I define limiters as areas of your training that prevent you from performing at your fullest.
They are different from weaknesses because weaknesses do not affect your performance on race day.
Moreover, unlike weaknesses, limiters can also change based on what your goals and goal races are. For example, I am not a sprinter and find that it is hard to break 13s in the 100m dash.
However, my focus is on Ironman. Not getting my 100 time below 10s does not prevent me from performing well at my next long course race. Sprinting would be a weakness not a limiter. I don’t need to focus on it unless I decide to give up triathlon and go all in on becoming the next Usain Bolt.
On the flip side, if my goal race is a flat Ironman, and functional threshold power (FTP) on the bike is low, that is a limiter. It will prevent me from biking a fast split on race day.
Therefore, I would need to focus on getting my FTP up and holding that higher power for longer.
The best training programs are keep your strengths strong while targeting your limiters and turning them into strengths. The keys to this whole process are: identifying your limiters, figuring out how to fix them, then focusing on them for a training block or two.
Everyone will have different limiters. They are unique to you and your goals. Below you will find some of the most common limiters that we experience as TSC and how to fix them
Limiter: Swim Form
Fix: Work with a coach to figure out what you need to do then do it!
Notes: Many people are limited by their swim form. And it is a big one to work on but will be worth the time and effort to focus on. On race day, bad form wastes energy and slows you down. Get your stroke analyzed using video analysis. Use that to determine what you need to focus on. You might need to do this a couple times as your stroke evolves.
Fix: Consistency and volume
Notes: If your swim form is good (and have the video and coach analysis to prove it), but still struggle to swim longer sets, then your endurance is holding you back. To fix this, you need to get in the pool frequently and focus on longer sets. If you can hold good form for 200m at a time, push that to 250 then 300 and beyond. It’s still ok to do short sets like 50s and 100s but you will need to do longer intervals to build the endurance that you need.
Fix: Strength and mobility exercises
Notes: Mobility can be a limiter if it prevents you from optimizing your form and from going faster. For example, inflexible ankles ruin your kick and can cause imbalances in the water. To fix this, work through a mobility routine that includes some strength and stretching exercises at least twice a week.
Fix: Exposure and breathing exercises
Notes: Being scared of open water swimming (OWS) or having anxiety attacks mid swim can be a huge limiter because it can stop your swim or even pull you out of the race altogether. A good way to get over this is exposing yourself to OWS in a safe environment as frequently as possible. Go out with a friend in a Kayak or stand up paddleboard, who can keep an eye on you and breathe through the experience with you if you feel overwhelmed. The more you practice the less anxiety-provoking it will be and the more opportunities to practice strategies to overcome attacks.
Limiters are part of the training process. It might seem daunting to tackle these, but there is no point in denying what is holding you back. We are here to help you. So if you
a) don’t know what your limiters are, or
b) are overwhelmed by all the things that you think you need to do or
c) don’t know where to start, our team can help you. Just send us an email.
Chris Hague, Tri Swim Coach