Category Archives: triathlon

My 5 top insights from coaching new Triathletes

Purpose Road Sign

 

For the past year or so, I’ve had the honor to coach new and beginner triathletes. Some of my athletes made great progress and accomplished fantastic goals. Many of those goals, at the beginning, they thought were not possible. Along the process they have thought me many lessons as well.

Here’s the five most important insights I gleaned from coaching new triathletes. Hopefully, they will speed your progress as a new triathlete.

 

You are more capable than you think you are. 

When I first consult with a new athletes many times they are not confident they can achieve their goal. Putting yourself out there, and trying something new is daunting. Instead of telling yourself, you can’t do something, say “I can’t do it right now”. Many athletes before you have finished the race, PR’d or whatever the goal may be. Why can’t you? Decide you will meet your goal at the beginning of the process, then get to work on achieving it.

Don’t view themselves as athletes.

If you are training and participating in races, guess what? You are an athlete. For you to increase your fitness and reach your potential, you need to view yourself as an athlete. You might say, “great I called myself an athlete, now what?” Viewing yourself as an athlete is a shift in mindset. You will view your overall lifestyle differently, and make better decisions. For example, a normal person just eats, and athletes fuels their body. A normal person goes to the gym to workout, an athlete goes to the gym to train. When you view yourself as an athlete your decisions are made with a purpose. That purpose is to achieve your athletic goals.

Need more focused training.

If you want to try a new restaurant across town and you are unsure how to get there, you open up your map app. The map is going to give the quickest route from A to B. A well planned training plan is a road map to your athletic goal. It needs to start with a clear destination, and give direction along the way. You can start your journey with no map, but it will most likely be a longer and more time consuming route. (metaphor off)

This is the most important point for new athletes. Having a training plan can save you tons of time, energy and injury. The plan can come from a coach, or you can find one on the web. Find a plan that leads you to your goal, and fits your schedule. When each workout has a purpose, you will greatly accelerate your athletic progress.

Consider the long term view.

Aside for a very genetically gifted few, most endurance athletes will need years to reach their potential. It takes years of training and patience to build endurance in the body. Take Mark Allen, 6X Ironman World Champ for example. It took him 6 tries to win his first Kona, and the first attempt he didn’t even finish. Over those first six years he kept working, and the speed and endurance came.

It’s easy to only look week to week during training to measure progress. When a workout or a week of training doesn’t go well, we get discouraged. Sometimes, it’s best to pull back and look at your progress from a longer time line. You may have been progressing for the past six weeks, and you on just on a plateau before your next breakthrough.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Don’t be shy. As a new triathlete there is a ton on information to learn. There are three sports, training, recovery, equipment, etc. Heck, this is the reason I started this blog. Find an athlete who has been racing for a while, and pick their brain. Most people are excited to help out. You can learn from their mistakes and experience, and speed up your progress.

 

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Fantastic Finish Foto Friday – John tackles Snowman

Welcome to Fantastic Finish Photo Friday. We want to bask in the awesomeness of your finish photos. A finish photo captures a moment in time, where you overcame the challenges of the race and training, and reached your goal. The feeling of elation as you cross the line is what keeps us pushing our own limits. Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish.

John is one of my coached athletes. He reached out to me for coaching to improve his fitness going into the Snowman Triathlon. I designed him a 9 week training plan, that he followed diligently. John completed every workout I threw at him with the correct intensity. John made fantastic improvement over the training plan, culminating with a superb race at Snowman. John was an absolute pleasure to coach, and I see tons more improvement for him in the future.

This week’s Foto is from John Baden:

John Snowman 3
Photo credit – Simon Murray

John:

Always Aim High Events hit it out of the park with this race, stunning views of the snowdon horseshoe, beautiful (but cold) lake swim at the national mountain centre at plas y brenin, fantastic fast bike course despite an almost 10km climb back up to T2, and to top it off, a mountain run (ahem, hike) to finish!

After a 9 week training plan, that I followed as closely as I have ever followed anything it was time for me to don my new hometown Triathlon club kit for the first time and embark on something quite hard! (understatement of my life) I intend to carry on with training and do the race series the organisers of the snowman arrange every year.

Arriving the night before my race and camping less than 5k from the venue was the first plus of my weekend, allowed me to pitch the tent, then make registration the evening before. Allowing me to prep all my kit the evening before the race.

Arriving early on race day, I parked my car no more than 500 metres (yet not on the race route) from transition and ambled down to rack my bike and find a much needed caffeine fix. superb marshalls on the entrance to transition made this process nice and smooth. I racked the bike and went for a look around the centre at Plas Y Brenin before heading back to start getting ready.

Race briefing was done whilst athletes where prepping in transition, with the use of some fairly hefty loudhailers, not a problem to hear it and a very thorough briefing (the brit tri referree telling us we where about to jump into a bracing 11 centigrade lake!)

I got my wetsuit on, and got comfortable, checking and rechecking my bike shoes and trail shoes where easily accesible when needed. Then the shout came, 9:50am, we were to head to the lake and swim entrance, I took the plunge early and used the time to get a few strokes in and make sure my suit was well fitted. 10:00am And the hooter goes off, and I set off on my swim, settling into a rhythm early and actually finding it quite comfortable, 8 minutes later I was hauling myself out into the morning sunshine, unzipping the suit as I headed back towards transition. 

In transition, I took the time to dry my feet and put a pair of trail running socks on before I got the bike shoes on, helmet clipped up, bike unracked, I was running for the mount line, with the encourragement of the event organisers and some crazy local supporters ringing in my ears, I ran past the mount line, and mounted a little way down the road, so as to avoid knocking anyone over. I tightened my shoes, and got my head down. Literally spinning my legs up to 100rpm and speeds in excess of 65kph on the descent to Llanrwst through Betws y Coed. Then, outside a petrol station, I realised my seat post was dropping, Disaster! I was going to lose time, Luckily a fellow competitor stopped with an alan key, seat post put right, I was on my way, a flat loop until the 10km climb back to Capel Curig started at Betws. Still I managed to average 31kph on the bike, and only just went over the hourr for that leg. Approaching transition again, I took my feet out my shoes (well I tried!) and got off just before the line! with the owner of the event company policing the line shouting encouragment I felt awesome getting back to my position. My bike was re racked, helmet took off, I slipped my running shoes on and set off into the un-known!

Leaving transition for the final time, I was feeling good, until I got into the tree line. There the path ramped up and I think most people where then reduced to a Hike, through some of the most rugged and brutal terrain I’ve ever seen. After 50 ish minutes, I reached the turn around point, and thats where the fun really began. As it was ALL downhill from here, I started to let my legs go, following the guy in front of me all the way back to tree line, an awesome feeling to descend a mountain at speed, running through boggy muddy sections without a care, and hurtling over rocky outcrops as fast as possible! BRILLIANT! thenI hit the flat forest road, and was speeding along at 4 mins 30 seconds per KM, I got to what I thought was the finish distance at 5k, I was wrong! And I hit a wall, 1.4km later however, and around 2 hours and 20 minutes after jumping in the lake I had crossed the finish line to an amazing sense of achievement. 

If you are a new or beginner triathlete and would be interested in coaching, please email me at firsttimetri+coaching@gmail.com.

Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish. It doesn’t have to be from a triathlon, just any race that has special meaning to you. If you are interested in sharing, please send a message to firsttimetri@gmail.com.

Fantastic Finish Foto Friday – First Time Triathlete Sam

Welcome to Fantastic Finish Photo Friday. We want to bask in the awesomeness of your finish photos. A finish photo captures a moment in time, where you overcame the challenges of the race and training, and reached your goal. The feeling of elation as you cross the line is what keeps us pushing our own limits. Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish.

This week’s Foto is from Samatha Goga:

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Sam is one of my coaching athletes working toward a marathon PR in the fall. She also tackled her first triathlon last week. Here’s the story of her day:

I did it… I completed my first Sprint Distance at the Chicago Triathlon, despite everything that went wrong!

I racked my bike the night before and when I showed up to transition in the morning, I was missing my handlebar plugs. They told me I couldn’t ride without them and I began to panic a bit. All that for nothing over some plugs!? I refused to believe that was it. So I triple checked with bike solutions & one of the guys working there ended up taking them out of his own bike for me. All was right with the world again.

A few hours later I was entering the water and the horn was sounding just seconds later. I allowed most of the other first timers to go before making my way through the water. I didn’t want to start any breathing issues (I’ve been having a few lately), so I went with a backstroke. I felt really good that way and just decided to keep it that way the whole time. I had about 15 yards left and I flipped over to finish strong. However, I got thee worst charley horse ever in my calf. I couldn’t move my leg at all and it hurt so bad. I had to make my way over to the wall as I cried. My tears were filling my goggles and I just wanted to be pulled up. Because I was so close, my family and one of the lifegaurds encouraged me to make my way to the finish line so my timing chip wouldn’t get taken, so I did that. I stopped there to talk to a medic and stretch. It was still really tight but I pushed on.

I eventually made it safely back to transition, changed and hustled out… And as I mounted my bike, I realized the chain was off my bike. The nice guy at bike solutions saved the day again! After taking my bike apart to fix it, (it felt like forever) I was on my way. I’m pretty certain there was only 1 other person that started the bike behind me because I was out there all by myself basically the entire time. When I would come across a person, I made it my mission to pass them. I guess it helped me move faster to race them. I think I passed about 5 people the entire bike ride… Other than that, I was alone.

By the time I started to run, I thought that would also be a solo journey, but I was able to catch up to a few folks, and again race them. I quickly realized that nobody had respect for the course anymore because there were so many people just walking on it and through it. However, I felt really good on the run, if I ignored my calf. I was cheering on those going past me in the other direction and encouraging those that I passed. Finally, I see the finish line… Move it!! Once I passed it, I could not breath at all and my chest was really tight. I was escorted to the medical tent, taken care of and given a nebulizer treatment because of everything that was happening.

Sooo… It was a lot more than I ever expected, but that’s how it went. If it wasn’t for this extremely tight calf, I’d feel great! Oh, and if all that other mumbo jumbo didn’t happen, I’m confident that I would’ve finished with my goal of 2.5 hours… I’ll take the 2:45 though considering the circumstances…

Would I do it again? I’ll be in the Athena wave next year for sure!

Fantastic job Sam! That was no an easy day! You took each obstacle in stride, and found a way to keep moving forward. You definitely earned that finish.

Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish. It doesn’t have to be from a triathlon, just any race that has special meaning to you. If you are interested in sharing, please send a message to firsttimetri@gmail.com.

Foto Finish Friday – Dr.Dan from First time Triahtlete to Ironman in a month

Welcome to (a special follow up)  Fantastic Finish Photo Friday. We want to bask in the awesomeness of your finish photos. A finish photo captures a moment in time, where you overcame the challenges of the race and training, and reached your goal. The feeling of elation as you cross the line is what keeps us pushing our own limits. Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish.

This week’s Foto is from Dan Engström:

Dr Dan IM Finish

 Photo by Andy Kenyon

Dan:

IronMan UK
 
Here are a few collected thoughts from a Hero Hour finisher in my first Ironman triathlon: IronMan UK 2015 in Bolton, England. Hero Hour? The hour for the sixteen hours plus finishers. The slower ones. Me. First of all, let’s get one thing straight. It was brutal. You prepare as well as you can, even to the point of being more than decently fit before I even entered, in August. In preparation, I ran a marathon, biked a 300 km race, swam a 3 km open water race and did  an Olympic triathlon. I had also prepared well mentally. The fact is, I needed every last bit of mental strength to bring out the power needed to keep moving. The swim was easy for me, which was a bit of a surprise. The rolling swim start was a great thing that probably helped. But the bike leg sapped energy by the minute from the legs, because of the hills (expected), a very mean wind (not expected to be THAT bad) and the appaling condition of the tarmac (certainly not expected). It felt as though I was biking uphill on a cattle grill for 112 miles. But somehow you had find the energy to keep moving.
 
Keep moving. That was the mantra of the amazing volunteers and people of Bolton. Keep moving Dan! Well done, Dan, you’re doing great! If IMUK was brutal it was equally spectacular. The commitment from everyone around the race was truly amazing and a memory for life. I found a familiarity about doing the IronMan in Bolton that I certainly did not expect. The IronMan community and the people of Bolton come together and really made the effort to get there worthwhile. A steady slow trot, uncomfortable but not painful, and some walking, up and down between historic Bolton and a crescent about 4.5 km away and suddenly, there was the finish line. I arrived with almost an hour to spare to the deadline and the energy to savour the moment.
 
If you decide to do the IronMan UK in Bolton, make sure you know how to fix a puncture. Expect a hilly bike leg that is challenging but with easier winds not too bad. You’ll climb Sheephouse Lane easily if you’ve trained. Prepare for plenty of logistics time with the two transition zones being 10 miles apart and bring a car. Embrace the hurt – it will get very uncomfortable but you WILL be able to make it to the finish line. Everybody else is just as tired as you are, and even at eleven at night, there will be people cheering for you at the finish. Find strength in all people shouting your name and just keep moving. Then enjoy those magic words at the red carpet declaring that you are an IronMan!
Lap2 small
Photo by Jim Pike
 
Dan you are a beast! Hold on to that feeling of accomplishment from an Ironman finish, its like nothing else. You progress is fantastic, and shows the rest of us that anything is possible with the right mindset.
Cheers to you, Dan!!!
Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish. It doesn’t have to be from a triathlon, just any race that has special meaning to you. If you are interested in sharing, please send a message to firsttimetri@gmail.com.

Workout Wednesday – Bike Power Hills

Welcome to Workout Wednesday. Every Wednesday I  post a new Triathlon specific workout. (for free, What a Country!) If you like the workout, fit it into your training plan for the week. If you don’t like the workout you’re crazy, all of my workouts are brilliant pieces programming. (kidding)

A couple weeks ago,  I was racing on the hilly but fun bike course. The sun was out, and t was beautiful morning. My legs were feeling good and pumping out the watts. Two more miles to go to the turn around, I am  crushing it. The hills on the course aren’t so bad. Then right before the turn around, I came up on a pavement wall. Suddenly, I staring up a .25 mile climb at 15%. I switch the the small chain ring, and grind my way up the hill. By the top of the hill, my heart rate was around 1000bpm, and my legs were Jello. Luckily, we turned around and came right back down the hill, so I had time to recover and then crush the rest of the course. (Also, I hit 46 mph on the downhill, waahooo!)

That hill exposed  a weakness in my recent cycling training. I’m lacking in hill power. Power hills are short intense efforts that keep your speed up on a hilly course. Power hills differ from long sustained hills, as they require pure leg strength. Increasing that leg strength requires short intense efforts with adequate rest. Think of it as doing squats on your bike. Working on power hills is also a win-win, as it will make you stronger on the flats.

Now let’s get to work:

Power Hills:

Warm up

  • 5 Minutes easy spin
  • 5 X  @70 Effort 1 min/1 min rest

Main Set

  • 5 X standing 1 min/1 min rest – of each min rep 1st 30 secs @70%/ 2nd 30 secs @85% effort
  • 3 min easy spin
  • 3 X standing 2 min/ 1 min rest – of each 2 min rep 1st min @60%/ 2nd min @80% effort
  • 3 min easy spin
  • 6 X standing 30 secs/ 1 min rest @85%

Cool Down

  • 10 min easy spin

This workout is best done on a trainer or stationary bike. Set the resistance heavy enough to make it challenging, but still be able to maintain a cadence above 60 rpm. Build into each rep, and focus on finishing strong. This workout is great for flatlanders is best done every couple of weeks. Work it into your program and you will be powering up the hills like a freight train.

Motivation Monday – Get good at having fun

Merry Monday! Let’s do this! We all could use a bit of motivation to get rolling on Monday. On Mondays, I like to share a Mantra or short inspirational message. If the message resonates with you, use to motivate yourself in training or life. Do you have your own awesome Mantra? Please share it below in the comments.

“Never, ever underestimate the power of having fun” – Randy Pausch

This quote is from Randy Pausch’s last lecture. This lecture is details how his childhood dreams would shape his life. If you haven’t seen it before carve out an hour and check it out. It will change your perspective.

If you want to really improve your training and race times, get good at having fun. As an endurance athlete, progress comes from dedicated practice over a long time. Dedication is way easier to maintain when you are having a great time. Being able to train and race is a gift, not punishment for your body. Motivation will wax and wane, but you should always enjoy your activity.

It’s easy to start treating your training as a second or third job. Workouts are scheduled for weeks out, and certain paces must be maintained. This mundane day to day training can become a grind and suck out all of the fun.

Here’s a few suggestions for adding some fun into your training:

  • Find a soft grass field, and do some barefoot sprints.
  • Get a group ride together and try a brand new route.
  • Race you friends for fast 50m in the pool.
  • Sign up for a short race, and let it rip.

The saying is “Love your work, and you will never work a day in your life”. Try to apply that same principle to your training, and see massive improvement.

Workout Wednesday – Hardest Workout Ever – Rest Day

Welcome to Workout Wednesday. Every Wednesday I  post a new Triathlon specific workout. (for free, What a Country!) If you like the workout, fit it into your training plan for the week. If you don’t like the workout you’re crazy, all of my workouts are brilliant pieces programming. (kidding)

Rest

 

Sorry for the misleading title, but when you think about it, rest is the hardest workout. It instills fear in us that  if we take a day off, we will become fat and slow overnight. In reality is takes up to two weeks of inactivity before you start to lose your fitness.

Two years ago I had a heavy training year for me. When I looked back at my training log at the end of the year. I took three full rest days the entire year. What? That’s not right. I also become over trained twice that year, and was sick more than normal.

Rest is an important part of the training program. Rest days should be treated just like workouts, and performed with the same focus. The benefits of rest and recovery are:

  • Avoiding Overuse Injuries
  • Restoring Glycogen to your muscles
  • Avoiding mental burnout
  • Actually spending time with your friends and family

Here’s the nasty things that come with NO rest or recovery:

  • Over training
  • Inadequate Sleep
  • Colds
  • Slow recovery
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Moodiness

(I’ve experienced all of these, but not all at the same time.)

Unless you are a full time athlete with no other obligations or stressors in your life you will need 1-2 rest days a week.  Ideally one of those days should be complete rest, and the other one can be active recovery.

Active recovery workouts:

  • 30 min jog @ 50% HR
  • Walk with your significant other
  • Bike ride with your kids
  • Light cross training

Inactive workouts:

  • Netflix binge watching marathon
  • Sit on the beach with cool beverage
  • Sleeping in past 5:30am

I can hear the little mental objects swirling in your head. ” But I’m a triathlete and I need to get in all of these workouts.” If you want to improve consistently, and not burnout or have a higher risk of injury, rest has to be a priority as well. Schedule  your training weeks to include the rest days.  If you miss a workout because of a overly busy day, don’t worry about making it up, use it as a rest day. Also, if you are are plateauing in your progress, step back and see if more recovery will help, before piling on more work and intensity.

One last thing. The more outside stress you have in your life the more important the rest and recovery. During times of high stress, listen to your body and try not to just push through. These times are the highest risk for burnout and over training.

 

Fantastic Finish Foto Friday – First time triathlete Dan

Welcome to Fantastic Finish Photo Friday. We want to bask in the awesomeness of your finish photos. A finish photo captures a moment in time, where you overcame the challenges of the race and training, and reached your goal. The feeling of elation as you cross the line is what keeps us pushing our own limits. Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish.

This week’s Foto is from Dan Engström:

© & Foto- Fredrik Aremyr - finish_-211
Pic by Fredrik Aremyr

Dan:

My first triathlon finish
 
Last weekend saw the Gothenburg Triathlon event on the west coast of Sweden. I was five weeks away from the IronMan UK race and I still hadn’t done a triathlon. But I was prepared. I had learnt how to front crawl and revisited the marathon (in Stockholm, the week before than the tri event). I bike commute and am perfeclty ready for the 300 km bike race Vätternrundan next weekend. I’d done my brick training. I was so ready for the Gotheburg Triathlon, Olympic distance. So  away to Rådasjön lake. Fourteen degrees water temperature so they shortened the swim leg. This’ll be great, a shorter swim leg and me being used to the cold after a number of open water swims. Though I usually did the breaststroke earlier, but how difficult can the front crawl be in open water? In open, murky water. In open, murky water with  waves. In open, murky water with waves and a side current. In a tight wetsuit. Together with a couple of hundred other people. Right. Stiff upper lip time. Embrace the difficulties. Overcome. Rain during the whole bike leg. Legs like logs during the run, I was only a week out after the marathon after all. Adopt, adapt. I was hard, harder than I thought it would be. But I enjoyed every minute, every step. Give me a week or two in some murky lake around here on my own with my front crawl. Then bring on the IronMan.
 
Dan Engström
Gothenburg, Sweden
Congrats on gutting out that  cold, murky swim. You are an ambitious dude attempting to front crawl for the first time five weeks out from an IM. Best of luck to you on your IM, but for now enjoy that first finish.
Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish. It doesn’t have to be from a triathlon, just any race that has special meaning to you. If you are interested in sharing, please send a message to firsttimetri@gmail.com.

Workout Wednesday – Cycling Overspins

Welcome to  Workout Wednesday. Every Wednesday I will post a new Triathlon specific workout. If you like the workout, fit it into your training plan for the week. If you don’t like the workout you’re crazy, all of my workouts are brilliant pieces programming. (kidding)

Bike trainer

This week workout is Cycling Overspins.

This is a fun workout.  Overspins are essentially sprinting with a light gear. The benefits are better pedaling efficiency and higher cadence. This workout forces you to increase your cadence beyond your normal range. Working at a higher cadence will strengthen those fast switch muscles that smooth out your pedal stroke.

During the workout focus on making good circles with your legs. Push and pull all the way through the stroke. If you are doing it correctly your upper body will be relatively still and your legs will be spinning fast. Imagine you are a duck swimming on a lake, calm on the top, and swimming away under water.

This workout should be performed on a spin bike or trainer. Aim for 20-30 RPMS faster than your normal cadence. If you normal cadence is 80 RPMS try to maintain 100-110. Set the resistance light, just enough to keep your speed under control.

This workout is not very taxing to your legs or cardio. It can be done at the end of another workout or on a scheduled easy bike day. I suggest putting on your favorite loud fast tunes and enjoying the workout.

Overspin Workout

  • Warm up 5 min
  • 3 X 1 min @ 60%/30 secs rest
  • 5 X 30 secs @(+20 RPMS)/ 30 secs spin easy
  • 4 min steady @ 60% effort
  • 3 X 1 min @(+20 RPMS)/ 30 secs spin easy
  • 4 mins steady @ 60 % effort
  • 5 X 30 secs @(+20-30 RPMS)/ 30 sec spin easy
  • 10 min cool down

Here’s great video explaining the basics of pedaling mechanics.

 

Top Ten Ways to Tell if You are a Triathlete

 

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In honor of Letterman retiring from late night TV, here’s our own triathlete top ten list.

Top Ten Ways to Tell if You are a Triathlete

10. Your bed time is 8:30pm

9. You put more miles on your bike than car this year.

8. Your social media posts include a picture and a finish time

7. All family vacations are planned around a race

6. Your casual wardrobe consists of race T shirts

5. Your most expensive watch is a Garmin

4. Your dishwasher is filled with sticky water bottles

3. Your weekend is spend mostly in Lycra

2. Can’t do flip turns

And the #1 way to tell if you are a triathlete…

1. Weird tan lines

I hope I made you smile at least. If you have your own top ten list item, leave a comment.

Now get out there and work on those weird tan lines!