Triathletes are Obsessive Compulsive: Don’t Be That Guy or Girl – TriCoachGeorgia

1. the quality or state of being fluid.


The sport of triathlon attracts it’s share of Type A, obsessive compulsive personalities to it’s rank. Although it can help them stay on track, it can also be a huge problem when taken to the extreme, which many of them do. Triathletes take that problem and make it even worse and, in doing so, harm performance. Some may wonder why this happens. And we are not talking nature vs. nurture.

Roots of The OC Problem

You didn’t come here for a lesson in psychopathology so let’s focus on the triathlete obsessive compulsiveness. I think it comes from the combination of competitive or transformational (e.g., tightening up body composition, overcoming challenges or disability, whatever the motivator may be, etc.) drive, discipline and the perception of accomplishing a big goal that brings us in droves to the sport. To be the best athletic version of ourselves, we seek out structure like coaching. Then, to compound the general challenge of obsessive compulsiveness, we now have a training schedule that is often that is very prescriptive in what, when, and how to do it.

The majority of the athletes I know are a slave to their schedule probably to the detriment of their mental and physical well-being. Compounding this impending sense of obligation we get our daily delivery of planned workouts from further enforcing the need to execute it with precision and without the slightest deviation. Add in the colors or red, yellow and green for unsatisfactory or satisfactory completion and you have a huge bundle of additional stress to your life instead of a nice outlet.

The OC Solution

What most of us don’t realize is that being successful as athletes requires the understanding of the big picture and that is that this is a long-game. One must take a longer view, kind of like the figure ground concept (i.e. perspective) where we focus on what is in front of us too much as opposed to the larger background/context, to be most successful. In fact, it is believed that it takes upwards of 5 years for an athlete to peak and this is with consistent training, focus and staying healthy.

Now I am not saying you must stay with this sport for 5 years but rather you need to be consistent over a longer timeframe to optimize your chances of being the most successful and fit you can be at a given point in time. The real secret sauce is consistency not of executing your daily or weekly workouts but doing so over a longer timeframe of months or even years, if you so choose. So, when an athlete wants to mix up training methods or has the sense that they may be overtraining or vulnerable to an injury, it is more than OK to keep things fluid or dynamic and vary organically (i.e., by feel).

I have found that over the course of training for a race that it is possible, if not likely, to get burned out or mentally or off your game and I need to keep it fresh and the best way to do that is to mix things up and keep it fluid but not to lose sight of the big picture. If you are going to mix it up the key is to communicate with your coach because they do have a game plan for you and your training. Thus, with good communication, they can adjust the organization of training to ensure you are having fun, not stressed out, and not missing key sessions. If you aren’t sure which one is the key workout, then just ask them.

Being Fluid Should Not Be an Excuse

Please don’t confuse keeping it fluid with being lazy or avoiding what you don’t want or like to do training wise. If you are doing that then you need to reflect on why, have a conversation with your coach and decide if you need to adjust your training volume, approach, or both.


The moral of the story is to not get so obsessive compulsive that you let the regiment of your training plan steal your passion for the sport or hamper your ultimate goals by creating injury or burnout. Let your coach help you build fun into the training program, adjust your training to your physical and mental status, and, most importantly, don’t get locked in. In the end if you occasionally modify a workout, the day you do it or other aspects of a workout it will not have a huge impact.

I have found that being fluid will often do the opposite and put a bit more of a spring in your step and passion back in your training. Happy training makes a happy triathlete, which in turn, ensures better results more often than not. Trust the process, #DoYourJob, and work with your coach to be the best version of yourself you can be within the context of the bigger demand of enjoying a long healthy happy multisport lifestyle!