Triathlon in the 21st century has seen more and more couples taking up the sport and sharing the experience and lifestyle together. This can be fantastic and very fulfilling to the relationship. Travelling to exotic destinations worldwide and meeting people who share a similar passion for the sport is, of course, a very nice thing.
In this mix, we usually find that the training is done together as a couple. This comes with its positives and negatives. Those familiar with our own training methodology understand that we are very individualistic in our approach; what works for the male athlete will not necessarily work as well for the female and vice-versa.
With that, yes, couples who do all of their training together may indeed be impeding their performance.
In my career, I have had extensive experience with pro athlete couples training in our group. At the elite level this brings its own sets of dynamics, which are better addressed in a separate blog.
However, my experience is that couples who train together in a camp environment often make great progress, only to see that upon moving back home, the performance levels of either the male or female drop off significantly.
A constant tension we see is created by one partner pushing the other too hard. ‘She’s always doing the easy work too fast’ or ‘if he doesn’t win every session he won’t talk to me’ – making for very fractious moments in training that can impact on the normal relationship.
Away from the camp environment we often see men’s performance on the bike drop off as instead of pushing as hard as they need to, they end up being a motor pacer for their female partner. Great for the woman who gets the super workout, but not the desired training effect for both. Similarly, an effective main swim set for the males is not going to suit a majority of women.
So, how can we be objective in helping the training?
What we suggest for couples who want to train at the same time is that they share the warm-ups and where possible link the warm-downs together. This allows the social interaction craved but also allows individualism in one’s training.
On the bike, one of the temporary solutions we use is for the male to ‘gear up’. Riding in a fixed gear with their partners and trying to stay in that gear over rolling hills and small climbs. It works the strength and power endurance depending on the terrain.
I would also suggest the best process is to agree that there will be two individual components to the bike rides:
1) The Time Trial – always individual.
2) The Interval Set – ride together to a certain point then split up to do your interval work.
If this doesn’t help fit the collective decision to train together?
Then you always have the dual turbos and running in the gym on the treadmills! Both allow the ability to train together while the speeds are differing.
It is not easy. At the professional level, there will always be issues of athletes getting the most out of their training while enjoying their relationships. This is a reality of top-level sport.
However, for our age group athletes understanding what works best for each individual is one of the exciting puzzles that the sport of triathlon offers its participants. Working as a tandem makes it even more difficult, but equally interesting to examine and work out the puzzle for their relationships and performance.
If you get it right, we see that couples who train successfully together are more likely to stay together.