The Price of Performance – Race Specific Training

A vital element of a training program is to ensure the sessions are as close as possible to your key race, writes physiotherapist Alex Price

Race specific training becomes more and more important as the race gets closer, with overall weekly and daily mileage becoming less important in favour of matching your upcoming race conditions. Although this is an obvious concept, many athletes overlook the importance of actually implementing these strategies.

Athletes arrive in a race setting and try to increase their pace faster than they have in a training session, for longer periods or are inexperienced in a particular terrain, which results in a whole range of problems. I have heard athletes blame cramps on electrolyte loss or ‘just not their day’, when the reality is that they have not trained for the race they have tried to execute.

In order to plan and execute a key race specific training session, these are some key areas to consider:

Pace/Intensity – it is important to do ‘efforts’ that will mimic your race day intensity while under similar fatigue to what you will expect in a race. This is also a perfect time to practice extended periods in the tri bars. This is especially important if most of your bike training is done in a group, as your wattage will vary greatly if you are sitting on the back of the group as opposed to riding on your own as you would in a non-drafting race. This is something I am very particular about, with all athletes having set wattage/heart rate/pace and/or perceived effort goals for each part of a session.

Terrain – hunt out areas that mimic the race you are building up for aim to get better each week at executing them. Do your research on the race course: whether it is flat, hilly, rough roads etc. Another important consideration, especially with shorter races, are U-turns. Athletes who are not trained to turn with efficient gearing will be impacted in the run.

Nutrition – your gut is highly trainable, much like your cardiovascular and muscular systems. From 6 – 8 weeks out it is vital to eat and drink like you plan to in a race, so you can refine the plan over time. The same applies for the pre-race nutrition.

Temperature/Time of Day – where possible, train all or at least the key part of your session at a time of day that mimics race conditions. This is important for your body to be prepared at a particular time of day, especially with early race starts and with races that are longer and extend into the warmer part of the day.

Mental Preparation – this is an often overlooked part of training and racing and something that I hound my athletes about on a weekly basis. The ability to remain focused on the processes that dictate performance (and therefore the outcome you achieve) is vital, as is staying positive and mentally strong when you’re getting tired. This is a skill no different to any other and needs to be rehearsed regularly.

Time – Make sure that if you are going to be out racing for a long period of time, that you also practice for extended periods to build the endurance required. These sessions need to be monitored so that you do them intermittently if they cause a lot of fatigue.

Run off the bike – race-specific running off the bike is an element of training that is often ignored. Studies have shown a change in run form when running off the bike. This combined with a higher core temperature following riding and changes in nutritional demands make it absolutely critical to rehearse the skill regularly – at race specific pace.

Equipment/Clothing – don’t try anything new on race day. If you plan to use it in a race, make sure you have practiced in it first!


Alex Price specialises in triathlon specific physiotherapy and training and is the Team 220 physio specialist. Check back over the coming weeks for Alex’s new training blogs or follow him on twitter @apricey10

You can also check out Alex’s video on 5 Triathlon Specific Exercises to Stay Injury Free on

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