When I first started to get fit (back in 2003), I started running, cycling and swimming. These were the sports that I enjoyed the most, so it was only a matter of time before I entered a triathlon. My first race was the London Triathlon super sprint distance - 400m swim, 10km bike and 2.5km run.
It was a great day - all the training that I'd been doing seemed to have paid off as I didn't find the distances tough at all and I felt strong crossing the finish line. My family were there to support me the whole way through and one of the highlights was having a picnic in the Thames Barrier Park afterwards.
From that moment onwards, I started to enter more races and started to train 6 times a week. I was reading 220 Triathlon magazine to help with training tips and I seemed to be steadily improving. That continued for a couple of years and then I started to hit a plateau.
No matter what I did, I couldn't seem to make myself any faster. I was spending more time training, but I wasn't getting results. Looking back now, I can see a couple of reasons why I had such great improvements to start with and why this didn't continue.
1). Nutrition - I survived on 1/2 a pizza, potatoes and peas as my evening meal. There wasn't nearly enough protein in my meals to help my muscles grow. The meat I was eating was full of saturated fats, which was then overloaded with cheese (more saturated fat). I didn't have a healthy rounded diet.
2). Swim, Bike, Run - that's all the training I did. I didn't do any weight work for endurance, I just did the three sports that were included in a triathlon. If I had changed 2 of my cardio workouts for strength training using light weights with multiple repetitions (15+), I would have started to see strength gains, which would have helped me out with the power I needed for longer endurance races.
3). Flexibility - I did no stretching. None. At. All. I was young, I didn't think I needed flexibility to be a great athlete. All I needed to do was go as hard as I possibly could in my training sessions and I would start to see improvements. This worked for only so long. My sports were tightening my hip flexors, making my core and glutes weak and making me reliant on my quads for all of my power. By the time I no longer trained for triathlon, my hips had started to rotate giving me an anterior (forward) tilt of the pelvis.
4). All or nothing - Every session was a hard session. I still struggle with this - I either give it 100% or nothing. There is no medium for me. There's no 60% effort. I give it everything I've got, or I'm no doing it. I didn't let my body have an 'off day'. That just simply wasn't acceptable.