injury hotspots. Identifying these in advance and then creating a mobility and strength programme to make improvements will be a positive addition to your training consistency. Given that running accounts for 70-80% of triathlon injuries, being pro active will be a smart move.
- Bike Fit – The bike is the biggest section of any triathlon and for that reason is where you are likely to spend most of your training time. Most athletes opt for a bike fit for their race bike but I think it’s sensible to get a bike fit for your winter bike as well. If you are in a less than effective position when riding it can create fatigue and tightness which can lead to injuries.
- Mattress – We have already identified that sleep is a major training tool, and where you spend that sleeping time is crucial. 8 hours in bed isn’t that productive if you are restless, so getting restful sleep is important. Investing £500-£1000 on an item that you will use for 1/3 of every day is a far better purchase than spending the same money on something that you will use for 4-5 hours per week.
- Swim Coaching – Swimming is the most technical of the three tri disciplines and one where effort isn’t necessarily rewarded by improvement. A good coach will be able to highlight where and how your stroke can be corrected. You might swim faster but even if you swim the same speed, doing so with less energy output will leave you with more energy for the bike and run where you can make bigger gains.
- Smart watch – The current generation of smart watches bot only give you real time heart rate readouts, they can also track your training providing valuable feedback on what you have been doing with a view to informing what you should be doing in the future. In addition to this, the best ones, like the Suunto 9 also track sleep and measure Heart Rate Variability. Worn 24/7 means that they can also provide a valuable insight into howe you are responding to training and what recovery options you m might take to enhance all of that training (see point 1 in FREE UPGRADES regarding sleep)