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Weakness Not Strengths
Steve Elton 

While out on my last run before a much-needed vacation from work and training, the idea for this article came upon me.  Thus far I have written two articles for this site on training related injuries, drawing on my physical therapy background. But this is the first one I have written drawing from my 10+ years as an athlete.

It has only been over the past year and a half that I have been able to maintain a steady running regimen.  Numerous injuries and life changes swept me away from multisport activities a few years ago, but thank God I am back and healthy.

It was hot and humid that morning and I thought to myself, “what in the world are you doing out here? You haven’t got a race planned and this was always the worst of your three triathlon disciplines.”

Then I realized, I was doing it for three major reasons: one, because I can; two, to keep in shape; and three because I love it.  I thought of all my past training experiences (or rather mistakes) and thought some of you out there who may benefit from this advice. So here it is!

Why do we spend so much time training in our strong discipline and not our weakest?  In the past, I usually did between 9 to 12 workouts per week; equal parts swim, bike and run.

Unfortunately, my race performance did not always reflect this equal allotment of workouts.  I was always in the lead or close to it during the swim portion of the race, held my own on the bike, and eventually got caught by some of the faster runners.  It didn’t occur to me until much later that my training schedule was the culprit. For example, I was allocating the same amount of training for the swim as I was for the run.  Now this just didn’t make sense for I was a strong swimmer but a less than stellar runner. I thought to myself why not concentrate less on swimming and more on running and sure enough I started placing higher in the standings.

Has any one else approached their training in this way? If not, here is a simple formula to help create a training regimen suited to your strengths and weaknesses.

First of all, let’s do some math!

If you are completing 9 workouts per week and you are a strong swimmer but a weak runner, your schedule would be swim two times per week, bike three times per week, and run four times per week. For a 12 workout program, simply add one training day to the above. This can work for any combination of strengths and weakness.  Say you are a strong cyclist, but a weak swimmer. Your schedule would be bike two times per week, run three times and swim four.

Now I know you are thinking… “but my strong event will suffer.”

And at first thought this may make sense. However, if you are racing a good deal and you are spending too much time training in your strongest event, you will waste all your energy in training.

Hey, that’s worth repeating.


By doing the minimum per week in your strong event, you will still maintain your athletic condition allowing your ego to shine on race day.  By focusing on your weak event and adding an extra workout or two, it allows you add speed work, technique work, and/or endurance work and before long you will see vast improvements in this event.

One word of caution though…

Unless you don’t have a job, I would recommend no more than 12 workouts per week-that’s training twice everyday with a day for complete rest (and you will need the rest!). In fact I would rather you adhere to a 9 or 10 workout/week schedule. Nine workouts a week translates into 3 days of doubles (twice a day training), 3 days of singles (once a day training), and one complete rest day-or if ten workouts per week no rest day.  It may not seem like a lot, but add a 40-hour work week, family responsibilities and other time constraints to this training schedule and I think you will find that 9/10 workouts per week will turn out to be plenty.

Another factor that always seemed to negatively affect my training and racing performance was the heat. I knew I didn’t compete well in the heat and humidity – the normal conditions during the summer season in the south, so I preferred to do most of my racing in the spring and fall. I was stronger then and my results showed it.

The same goes for those races know for hills, mountains, or extreme winds. If you don’t do well in those conditions then don’t pick those races! Of course, if you are training for an Ironman distance race, you don’t have any choice but to train and race in the heat, humidity, wind and hills.

  So, do I have any converts for the “focus on weakness” program. If you do want to give it a try send an email my way. I would love to see how each of you progresses over the next three to four months. If you get one thing out of this article may it be this:


Now if we could just get guys to put on pants over their speedos after a race-that is a definite weakness!

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