How to train for a triathlon

Fears and blocks are a common mental toughness distraction that a triathlete faces. It’s why everything goes smoothly in training and then you under-perform during your event. Either way, those blocks and fears will throw you off if you don’t know how to train for a triathlon

There’s more to the race than swimming, biking and running. The reason you want to understand whether you’re dealing with a fear or a block has to do with strategy. Similar to your physical training program, the right approach gets the quickest results. As a triathlon competitor, your time is critical. There’s a way to remove the struggle and eliminate the resistance rather quickly and easily prior to your triathlon events.

Here’s how blocks and fears cramp your style:

  • Lowered confidence because you know you’re under-performing.
  • You’re now avoiding uncomfortable challenges.    
  • Anticipation stirs up anxiety.
  • You’re getting in your own way. These intrusive thoughts keep you stuck.
  • Logic and reality can be contradictory.

As you can see, blocks and fears share many similarities. This is why it’s easy for triathletes to confuse them.

Mental prep training for a triathlon

Now there’s one primary difference between blocks and fears. Blocks are about you, they’re internal. You’re preparing to perform, but unsure whether you’ll meet your expectations. There’s doubt regarding your skill set or you’re concerned about failing. This is where training for a triathlon failed to build confidence in your capabilities.

Tess, a triathlete, is training for her first ironman triathlon (IM). She’s excited about this opportunity to compete at an IM. It’s a significant move for her. Her goal is to complete the race less than 14 hours.

She has access to triathlon training plans, nutrition tips and is part of a tri-club. Tess logically knows she’s capable of swimming the 2.4 mile length. Her thoughts of surviving the swim are paralyzing. Plus, she isn’t comfortable with bi-lateral breathing where she breathes on either side, left or right.  

Tess’s block: She is avoiding most of the open water swims offered by her club. So she’s concerned about being under-prepared for the Ironman.

The triathlon training plan failed

Her fear of drowning, a concern many triathletes share, causes panic. Those open water swims are a combination of flailing arms, kicking legs, and turbulent water. Even on the outer edges, her claustrophobia sets in. The image of drowning takes her breath away.

Fears are external. Emphasizing factors which are beyond her control help to feed her fear. Helplessness occurs when you’re unable to change the situation. Triathlons are a test of nerves. Let’s face it, during some portion of the race you will be required to perform beyond your comfort zone. Her triathlon training plan didn’t build mental toughness.  

Fear of drowning

Best practices on how to train for a triathlon. photo credit: Race Start 100_3024.JPG via photopin (license)


Since fear of drowning causes panic for Tess, it was important to acknowledge this probability. Yes, death does occasionally occur during open water swims. A risk does exist. Our work together helped reveal (and then remove) the underlying cause for her fear of drowning.

  • Discomfort with dark, murky water
  • Feeling unsafe around other swimmers in the pack
  • Shock when jumping into cold water

Here’s how to train for a triathlon so you eliminate blocks and fears.

  • The way to move through blocks and fears is by discovering your strengths. Which strengths do you already possess to help you overcome obstacles?
  • Stop emphasizing the problem. Instead seek the solution.
  • Step out of the box. Figure out a better approach to overcome those blocks and fears.
  • Triathletes love challenges. What can you do to bust through the resistance?
  • Set up. Use the Emotional Freedom Techniques to release the energy blocks. Watch the video to join me as we tap on blocks and fear.

The Emotional Freedom Techniques helps remove blocks and fears.  Part of the resistance is subconscious. EFT is ideal for removing hidden obstacles.

Everything rests on the foundation

Like many blocks and fears, Tess’s concern about the open water swim was not due to a single issue. Multiple facets existed.  As we worked through the primary concerns, several lesser concerns were also eliminated. That’s because a primary issue is similar to the foundation when building a house.  Over time, secondary issues get stacked, or layered, on top of them.  This is similar to stacking bricks, one on top of another. When the core, or foundation, is removed then the other issues dissolve.  

Quite frequently something negative later turns into an opportunity. Tess worked through her fear of drowning. Although the open water swim was uncomfortable, she stuck to her plan. She had a completely different experience because she decided to challenge her limiting beliefs. Share a comment about how you noticed that too.

Challenge: How to train for a triathlon when blocks and fears exist can be challenging. Think about something you’re currently resisting. Then follow the Solution Steps. Decide how will get started. Keep it simple. Watch the video to use the Emotional Freedom Techniques. It’ll help you quickly move beyond the blocks and fears. Remember, stay the course with consistent and steady effort. Over time you’ll notice what you once thought was difficult is now easy.  

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