Tag Archives: training

My 5 top insights from coaching new Triathletes

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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.


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.

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.


FTT 8 Week Sprint Training Plan is Here!

FTT Sprint Training Plan face book banner

FTT Sprint Training Plan

Are you ready take on a new life changing challenge, and race your first sprint triathlon? Or, have you signed up for a sprint triathlon and you are looking for the perfect plan? Check out the FTT 8 Week Sprint Training plan. In 8 weeks with about 5 hours a week you will arrive to the start line of your first sprint triathlon ready to go. Continue reading FTT 8 Week Sprint Training Plan is Here!

Workout Wednesday – Hill Repeats

Happy Wednesday! Welcome to another edition of 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. (HAHA)


Today’s Workout – Hill Repeats

Hill repeats are one of the best bang for your buck workouts. They can be done in a short amount of time, and the pay back is strong speedy legs. Also, you have less chance of injury, because the uphill grade will lessen the impact.

Things to focus on during hill repeats:

  1.  Use your best running form. The repeats will be short, so focus on holding the best from possible.
  2.  Focus on quick turnover. Push yourself to really pump your legs quickly.
  3.  Give an all out effort. Push yourself hard on each repeat. When you feel you effort level dropping, rest until you can put in full effort again.

Hill Repeats

  • Warm up – 10- 15 minutes
  • 4 hill repeats – All out on the way up/ Recover on the way down
  • Rest 2 – 4 minute
  • 4 hill repeats – All out on the way up/ Recover on the way down
  • Cool Down

Ideally this workout should be done on a hill that takes 20- 40 secs to climb. Take your time coming down as that is your rest. If you are doing this workout on a treadmill, be sure to use plenty of incline. Also use a 1:2 work to rest ratio. If your repeat is 30 secs, take a minute of rest.

If you decide to try this workout, let us know how it went in the comments.


Happy running!

Workout Wednesday – Leg Strength

Welcome to another edition of 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)

There are two types of training that affect your speed on the bike. They are muscular endurance and leg strength. Today we are going to work on leg strength. You will soon be bending cranks as you power your way to a new PR.

Leg Crusher

Warm up – Easy Spin
5 X 2 min HEAVY TENSION RPMS 50-60/ 2 min easy pedal
5 min moderate to heavy tension. RPMS 80 -90
4 X 1 min HEAVY TENSION RPMS 50-60
4 X 1 min One Leg Drill. Alt right and left leg.
10 min cool down. Spin easy.

The workout should be performed on a spin bike or trainer. The heavy intervals should really challenge your leg strength, but be sure maintain good form. Fit this workout in your training schedule, where the next day is easy or rest.

Workout Wednesday – Bike Intervals

Welcome to the first edition of Workout Wednesday. Just as the name implies, I’ll post a triathlon specific workout every Wednesday. These workouts will be geared toward new triathletes. If you are a more advanced athlete you can scale the workout up, with more reps or intensity. I’ll try to keep things interesting with workouts that provide the most benefit for your time.

Let’s get to it:

Bike trainer

Cycling Intervals

Bike intervals are the best bang for your buck workouts for gaining cycling fitness. For best results each interval should be performed with intensity. Work hard on the intervals and recover as much as possible on the rests.  I recommend doing this workout on a spin bike or trainer with a fan blowing in your face. Also, crank up some music that gets you pumped up.

Here’s the workout:

  • SET 1 – 3 X 1 MIN HARD/ 1 MIN EASY
  • SET 2 – 3 X 2 MIN HARD/ 1 MIN EASY
  • SET 3 – 3 X 1 MIN HARD/ 1 MIN EASY
  • 5 – 10 MIN COOL DOWN

Workout time –  ~ 31 minutes

Perform each hard interval with intensity. Use the rest to bring down your heart rate, and flush out your legs. If you need an extra minute or two between sets, take it. On the trainer or spin bike set the tension so you are working hard, but keeping your RPMS in the 80-100 range.

First time Tri tips in stereo. FTT on the Prepared idiot Podcast.

Rich Barna from The Prepared Idiot Podcast had me on his podcast to discuss racing your first triathlon. Rich is a self proclaimed “Clydesdale Triathlete” himself, and got into triathlon to adopt a healthier lifestyle. In this episode we talk about getting started in triathlon, each leg of the race, and some motivation to get you going. There is some great info and tips to get you started to your goal of completing your first triathlon.

Play the show on itunes

Show Notes:

For swimming videos on proper form check out: http://totalimmersion.net/

USAT Rule Book  – Rules on setting up your transition, and racing






“Oh Man This Hurts”, Keys to Racing Mental Toughness


Tough as nails

Mental toughness is the ability to withstand discomfort with a focus on your goal.  All of the situations and struggles in life develop your mental strength. You are defined by how you react to different situations. In racing, the battles lies between your body and thoughts. When a race gets tough, the mind will always give in before the body. The challenge is to control your thoughts, and get your mind and body to work together to achieve your goals.


The key to mental toughness is preparation. Training for your race will increase mental toughness. When you show up the the start line, you should be confident in your abilities. You confidence comes from adequate training, and preparation. That confidence kicks in when the race gets hard and you want to stop. If in training you have already had these feelings, you know you can push through.


  • Know your body – Be sure to notice the difference between this is uncomfortable, and this is injuring me.
  • Have a race day plan and execute – eliminate unnecessary decisions.
  • Simulate race intensity in training – not everyday
  • Have confidence. Accept that the race will be difficult, you are trained, and prepare to suffer a bit for your goal.


Be Present

When a race or workout gets hard, the brain wants you to stop. Your mind will play every trick it has to get you to stop or slow down. That little voice in your head will say “go ahead, just walk for awhile” or “Today is just not your day, slow down a bit”. Everyone has these thoughts, even elite athletes. When you can push through and not give into these thoughts, that is when breakthroughs happen.

To combat this voice, you need to be present and focus on the now. The mind may trick you into thinking you can’t run another mile, but it’s hard to convince you can’t run two more lamp posts. Focus on what you can do right at this moment to push you toward your goal. Accept the situation, adapt, and overcome. 

  • Focus on breathing and relaxing into the effort
  • Break the race up into small pieces – Run to the next lamp pole, Swim another 20 strokes.
  • Have a mantra – My mantra is “Relentless Forward Progress”
  • Be optimistic that things can get better. Example: You stomach may become upset during a long race. Know that it may hurt now, but with some additional nutrition and time, it can come back around.

Find Your Happy Place 

To pull yourself out a funk during your race, go to your happy place. I know this sounds a bit new age, but it works. When all of your focus is on the hurting, you need to shift your focus. Turning those negative thoughts, into a positive feeling is powerful. Those positive thoughts can get you into a rhythm and carry you through the difficult times in a race.

Try this: Force yourself to smile for the next two minutes. After the feeling silly for the first 30 secs, your mood will actually start to improve. You actions can impact your mood and attitude.

Here are some ways to find your happy place during a race:

  • Smile – It is also easier to breath while smiling
  • Encourage others – Your positive attitude will spread to others, and you will feel more positive in the process. Win-Win
  • Remove the word I can’t – Turn your mindset to thinking of what you can do , and not what you can’t
  • Think of the reasons why you are racing the event. Maybe you are racing in memory of a loved one, or to set an example for your kids. These powerful thoughts can push you through.
  • Absorb the energy of the race. Feel the energy from the crowd and other athletes. They are cheering for you because you are being awesome. They respect the training and effort your are putting forth. Soak it up.

I hope these suggestions help next time you are in the pain cave during a race. If you have any strategies that work for you, please share in the comments.

photo credit: bitzcelt via photopin cc