Exhaustion Training for a Triathlon

Ensuring you know how to deal with exhaustion is an important part of training for a triathlon.
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Exhaustion is something all endurance athletes, especially triathletes, must deal with. It has been shown that exhaustion is usually more mental than physical. Research by Samuele Marcora at Bangor University in Wales showed that cyclists who quit when they thought their bodies were exhausted actually stopped before they had exhausted their reserves. If you can train yourself to recognize that the exhaustion you are feeling is mostly mental, then you can learn to move past this point and extend your training duration and intensity. Training to the point of exhaustion and beyond is a good way to do this.

    Step 1

    List your motivations. Write down all the reasons you are training for the triathlon, which may include everything from prize money to personal satisfaction. Writing these motivations down will help you to remember why you are doing this in the first place. When your mind is trying to tell you to quit training, you’ll want to be able to focus on the reasons to keep going.

    Step 2

    Determine your schedule. Mapping out your training schedule is even more important for triathletes. You don’t want to go out and train yourself to exhaustion every day. This can actually lead to worse results. Paulo Sousa, a triathlete and coach, recommends alternating long, hard training days with lighter training days so that the lighter day is about one-third of the long, hard day. You also need to schedule time for each sport in the triathlon, and make sure you practice transitioning from one sport to another (swimming to cycling and cycling to running) so you understand the difficulty of switching from one to another when your muscles are fatigued.

    Step 3

    Do your long, hard day of training. How long and hard it is, is up to you. Only you know how much training you have done already and at what point your mind starts to tell you that you have reached the point of exhaustion. According to Sousa, a common training session for triathletes is five hours of cycling followed immediately by 40 minutes of running.

    Step 4

    Do a light day of training. Francis Cole of the Triathlete Women website suggests alternating running for 10 or 15 minutes and walking for about a minute if you are finding it more difficult to run. This would work well on a light day.

    Step 5

    Repeat Steps 3 and 4 as needed. Follow your schedule. Mental discipline is key to pushing through exhaustion, so maintain discipline in all aspects of your training, including the schedule you have put together.


    • Make sure you swim in open water for at least part of your swim training, because swimming in a pool is quite different from swimming in open water.


    • Pushing through the pain of exhaustion is one thing, but if you are suffering pain before you get to that point or in between workouts, especially if it is in your back or knees, talk to your doctor before continuing with training.

    Things You'll Need

    • Paper and writing utensil

    • Appropriate training attire (swimsuit, running shorts, etc.)

    • Appropriate footwear

    • Bicycle

    • Water bottle

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