SA’s top tri coaches share their hard-earned wisdom on how to train so that you perform at
your peak, save time and, importantly, have fun.
Team Tri-Lab Multsiport | Durban | trilabmultisport.co.za
A multiple elite tri champion over all distances, Glen has been a coach since 2004. He’s also an event organiser and chair of TRI KZN. His coaching mantra is keeping it simple – plus old school – as it’s more fun when it’s less complicated. Here are his tricks for time-poor swimmers.
• The correct dry-land training methods can contribute to a stronger athlete, which in turn will contribute to faster swim times when racing.Stretch cords (rubbers) are the easiest and most economical method to enhance one’s swim performance standing on terra firma.
• Swim more butterfly. It’s great for building your endurance and will most certainly improve your swim times on less training mileage.
• Hit the pool and swim hard and swim fast. A quick warm-up and then some high intensity repeats ranging from 25m right up to 400m will boost your performance on less training time.
You still need a base, and swimming long has its place, but you’ve got to mix it up a little and swim faster to maximise the gains.
• Provided you have access to a swimming pool nearby work or home, swimming more times per week but less miles per session will boost your performance. For example, swim 5
times per week and do 1-1.5km per session rather than swim 3 times per week and do 2-2.5km per session.
Similar mileage but the consistency and frequency will enhance your performance over the long term.
• Invest in some toys. Fins are a must for the novice and can also add some essential drills to your program, like kicking to boost the overall swim stroke. Paddles give you a greater reach in the water through the arm pull stroke and assist in your technique.
A snorkel allows you to watch your arm through the pull motion by keeping your eyes looking ahead as you don’t need to rotate the head to breathe. A still head also improves your posture and body position in the water.
Team Tissink Triathlon | Port Elizabeth | teamtissinktriathlon.co.za
Raynard, an eight-time IRONMAN champion and top-five finisher in Kona, and his wife Natalie, a past SA national swimming champion, Springbok lifesaver and triathlete, offer in-person and online coaching.
• Triathlon is mostly an endurance event. The majority of your training should be easy aerobic work. Get comfortable with going long before strong.
• Everybody adapts differently to training. Some will respond quicker than others.
Patience and consistency is the key to success.
• There are no short cuts to peak performance. If you want to perform, you need to put in the work.
• Rest is as important as training. Sleep is your number 1 performance enhancer.
• Racing is the best form of training.
• If you want to be a stronger cyclist or runner, head to the hills.
• You cannot run fast if you do not know how to run slow.
Carbon Endurance | Johannesburg | carbonendurance.co
John is a TriSutto certified endurance coach for beginners through to elites. Being a part-time endurance athlete himself, he fully understands the challenges of balancing work, family and sport, and endeavours to help people achieve both athletic success and balance
in their lives.
• Don’t be limited or burdened by the training numbers – learn to use what your body has on a given day within the context of your life – ie, energy, fatigue, stress, work, kids, enjoyment.
• Use perceived effort targets more often. You may be surprised at how much harder you can push than your power meter targets on a certain day, and how much easier you need to go on others.
• The sport of triathlon should compliment and benefit your life, not take away from it.
• Get your blood work done with a sports physician and check for areas of deficiency when it comes to vitamins/minerals/electrolytes that can affect your performance and recovery.
• Preloading with sodium before races using the correct individualised product will ensure your body’s natural sodium stores are topped up. Avoid over drinking plain water days before races, which will just flush your body of sodium and have you starting on the back foot when it comes to electrolyte balance.
Trivium Triathlon | Pretoria | triviumtriathlon.co.za
Pro triathlete Magda offers online and hands-on coaching. Trivium aims to encourage athletes to build a community with like-minded athletes. It also manages each athlete’s workload and training load individually. You won’t see crazy weekly hours from its athletes.
• For swimming, one key piece of equipment in your bag should be a rubber band that you can use to wrap around your ankles and drag your body through the water.
• To avoid your goggles fogging up, use baby shampoo, just a small drip, and wipe it out.
• Cycle your bike downhill and not just uphill. Also train on flat routes, which makes you super strong. Most people can climb or freewheel down a hill, but can they sustain the power on even grounds for long?
• Knowing the size of your chainring, cassette and different gears on the bike does make a difference. Girls, please read up about this or ask your coach.
• For running, remember power always converts to speed. Add in hill-reps, long runs in a hilly area and some gym work into your program.
• Lastly, find your why before you start, and always chase impossible goals. Don’t be scared of failing because triathlon is a sport where you almost cannot fail – you should just be able to endure anything that comes your way.
Matrix Multisport | Port Elizabeth | matrixmultisport.com
Richard believes in balancing your training around your lifestyle and not your lifestyle around your training. Having structure, balance and consistency are important for success.
• Make it about living a healthy lifestyle and not just about your next race.
• Set micro and macro goals to stay motivated.
• Be patient and trust the process.
• Don’t forget your sunscreen and anti-chafe.
• Train smart, not hard.
• Easy means easy, hard means hard.
• Consistency is king – a cliché I know, but I also know that there ain’t no success without a huge focus on consistency.
• Practice race-day nutrition and conditioning your gut for race day.
• There is no luck in triathlon – what you put in is what you get out.
SCR Academy | Cape Town | swimcyclerunacademy.co.za
A former elite competitor, Viv is now a World Triathlon Level 2 Coach and Coach Facilitator who has a ‘personalized coaching for performance’ approach, both in training squads and online.
• Having a positive and working coach/athlete relationship is vital to meeting your personal and athletic goals. Not every coach will suit your needs as an athlete, nor will every athlete/coach relationship necessarily work. Besides the coaching relationship, the coach’s
personality, coaching philosophy and style of coaching is also important when looking at your options.
• First and foremost, make sure you know your personal needs when looking for a coach. How much contact will you require with your coach? Will a generic online program be enough, do you need a friendly squad with which to train, do you simply want to tick the box and do a triathlon, or do you feel the need to meet up with the coach regularly for feedback on your progress? There is no right or wrong answer to this, as we are all individuals.
• Some coaches offer a squad training set-up with is simply ‘training with others’ as opposed to ‘coaching’. Meeting up to train with other athletes can be useful with finding motivation. However there are pros and cons. If not of similar mind or ability it can turn out to be damaging physically and/or psychologically.
• Are you self-motivated and prefer to do most of your training alone? Perhaps you require more personal attention from your coach – one who can analyse your technique and performance, and who can knowledgeably oversee key sessions.
• Are you looking for performance gains and goals? A personalised training plan that will suit your needs as an athlete? This program would take into account your strengths and weaknesses in the various disciplines, suit the time you have to set aside for training vs family, work, vacations and any other happenings.
Dinamic Coaching | Pretoria | dinamic-coaching.com
Riana has more than 20 years of experience in triathlon as an athlete and coach. She believes in coaching the individual and emphasising that there are no short cuts.
• Putting down a training goal does not always need to be about tackling big races. It could
be as simple as improving a technique or setting a new PB in one of the disciplines.
• Have fun. Yes, triathlon is a individual sport, but schedule in a group meet-up with some
like-minded friends every now and again.
• Get a bike fit. A poor bike position can not only influence your performance but could also
cause injuries. A recreational triathlete will be faster on a correctly sized and well set-up
entry level bike then they will be on an ill-fitting and incorrectly sized top-of-the-range one.
• Sometimes the most basic training sessions like bike skills, mounting, dismounting,
changing gears, turning with your bike and drinking from a water bottle are exactly what
you need to improve your performance.
• Take your rest days. Don’t use this time to catch up the sessions that you missed. It’s not only a physical break from training but a mental break as well. Training is not like cramming for year-end exams. You cannot gain that extra little bit of fitness by trying to cram missed sessions from the previous week into the new week.
• Stop comparing yourself to other athletes, or to a previous version of yourself. Accept where you are now and work with what you have.
• Expect to make mistakes and don’t be too hard on yourself if you do. Get over it and, most importantly, learn from it.
Trifactri | Gauteng | trifactri.co.za
Lucie knows what it takes to get to the top as she’s done it herself – she’s an Olympian and multiple IRONMAN winner. Her coaching philosophy is fairly simple: for longevity in the
sport you have to have balance, and to perform your best you have to have consistency.
• Never neglect your recovery. Massages, foam rolling or a day off helps your body recover,
stops you from burning out and will in the long run make you a better athlete.
• Nutrition is the fourth discipline of triathlon. Even the best car can’t drive without fuel. Fuelling throughout the day is very important and will stop crashing during training sets.
• Glute strength and strong hip flexors are very important for your cycling and running. It is
important to try and do 1-2 days per week of strength training or discipline-specific training – like hills to make them strong.
• Swim technique is very important. It is essential to get stroke correction so you don’t pick up bad habits. Swimming in open water is different to pool swimming and it is important that you know how to swim correctly in open water.
• Swimming with hand paddles and a pull buoy is a great way to build your latissimus dorsi muscles and shoulder strength.
• Make sure that you have your bike fitted to you personally. Everyone’s body is different and there is no one-size-fitsall. Correct fitting will help prevent injuries and increase your performance. It is also important to know your equipment.
• Running is a lot about everything. Your stride and correct foot landing will not only make you a faster runner but will also prevent injuries.
• Find a group of like-minded people. Even though triathlon is an individual sport, your
friends, teammates and coach will make you more accountable.
• Having a glass of wine now and then doesn’t make you a bad athlete. It just makes you
Mavericks Academy | Johannesburg | mavericksacademy.com
Travis spent 10 years as a pro on the ITU and IRONMAN circuits, and has eight national titles. He places a high focus on team culture, intensity and an environment to get the best out of athletes regardless of their racing level.
• If you’re doing an indoor bike session early in the morning, set up your bike on the indoor trainer, with your nutrition, bottles and sweat towel, the night before so that you can just wake up and get going.
• During training you don’t always need to focus on the numbers –some days you can just enjoy the session and the scenery unfolding around you.
• Never use new nutrition on the day of a race. If you want to change your nutrition try and do it at least a month before your event and test it on long rides and runs.
• If your race is going to be in a hot place do some sessions on the indoor without a fan/aircon to simulate the heat you’ll be racing in, so that your body doesn’t have a massive shock on race day.
• Train like you race. Going into speeds, thresholds and creating training conditions close to what you will have in a race gives you the best possible chance to achieve your goals, as well as giving you the chance to make better decisions when racing.
• On race morning, strap your timing chip onto your left ankle as soon as you wake up so you don’t forget it in the hotel room. Remember to put it on your left ankle because your bike’s drivetrain is on the right.
DONOVAN VAN GELDER
CyberCo@ch | Durban | facebook.com/CyberCoachDvG
Donovan has been racing triathlon and its constituent sports since the mid-1980s. He offers
old-school coaching in a modern way – exclusively online – with no third-party coaches and unlimited access via whatever communication method suits. He coaches athletes from beginner to experienced over all distances, but not pros.
• Consistency is key. Establish a weekly routine with short, easy sessions for each discipline on the days and time slots that you want to continue doing them and then flesh them out as your fitness builds. The first step is to allocate those slots and lock them in.
• Training needs to be individual – don’t do someone else’s training. We all have different strengths and abilities, different goals and training histories, different heart rate and power numbers. Triathlon training is definitely not ‘one size fits all’.
• Training needs to be relevant. Every session we do needs to be focused on the event that we are training for. Doing more than we need to is as bad as not doing enough, just as going too fast in training is as bad as going too slow.
• Always understand the ‘why’. Every session must have a goal. Make sure that it does and you know what it is. If it doesn’t, it is just junk that is affecting your performance in the sessions that count.
• Always understand the ‘when’. A great training session done at the wrong time in a training
progression is junk. Escalating intensity and volume correctly produces peak form at the right time.
My Training Day | Port Elizabeth | mytrainingday.com
JD offers squad training, one-on-one sessions and a personalised Training Peaks program. His coaching philosophy is to be consistently consistent.
• Monitor your heart rate with a chest strap. Athletes always get caught up on pace, speed and power. Heart rate will give you a good indication of what is happening internally.
• Most athletes should be riding 25mm tyres, in some cases even 28mm. Wider tyres allow you to ride a lower pressure, which helps with absorbing some of the vibration through the
wheel and so leaves you with slightly more energy for the run.
• When transporting your bike, rim brakes can shi a bit and catch in the braking service. Before your race, check that the brakes are not touching. Wider tyres are increasing in popularity but some TT frames can only fit 23mm tyres. So make sure that there is enough
space between your rear wheel and the brake pads, allowing some space for the flex of the rim, and between your rear tyre and the frame.
• Run walks are a great addition to training, especially when coming back from time off. They give you the same duration on the legs, but take away some of the impact that can cause injuries or niggles. They can also be implemented in longer runs, especially when fatigued. They help you to get that last bit of the build in without pushing you over the edge.
• Look at your planned races and decide when you can take some time off from being coached. Take that time to give your mind and body a rest. Wake up later, go to bed later. Do other sports that you enjoy but never get to do. When you come back, you will be fresh and motivated.
Embark | Cape Town | embark.co.za
Steve has been competing and coaching in triathlon since 2001. His Embark training academy offers coached group training for swim, bike, run and triathlon as well as
personalised online training programs.
• Pick a realistic goal, one that fits into your lifestyle and one that is achievable. Start small and build up. Choose a sprint race in Feb, then progress to a standard distance race in April. Then look towards an ultra distance or IRONMAN 70.3 around the middle of the year. Add in single discipline events like a cycle tour and marathon, and a couple of organised sea swims. We would suggest to repeat this sequence of races again, and only then look at tackling a full IRONMAN.
• Your training program should be progressive, meaning you build up slowly to ensure your body is ready to handle the work load exerted on it, and it should be periodised, meaning
it balances the progression with proper rest, and allows for constant improvement in performance.
• Practice transition training to make sure you know how to get out of your wetsuit and onto the bike, and how to come off the bike and go out onto the run. And practice throwing up your arms and basking in the glory of the finish… you have earned that medal!
• Start with the basics: a good road bike, a helmet, sunglasses for eye protection against miggies and the sun, two water bottles for the hot summer days, spares and a bike bag so you can fix punctures. Once you get going, then worry about the extra tech, like a TT bike, power meters and bike computers.
• As running is the hardest of the three disciplines, and the most taxing on your body because of the jarring and pounding, a good pair of running shoes is vital.
Sterk Span Coaching Academy | Pretoria | sterkspan.co.za
Nico offers a complete coaching package for any aspiring triathlete, cyclist, runner or swimmer, with multiple live sessions every week plus online coaching. He believes that
endurance sport is ever changing o you need to stay on top of things and have the ability to evolve with technology and science. However the key factors of consistency, commitment
and following basic sporting principles will never change.
• The hardest part of triathlon is to commit to your training. From there on everything falls into place.
• Don’t overthink your training, trust the process of your team and coach. They know what they’re doing.
• You will always find a reason why you cannot do it. Start finding reasons why you want to do it.
• Swim once a week with a swim squad and get a professional swim coach to help you with your swimming – you will save loads of junk miles in the pool.
• Service your racing bike 3-4 weeks before your big race – the wheel bearings, chain and BB often need to be serviced or replaced, and you need a few hundred kays to ride in the new
equipment in order for it to mechanically perform best. Plus it allows you time to make sure the new parts are all in good working condition.
• Run injuries are a triathlete’s biggest challenge. Stay within your limits and never increase volume or intensity too soon. It always comes back to bite you.
SWAT Fitness Online | Cape Town | swatfitnessonline.com
Nicol is an Embark Triathlon Coach as well as a Personal Trainer and a Sports Conditioning coach in the Blouberg area. Pushing the boundaries and believing you can achieve anything you set your mind to are two key elements in her training, as well as in the training of her athletes and clients.
• Go short before you go long and for that you don’t need as much training as you think. Sometimes we get so tired thinking about scheduling our workouts, that we can’t motivate
ourselves to get them done. Just get out there and start swimming, cycling and running because they are fun!
• Each event has its own setup, so study the course and the transitions. Remember, if you make a mistake it is nobody’s fault but your own.
• Lay out everything you’ll need for your race a few days in advance with enough time leftto re-stock if anything has gone astray, and pack whatever you can the day before the race. On race morning, race brain is a very real thing.
• Expect the unexpected and be adaptable on race day. This can be difficult when you have specific goals, however every race comes with its own set of challenges that are for the most
part out of your control. Rely on what you’ve learned in training and adapt.
• Learn to pee on yourself. It sounds gross but, aside from the “every second matters” mentality, if you hold it in you tend not to hydrate. Once you are dehydrated there is no turning back – it could be the end of your race and you could need medical attention.
• Do not panic train the week before. Your volume of training needs to become much lower. However, don’t completely stop training either. You still want to keep your muscles engaged the few days before race day.
• Things happen in training and in life we can’t control. But you choose how to react – humour, gratitude and compassion are always options. Most of us have a lot to manage in our lives and yet we are SO hard on ourselves. Approach your challenges head on
with self-compassion and humour. See setbacks as opportunities.
• Stay behind after the race for some banter with fellow athletes. Celebrate each race even if it did not go to plan.
KARLA KIK GILLINGHAM
KIKstart Triathlon Training | Cape Town | kikstartriathlon.co.za
KIKstart Triathlon aims not only to coach and train people to achieve their sporting goals, but also to develop a group or team of like-minded people who inspire and motivate each other. It offers personalised online coached training plans via Training Peaks to fit around your schedule and goals. For local athletes, there are a few optional group training sessions a week.
• Train with a group of like-minded people – especially for the longer sessions. It’s safer and time passes much faster. And remember to have fun!
• Join a swim squad. Swimming alone can be boring. Swim sets pass by much faster and you will be more motivated to work harder with other swimmers around you.
• Be consistent. Weekend and binge training sporadically will get you nowhere and leaves little room for improvement.
• Instead of skipping sessions, cut a session shorter if time is an issue.
• Achieving a good balance is essential – between training, family, work, enjoyment and fulfilment, and in training (aerobic vs anaerobic sessions) – or training becomes a chore.
• Recovery is as important as training, and it doesn’t only mean rest – it includes active sessions like stretching, foam rolling, sports massage and any injury maintenance from your physio or chiro.
• Visualise race day – triathlon is as much a mental game as physical. Mental strength is vital.
• Triathlon is a combination of swim, bike, run, strength and core, transitions and nutrition. Dropping the ball on any of these will change your race drastically for the worse.
One80 Multisport | Johannesburg | one80multisport.com
Sam has represented SA in various local and international races, won SA Tri Champs and has
had multiple podiums at IRONMAN events. She offers online, face-to-face coaching and
weekly group sessions.
• Learn how to draft on the swim!
• Get a proper bike fit, it will change your strength and comfort on the bike instantly.
• Practice the fourth discipline, transitions, so when you get to a race they are slick and you are confident.
• Being a good pool swimmer won’t help in open water, so get outdoors and into the sea/dams or river.
• Control the things you can control in training and racing, like your planned sessions, nutrition and gear. The weather and swim conditions you can’t control.
• Don’t sweat the small stuff. Triathlon is an amazing sport and if you’re not loving it, don’t do it.
• Swimming is more about technique than fitness. Get your technique right and the speed will come.
• Go aero – ain’t nobody got time to fight the wind. Get clip-on bars or a TT bike – you won’t look back.