Training is not rocket science – Mel Hauschildt

Mel talks about why triathletes can train themselves.

I have a lot of people ask me “why don’t you have a triathlon coach You are so new to the sport, how do you know how to train for a triathlon?” What many people don’t realise is that TRAINING IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE! There is no magic formula. I’ve come from a running background and have trained with coaches I trust and have faith in. I know how to formulate a good running program. I need to cover all areas. I need to work on aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, lactic threshold and speed. I need to periodise and taper. So when I first began ‘triathlon training’ I applied the same principles to the bike. Swimming is a little different as technique plays a huge part, something I knew nothing about, but when working on swimming fitness, again the same principles apply.

I had offers to be trained by triathlon coaches but I was happy formulating my own program. I’d joined a cycling club a year prior to my first triathlon and I really enjoyed riding with them. I had running mates I still enjoyed running with. So I carefully merged by cycling and running programs to formulate ‘my triathlon program’. It took quite a few weeks with little tweaks each week to have the ‘perfect plan’. Some weeks I’d be too tired for my ‘hard sessions’ or have too many ‘easy days’ in a row or vice versa. But soon, I had my template.

Swimming is something I’d prefer to do in a squad so I found a good swim squad (not a Tri squad) to swim with. My swim coach is Zane King, an ex olympian who now coaches young up and coming swimmers. Although I’m clearly the oldest in the squad (the average age is around 13 years old) I get what I need. These kids are pure swimmers. And they’re fast! Zane also follows the same principles as I do for running and cycling only in the water. We cover all areas of fitness PLUS technique. He also has squad on every morning and every afternoon so it’s easy for me to fit the swim sessions around my bike and run sessions.

There’s only one problem with coaching yourself. You can’t see what’s happening from the outside. You tend to do too much or push through that little niggle or sometimes… It works in reverse. You tell yourself your too tired today, you better take a rest. This is where you need a mentor. I wouldn’t suggest going at it completely on your own. I’d only just started tri’s when Jared, my husband and I started dating. He is also a runner and has trained with several great running coaches so I asked him to write my one hard run session (usually a Tuesday evening track session). This worked well because instead of having this important quality session play on my mind all week (should I do this, it’ll be hard but it’ll be worth it or should I do that, it’ll be easier?) I did what Jared set. It wasn’t long before Jared and I were living together so he got to know my program. I would start throwing ideas off of him and asking him what he thought of doing this? Or doing that?Sometimes just throwing your ideas off of someone else makes you see if differently and that second opinion helps the mind believe what your doing is right. He would also be there making sure I wasn’t doing too much or too little. Having someone else look over your program from the outside is vital. He was also a big help when I was a little tired or had a little niggle. It’s hard to decide for yourself… Am I being soft by not pushing through? Or is it serious and should I take a day off?

Now, just over 2 1/2 years after my first tri I leave most of my program up to Jared. But he always asks me what I think of it before it’s definite. I think this is very important, for the athlete to still have input into the program. Nobody knows your body better than yourself. Even once the program is written up it’s never set in stone. Things change day to day. And my program is always slightly changing depending on how I’m feeling, what I’ve done the previous days (whether training related or not) or what I’ve got to do in the next few days. It’s not just the physical training that wears you down. It’s the mental training too. And then the other things in ours lives such as lack of sleep, bad nutrition or maybe you’ve just had a really busy day with lots of errands to run. The whole picture needs to be addressed when formulating your training program. And no one person is the same therefore no one person will have the exact same training program.