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I have coached thousands of triathletes over the past twenty-five years. The irony in that is that I never had a triathlon coach when I was racing.

That simple fact was a double-edge sword. Without a coach I made mistakes that no one would make if a coach guided them. Had a coach guides me during my racing career, I would have shaved over a decade off of dialing in what became a truly winning training philosophy. But more importantly, it would have made the first half of my career so much more enjoyable without a number of stinging defeats and disappointing seasons.

I did have experts guiding me who knew a heck of a lot about their specific niche. There was a local running coach who helped advise me on what he thought I should be doing to get faster and fitter for the run in a triathlon. I had a swim coach who gave me workouts daily. A close friend was a long time cyclist who helped me get going on the bike. But none of them knew quite what it took to take those three disciplines and combine them into one sport.

Making swimming, cycling and running a single sport journey is an art.

It requires a blend of the best philosophies each sport to offer. That has to be morphed into training that gives fitness without burnout. If I’d had triathlon coach keeping a pulse on my training during my career, I could have avoided every pitfall that most triathletes make.

What are those pitfalls? Many overtrain in their weekly volume. Most do more speedwork than can be absorbed and recovered from. There is a tendency to shy away from building their weakness in favor of going to what is comfortable, which is their best of the three disciplines. And so the list goes.

In my second Nice International Triathlon I completely melted down on the run. My fitness was not where it needed to be and my pacing was off. I did win, but I really needed a coach to help me avoid this horrendous situation.

I made all those mistakes.

By doing too much volume I paid the price. During the early years of my career I had weeks on end where almost every session had a fast anaerobic element to it. If you don’t go fast in training, how can you expect to go fast in a race, right? My biggest weakness in the beginning was running because I was fragile. So I never did anything but the “safest” running routes to avoid potential injury. I ran flat and on pavement.

But none of that worked. The volume depleted me. The speedwork injured me. Avoiding trails and hills never progressed my running. A coach would have set up my training from day one to counter each of those and more.

The silver lining to this story is that I saw firsthand what happens when I trained without guidance.

I experienced personally the result of all the wrong training philosophies. So now when I coach athletes who want me to let them do the same mistakes I made, I can explain to them with no hesitation and through personal experience why the crazy thing they want to do, even if it looks good on the outside, will end up being a setback rather than a leap forward in their triathlon journey.

Fortunately, I also found my way to what really does work to get fit, stay healthy and have the race of your life when it counts. What I discovered is rather simple. It’s repeatable. And it works over and over for years on end. What garnered me huge success in the sport, and what I use today to guide the athletes that I coach is time tested. It takes patience to implement, but it works!

Yes, I could get you very fit in 8-weeks. But if I had you do that over a full season, that same technique would burn you out.

Through tough experience and a goal to leave on top of my game, I did that in 1995. My final IRONMAN World Championship was a win. The experience of those years is what I bring to people through my coaching.

I have always looked at the long-term. As a coach I ask myself how can I help people get better year after year. Then if they decide to move on make sure they will be able to do that by choice rather than because they got injured or burned out from what I had them do to hit peak performances? How can I make sure they exit like I did: healthy and happy?

Those were the same goals I had for myself when I raced. I wanted to retire healthy, uninjured and full of energy. It was my focus to go out at the top of my game. I accomplished that by finishing my final IRONMAN World Championship in 1995 with a 6th victory. And to this day, I am able to train every day by doing the right balance of all things a human needs to stay fit and healthy!

Let me help you on your journey to a great experience in triathlons!

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About the author Mark Allen More information on the author

I am the Founder and CEO at Mark Allen Coaching. I am proud to have been voted in an ESPN global poll "The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time." During my multi-sport career I won the Ironman Triathlon World Championship six time, the inaugural Triathlon World Championship at the Olympic Distance in Avignon, France, and at one point in my career I won 21 straight races across every derivation and distance. It was a great career, but that's all it would ever be unless I was able to share all of the experience and methodology we invented long before smart watches, power meters, and flashy uniforms. That's why I started Mark Allen Coaching, as a way to return to others at least the part of the gifts I received.

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