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Overcoming Plateaus in Triathlon Training

A plateau in triathlon training can be frustrating for athletes who are striving to improve their performance. It is a point where progress seems to stall, and no matter how much effort is put in, there is little to no improvement. Plateaus often occur when athletes focus too much on their strengths and neglect other areas of training, known as “limiters.”

For example, in swimming, an athlete who solely focuses on building shoulder strength may hit a plateau. Instead, they should incorporate drills to improve kick strength, catch technique, or rotation. In cycling, an athlete who only does long, moderate-intensity rides may plateau and should include high-intensity sessions or bike racing. Similarly, in running, athletes can identify their limiters by comparing their speed potential to their race performance and adjust their training focus accordingly.

Overcoming plateaus in triathlon training requires assessing and addressing these limiters and incorporating training strategies to break through the stagnant phase. By being aware of the signs of a plateau and implementing effective training variety, athletes can push past their limitations and achieve their triathlon goals.

Key Takeaways:

  • A plateau in triathlon training refers to a point where an athlete’s progress stalls.
  • Limiters are neglected areas of training that are often the root cause of plateaus.
  • Identifying and addressing limiters is crucial to overcome plateaus in triathlon training.
  • Assessing performance through benchmark assessments helps track progress and determine if a plateau is being reached.
  • Varying training intensity and incorporating different types of workouts are essential to avoid plateaus and improve performance.

Assessing and Addressing Plateaus in Triathlon Training

To determine if you are experiencing a plateau, it is important to define what a plateau means to you as an athlete. Are your race times stagnating or getting worse? Are you lacking motivation to train? By using benchmark assessments, such as timed races or other measurable metrics, you can track your progress and determine if you are hitting a plateau. It is crucial to pick benchmarks appropriate for your race distance and complete them regularly, while also considering other factors such as race anxiety, nutrition, sleep, and other non-training limiters.

Training specificity is also important in addressing plateaus, as there are specific considerations for each race distance that need to be incorporated into training. By identifying and addressing your limiters, adjusting your training plan, and reassessing your goals, you can overcome plateaus and improve your triathlon performance.

Using Benchmark Assessments

One effective way to assess whether you are experiencing a plateau is by using benchmark assessments. These assessments, such as timed races or performance tests, provide objective measures of your progress. By comparing your current results to previous benchmarks, you can identify whether your performance is improving, stagnating, or regressing. This allows you to pinpoint areas of improvement and reassess your training strategies.

“Benchmark assessments are like milestones in your triathlon journey. They help you gauge your progress and identify areas where you need to break through.”

When choosing benchmark assessments, consider the specific demands of your race distance. For example, if you are training for a sprint triathlon, a timed swim test and a 5K run can serve as effective benchmarks. On the other hand, for an Ironman triathlon, a longer swim, bike, and run test may be more appropriate. By selecting benchmarks relevant to your race distance and regularly evaluating your performance against them, you can track your progress and identify if you have reached a plateau.

Addressing Limiters and Adjusting Training

To overcome plateaus in triathlon training, it is essential to identify and address your limiters. Limiters are weaknesses or areas where you have room for improvement. They can vary from individual to individual and may include aspects such as swim technique, bike power, running form, or mental toughness. By identifying your limiters, you can prioritize them in your training plan and allocate appropriate time and resources to overcome them.

Once you have identified your limiters, make adjustments to your training plan to focus on those areas. This may involve incorporating specific drills, workouts, or exercises that target your limiters. For example, if your swimming technique is a limiter, you can include drills that emphasize proper body position, catch technique, or bilateral breathing. By addressing your limiters through targeted training, you can break through plateaus and improve your overall triathlon performance.

Overcoming plateaus in triathlon training requires an understanding of your own performance, the use of benchmark assessments, and the targeted addressing of your limiters. By reassessing your goals and adjusting your training plan, you can break through training plateaus, improve your triathlon performance, and overcome the challenges that come with the sport.

The Importance of Training Variety in Triathlon

One common reason for plateaus in triathlon training is a lack of training variety. Many athletes tend to spend the majority of their training time in a specific heart rate zone, such as Zone 3. While this type of training has its benefits, such as increasing cardio-respiratory capacity and pace training, it can also limit an athlete’s ability to go fast. To overcome plateaus, it is important to incorporate training sessions in different heart rate zones.

For example, incorporating short, fast intervals in Zone 4, along with recovery periods, can train your body to go faster than race pace and increase your lactate threshold. On the other hand, training in Zone 2, also known as the “recovery” zone, helps improve the ability to metabolize fat as the primary fuel and build endurance. By diversifying your training and incorporating different types of workouts, you can avoid plateaus, improve your skills, and achieve your triathlon goals.

Training variety not only keeps your body guessing and adapting, but it also helps prevent mental burnout and boredom. Trying new training methods, such as tempo runs, hill repeats, or cross-training activities like yoga or swimming, not only provides physical benefits but also keeps you motivated and engaged in your training.

So, if you find yourself stuck in a training plateau, don’t be afraid to mix things up and embrace training variety. By pushing your body through different heart rate zones and incorporating various exercises and activities, you can break through plateaus, advance your triathlon skills, and ultimately achieve your triathlon goals.


What is a training plateau in triathlon?

A training plateau in triathlon refers to a point where an athlete’s progress seems to stall, and they are unable to improve their performance despite their efforts.

What are "limiters" in triathlon training?

“Limiters” are neglected areas of an athlete’s training that often contribute to a training plateau. These areas are usually weaknesses or areas that have not received enough attention.

How can I determine if I am experiencing a plateau?

To determine if you are experiencing a plateau, you can track your progress by using benchmark assessments, such as timed races or other measurable metrics. You can compare your current performance to past performances to see if there is any improvement or stagnation.

How can I overcome a training plateau in triathlon?

To overcome a training plateau in triathlon, you can identify and address your limiters, adjust your training plan, and reassess your goals. By incorporating variety into your training, addressing specific weaknesses, and setting new challenges, you can break through plateaus and improve your performance.

Why is training variety important in triathlon?

Training variety is important in triathlon because it helps prevent plateaus and improve overall skills. By incorporating different types of workouts, such as interval training, endurance training, and recovery sessions, you can challenge your body in different ways and improve your performance in all aspects of the triathlon.

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