\Even though triathlon training is usually designed around a periodized plan that allows for athletes to continually build fitness throughout the season, many triathletes still hit plateaus in training. A training plateau is a period of time where you’re not improving and just don’t have the spark or motivation you once had.
Triathlon is unique in that a plateau can happen anytime of the year, in any of the three sports that make up a triathlon (swimming, biking, and running).
The key to overcoming a swimming plateau is indentifying a few weaknesses in your swim stroke and creating a plan to overcome those weaknesses. For example if your stroke is uneven or choppy, then plan to incorporate single arm swimming drills in your weekly workouts. Additionally if you haven’t already, read How To Swim Faster: 7 Tips. The tips explained in that article will help you break out of your normally routine and kick start the path to faster swimming.
If you aren’t training with a power meter, identifying plateaus can be difficult because there is no quantifiable data showing a lack of improvement. In the winter months especially many triathletes feel as if they aren’t improving on the bike. However, more times than not they are improving but there training speed doesn’t show it due to the fact it’s cold outside, they’re bundled up in layers of clothes, and it’s the offseason. I encourage these athletes to be patience because when spring rolls around triathletes typically see huge jumps in speed on the bike.
If you are training with power that is showing a lack of improvement or you’re sure your bike fitness isn’t improving, challenge your body with different workouts. For example if you typically just go for long/slow rides, start to include some intensity, or do a trainer workout following The Top 10 Indoor Trainer Bike Workouts.
One of the biggest obstacles that prevents triathletes from improving run performance is injuries and biomechanics. Before moving forward in running both these issues need to be addressed in order for an athlete to overcome a plateau.
If you’re injured, I recommend seeking professional help to heal your injury and to figure out why you got injured in the first place. Being a healthy/injury free athlete allows for consistence training.
Biomechanics are tricky to fix however, they can be improved through various running drills and lots of practice. If possible, have a running coach look at your running form so they can give you tips to improve your biomechanics. This is best done in the offseason however; running form should be maintained year-round.
If you’re not injured and your biomechanics are good yet you’re still not improving in the run, just as in cycling I recommend mixing up your training with different workouts. To often triathletes run in a gray area of zones 2-3, never going extremely easy or extremely hard, this type of training quickly leads to a plateau. To avoid this, ensure your weekly training has a variety of running sessions including hill training, speed workout, and interval training that force you out of the “grey area” of running.
Compared to the three sports above strength training plateaus are less common and not as important to overcome, simply because a majority of a triathletes season should be focused on just maintaining strength. That being said, Strength plateaus do happen and should be addressed to encourage constant improvement. The best way to overcome a strength-training plateau is to take your current routine and make every exercise a little more challenging. For example if you currently do push-ups but haven’t felt any strength improvements in a while, try doing push-ups with your hands on stability ball to encourage balance, stability, and core strength.