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Transitioning From Single-Sport Athlete To Triathlete

  • By Jené Shaw
  • Published Apr 10, 2013
Photo: Janos Schmidt/Triathlon.org

In this edition of Inside Triathlon’s “Coached” Cindi Bannink offers advice on successfully transitioning from competitive single-sport athlete to triathlete.

This article was originally published in the March/April 2013 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine.

Coach Cindi Bannink helped turn collegiate runner and swimmer Gwen Jorgensen into an Olympic triathlete for the 2012 Games, earning the honor of 2011 USAT Coach of the Year in the process. Although Jorgensen undoubtedly had the competitive drive and talent to succeed, she still needed the right approach to overcome the many challenges she faced to become an instantly successful triathlete. Bannink offers advice for former competitive athletes who head into triathlon with high expectations.

Stay positive and be patient. Just because you were good in [insert previous sport] does not mean you will be instantly good in triathlon. “Some of your fitness or skills may transfer over, but time is essential to learn and master a new activity,” Bannink says. Before triathlon, Jorgensen had never really ridden a bike or been challenged with managing three sports at once. “When frustration takes over, Gwen has learned to be patient with herself as she masters this new discipline as well as have a positive outlook on her progression in blending the three sports,” she says.

Focus on your limiters. “Because Gwen was new to cycling, we devoted a significant amount of her training time to bike riding—learning handling skills, going on group rides, racing criteriums, and doing strength work specifically targeted to improving cycling power,” Bannink says. “This meant putting the run sneakers aside and Gwen begging for track workouts.” The focused bike training has paid off, proven by Jorgensen’s big improvements on the bike both with confidence and ability. “It is human nature to default to what we are good at, but if you want to be great in triathlon, you need to be great in all three,” Bannink says. “Focus on your limiters and soon they will become your strength.”

Fall in love. “The reasons for participating in triathlon are numerous—new challenge, weight loss, mid-life crisis—and yet, at the heart of every successful triathlete is a love for the sport,” Bannink says. “Identify what you enjoy about triathlon or what you hope to achieve—and fall in love with all three sports on some level so you feel motivated to reach your full potential.”

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FILED UNDER: Getting Started / InsideTri / Training

Jené Shaw

Jené Shaw

Jené Shaw is a senior editor at Triathlete magazine, a three-time Ironman finisher and a USAT Level 1 certified coach

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