Member Question: The Sport for the Most Improvement

author : Amy Kuitse
comments : 0

Which sport do you believe is easier to continually improve at: swimming, bicycling, or running? What makes you think this specific sport is easier to improve at?

Member Question

After you go past the beginning stages in the sport (since all beginners make huge improvements), which sport do you believe is easier to continually improve at: swimming, bicycling, or running (assuming an equal amount of hard work goes into all three)? What makes you think this specific sport is easier to improve at?


Answer by Coach Amy



Here is one of a number of different opinions you are likely to get in response to this question. One of the things that will influence the answer you get will be the responder’s sport of choice before he/she became a triathlete. The history a person has in one of the given tri sports may make the person feel that they do not need to spend as much time there and they will spend more time focusing on the other two sports. Interestingly enough, when I asked a couple of my friends what they thought the easiest sport in triathlon was to improve in and why, I got a lot of different opinions and some really good perspectives.

In my opinion, the bike is the place where I think you can improve the most if an equal amount of hard work is done in all three sports. Biking is the sport where you spend the most time training and racing compared to the other two sports. It also seems to be the one sport that is most influenced by the equipment you use. Think about the difference gained from a lightweight frame, clipless pedals vs. cages, aero bars, racing wheels, etc. Additionally, as compared to running, you don’t take the same pounding on your legs if you increase your biking effort and time. The time you can improve on the bike gives you greater gains on race day as compared to the seconds and minutes you will gain in the swim and run. This especially holds true as the race distances get longer.

The other reason I think you can continue to make the most improvement in the bike is because it is relatively easy to learn the technical aspect of riding. In all three sports there is a need to learn good, sound technique for greater efficiency and improved speed, so let’s not forget that. However, of the three, the bike again is the place where you spend the most time training and have many opportunities to give attention to technique.

Another consideration for me deals with the mental or psychological aspect. Swimming can provoke a myriad and sometimes interesting responses for many of us as we learn this sport. These include fear, increased heart rate, and panic, and none of these are easy to deal with when in the water. Hence, it is likely to take more time to really improve in this component. For some the thought becomes, “Just let me survive the swim. I’ll spend my time where I can get the most gains.” With regard to the run I hear many people say something similar: “I’m going to just ride as hard as I can and take whatever is left on the run.” There seems to exist a train of thought that the run is so much harder to improve on and not the same amount can be gained from the hard work as compared to what you can gain out of the bike. With this prevailing thought, people will tend to gravitate toward the bike and this is why I think you can make the most improvements on the bike.

Do keep in mind that the above are just one coach’s opinion on your question about the sport in which someone can make the most improvements once they are beyond the beginning stages of triathlon training and participation. As a coach I will tell you I feel there are always improvements to be made in each sport from one season to the next. There is a constant need to work on skills and techniques to improve, maintain, or realign your form (in any and all three sports). The focus should change from one season to the next based on the distances one plans to participate in during the coming year, injuries, the previous year’s results, etc.

All the best as you go into 2009 and take steps to reach the next level in your triathlon journey in all three sports.


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date: January 19, 2009

Amy Kuitse