After these three years of training I see there are two key aspects to reaching the best possible performance, even for beginner ‘warriors’, the aspects are improved efficiency and increased threshold to sustain pain. Aiming at building these will guarantee satisfactory results and a virtuous cycle for a long, fun triathlon lifestyle. Of course in order to reach those a lot of training and discipline is necessary. Efficiency will be reached by understanding and developing the technique and strength required for the three sports. Increasing the pain threshold will be achieved through been exposed to hard situations where you take yourself to the limit during training – thus experimenting what your body can do and the role the mind plays in training and racing situations.
When working towards efficiency the goal is the race day, therefore the technique for swimming, biking and running should consider a full triathlon and how the interactions between the sports will develop when most needed. The technical and physiological base will be the stepping stone for fast improvement and above average performance.
In my life I had a few important interactions that helped me understand these aspects of participating in competitive sports events – even at beginner and amateur levels. Early on there were coach Marc Gordon, from the Bethany College Soccer team, where I played for 4 seasons, and coach Roberto dos Santos, who introduced me to competitive soccer and always helped in training, teaching me important techniques used by the pro players. To this day, every time I watch a soccer match, I can usually spot stupid mistakes that show a lack of proper technique, that the average sports fan doesn’t even notice. Entering the soccer team was a wake-up call, because been Brazilian I started `playing` soccer probably before I was even aware of it, therefore, I felt I knew a lot about the sport. After starting playing competitively, participating on training for fitness, drills and game situations, I learned that my knowledge was very, very limited. I had a basic grasp of how to handle the ball, because I had been used to that playing with my friends in the street and school teams, but without the technique that made me only a mediocre player. When this basic, more intuitive, skills were paired with periodic training it gave me the tools necessary to improve and even to be voted the most improved player in the team by my second season playing for the college. The key take away here is that one cannot always trust what it believes to be true, the most likely case when learning the proper technique, is that serious adjustments will be needed, and the sooner one is able to absorb these adjustments the faster it will become a more eficiente athlete. I am sure everyone one that has looked to improve performance and sook coaching has encountered this situation a few times.
In terms of performance, currently I am a slightly above average age group triathlete (I have consistently place between 1\3 and 1\2 of the best times in my age category in the races I have participated), but a few years back I could barely run 5k without getting hurt. Today I am able to run 5k below 20min, the 10k is a breeze, and I am starting to build up to the marathon distance. The key to this improvement? You guessed it, improving my technique, at first it was all wrong – i just didn’t have any idea of how wrong. The change began in Rio de Janeiro, at the track of Fort São João under the guidance of triathlete Marcia Ferreira, and the definite leap came when I found the right shoes for me, I ditched those structured shoes with huge drop soles, for lighter and lower drop shoes that actually allowed me to develop what I was learning at the track. From then, it was a question of logging in the miles and, as I progressed, reducing the drop and amount of sole under my feet. Currently any shoe that weights more than 230g feels very bulky and heavy for me, before I believed those +300g very structure shoes would save me from getting hurt – now I know, technique is the most efficient way of doing that. My view is that, if one has a range to improvise, after having developed a proper technique, that means flexibility and adjustability, but starting of by improvisation is highly inefficient, although it may seem easier, it is not. It will lead to uneven training and increase likelihood of injury, also the time spent in training will not be as fruitful.
If you are just picking up on the sport, look for traning companions, triathlon teams, coaches, or someone who can help until you have the basic skills to go at by yourself.
The Marcia Ferreira team is still going strong, i actually met with her last time I was in Rio , participating at the Rio Triathlon Endurance.