When I first started triathlon training, I read all the latest articles, books, and social media posts for advice. Whenever I came across a good article or post with a specific workout or lifting routine guaranteed to make me faster, I would clip it out and put it in a giant folder organized by sport. Then, when I was laying out my week of training, I would go through the folder. Grab a few from each section. And put them in order that matched my week.
When race day came around, I felt that I was ready to go. I was a little tired and sore, with a niggle of an injury in my achilles. But I was ready to race! 300 m into the swim, I was out of breath, having been swum over by the majority of my swim wave. By the time I had walked (not run) into T1, I was ready to throw in the towel. I finished the race. But it was the slowest I had ever done and might have been the worst I have ever felt. How could this have been?
I had put in more training than I ever had and more intensity too. How could I have gone slower? It did not make sense.
Looking back on it now, it was pretty obvious. I had no structure geared towards my specific needs.
Structure is Key
While all the workouts that I had been doing were good workouts on paper, they did not target my specific weaknesses or race. The swim workouts did not include drills that would help with my sinking hips or swaying legs. The bike workouts did not have torque work or intervals for longer distances or hills. And the running was mostly steady state work that made me more efficient at lower efforts but did not make me faster.
When put together, these workouts were not part of a structured program. They were randomly mashed together without thought towards how they work together. There was no progression, adaptation, or focus.
It was not until that I got a structured training plan that I started to see huge gains in not only my fitness but also my times. The program met me at my current fitness level and then progressively built from there to allow me to peak at my race. Then I saw real, long lasting results.
As a beginner triathlete, do not fall into the trap of thinking that cherry picking workouts will make you better. To see long lasting improvements, you need to follow a structured routine that targets your needs and allows you to train consistently and progressively.