Tag Archives: triathlete

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.

No More Controlled Drowning – Intro to Swimming Part II

In Part I, we discussed Body Position and Breathing. Those two skills are very important, but don’t get you anywhere. You need oars to get the boat moving. Your stroke is your oars, and that is what we will cover in this post.

This post in not meant to be the definitive post on stroke technique. The goal here is to master the fundamentals and set a good base for refinement as your swimming progresses. A perfect freestyle stroke, if there is really such a thing, takes years to develop. With a good fundamental stroke you will be able to cover longer distances with better efficiency.

The freestyle stroke can be broken down into four parts:

  • Entry
  • Catch
  • Pull
  • Recovery

Continue reading No More Controlled Drowning – Intro to Swimming Part II

No More Controlled Drowning – Intro to Swimming Part I

Do you get winded swimming one length of the pool? Do you legs feel like they are always sinking? Or do you just flail your arms and legs and hope you get somewhere?  I call this controlled drowning, and that is how I swam my first race. It was a long and difficult swim, and made me quickly realize, I better work on my form.

Learning to swim correctly is the number one reason I hear from people why they can’t race a triathlon. To be honest, unless you learned to swim as a child, learning to swim as an adult is challenging. The best way to learn as an adult is to break down swimming into fundamental skills that can be combined into an effective stroke.

The first two fundamentals of swimming are Body Position and Breathing. These are the first two skills to develop efficient swimming.

Body Position

The most effective way to move through the water in freestyle swimming is to keep your body streamlined. Your body should be extended, just below the surface of the water. Try to keep your legs up and together. Think of your body as a see-saw, with your hips as the pivot point. Your legs are usually more dense than your torso and will want to sink. Your job is the press down and forward with your chest to keep your legs up.

Here’s a great demonstration of balance from Total Immersion. Notice in the beginning of the video the difference in body positions. Next the clip show some drills for practicing good body position. The superman glide drill shown is very effective to imprint good balance. I do this drill before every swim session.

In this video from Speedo UK, you can see some nice graphics that explain proper body position.

Good Body Position = Neutral head position + Streamlined body + Legs up

Drills – Superman Glide, One arm Glide


Swim Breathing – Intro

Breathing in freestyle swimming can be challenging to learn. Once you to get the hang of it, like riding a bike, you will not forget how. The issue most new swimmers have with breathing is holding their breath. If you are holding your breath, or breathing shallow, you can’t swim long distances. Try and take a breath every ten seconds while running, and your heart rate will spike quickly. It’s the same when you are swimming. When you start to breath correctly ability to swim more distance will increase dramatically.

Proper breathing in the freestyle stroke involves two things. First, when your face is in the water breath out completely. You can breath out from your either nose or your mouth, your preference. Be sure to breath out the entire time your face is in the water. This keeps water from entering your breathing, makes sure you are breathing deep enough.

Second, rotate your body and take a breath. While the arm of the side you are breathing on is out of the water, rotate your body and take a breath. You want a quick bite of air, and go back to breathing out. Ideally you should only have one goggle out of the water when you breath. If you are looking up when you breath, you are over rotating. A good cue to remember is to act like you are laying on your side with your arm stretched out like a pillow.

Below is a video from Bob Bowmen, Micheal Phelp’s coach on swimming breathing. He gives some great insights into proper freestyle breathing.

In this video from USMS, they do a great job explaining common mistakes in freestyle breathing:


Good Freestyle Breathing = Breath out face in the water + Rotate your body to breath.

In Part II, we will go over the stroke and catch. Now get to the pool and practice that good position.



Energy Gel Sommelier and Other Side Benefits of Triathlon Part II

In the first post on the added benefits of triathlon, I talked about looking sexy in lycra, and sweet tan lines. There are so many additional benefits I didn’t list, that I decided to make a Part II. There may be some people on the fence about triathlon, and the a collection of distance stickers wasn’t enough to get them to dive in. So here are some more “tidbits of awesome” about triathlon.


1. Get up super early – You feel guilty when you don’t get up before the sun. Everyone knows that pool swims only count when they are finished before 6:30am. You have a four hour ride planned for Saturday, and your significant other is complaining about you training too much.. What do you do? Leave at 5 am and hope to make it back before they get up.


2. The world is your buffet – At the Mexican restaurant you order the Mucho Loco Burrito with an extra side of guacamole. The others at the table look in horror as you demolish the entree meant for three people. You look up and say, “It’s cool, I’m in the peak of my training cycle”, and then wipe the cheese from your chin.

Gel Buffet


3. Energy Gel Sommelier – The average palette can’t discern the slight nuisances of the Powergel orange from the Gu mandarin, but you can. Your heightened awareness of these differences comes from years of consumption of these slimy delicacies. You would rather bonk than slam down that wrong brand being offered on the course.


4. Ability to time illness one week out from your “A” race – You never get sick. You are healthy as a horse. People in the office are going home weak with the flu, but you superior immune system is kryptonite to viruses. That is until the taper period of your most important race of the season. A week out from the race you are in bed sore and aching, wondering how you are supposed to race in 5 days.


5. Calf Sleeves – I may offend some here, but calf sleeves are nerdy. They are essentially tall socks with no feet. From the amount of people wearing them, you would think there was an epidemic of calf muscles exploding before their invention. Triathlon is no fashion show. If you really need the super calf support, buy the brightest neon ones you can find, and rock that kit.

Bike Fall over

6. Get clipped – There are two types of cyclists; those who have fallen over in the parking lot while still clipped in to the pedals, and those who will. It happens to everyone. You get those brand new clipless pedals and shoes, pull in to the parking lot at the end of the ride, slow down, and proceed to fall over like a tipped cow. Don’t be embarrassed. Laugh it off, as everyone else on that ride has done the same thing at least once. Welcome to the club!



7. A bike more expensive than your car – After years of hard training, you will decide that training is too time consuming and difficult. Forget training on the bike, go and buy some speed. You walk into the bike shop, and there it is. A beautiful carbon fibre rocket ship of a bike. Once you astride this piece is speed sculpture, PR’s will fall, and the road will submit to your will. On the way home from the shop you look at your ’03 Subaru, and realize the blue book value of your car, is less than that new bike purchase.

The car will seek revenge. On the way home from a race, you pull into the driveway headed for the garage, and forget your bike is on the roof rack. The car will let you drive into the garage, while your bike is smashed against the top of the garage.





photo credit: ezra1311 via photopin cc

photo credit :http://www.swimt3.co.nz/media/catalog/product/cache/5/image/600x/5e06319eda06f020e43594a9c230972d/l/a/ladies/zensah-compression-calf-sleeve-32.jpg

photo credit: jeffreyw via photopin cc

Photo Credit: http://salsacycles.com/files/blog/DD10-3.jpg

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

Enter the Washing Machine – Tips for your first open water swim



An open water swim is the most daunting part of the race for most new triathletes. We are land animals, and jumping into the water with a washing machine of arms and legs is not natural. With some practice and some strategy you can do it.

Here’s a recap of my first open water swim:

This was my first long open water swim. My plan was to survive, any means necessary. I would use my Swiss army knife of stroke techniques to complete the course. I was surprisingly relaxed at the start, ignorance is bliss. Some concern did creep into the group, as the race officials were still pulling the buoys into position as we were start. The countdown began, I positioned my goggles, and we were off. A sea of swim caps, arms and legs overtook me. My goal was to stay smooth, and conserve energy. First buoy can relatively quickly, and I sighted toward the second. As I turned the wind and current hit me in the face. The next 20 minutes were a blur of swimming and controlled drowning. The last 20M to the buoy took about 2 minutes. (I later learned the marker was actually floating away, nice.) I will not recount the last leg of the swim, because it was very painful, and I have put it deep in my memory, along with bad first dates, Vanilla Ice, and that halloween witch that scared the crap out of me when I was 5. I emerged from the water tired and dizzy, and headed for T1.

Here are some tips to help get you through your first open water swim:

Relax – This the most important and difficult thing to do in an open water swim. The situation goes like this: The guns goes off, the athletes stampede into the the water, you start to swim and there is a sea of arms and legs all around you. With all of this stress your heart rate is going to spike. It’s your job to breath and relax. Slow things down and find your own rhythm. It’s a long race, no need to burn all of your energy in the first 5 minutes.

Practice – To be comfortable in open water, practice in open water.  Not every workout needs to be in open water, that wouldn’t be practical. A couple of practice swims with a buddy prior to your open water race will suffice. The idea is to get used to the sights, sounds and feeling of open water.

Confidence – Be sure you are comfortable completing the distance. Having confidence in your ability to swim the distance will alleviate stress. Be sure to cover the distance in the pool a couple of times.

Warm up – It is a good idea to get down to the water prior to your race start and warm up in the water. It doesn’t need to be very long, maybe five minutes of swimming. During the warm up you can feel the water temp, and practice breathing. A good warm up should leave you feeling relaxed and ready to start.

The Start – Open water swim starts are chaotic. A group of athletes entering the water turns into a sea of arms and legs thrashing about. You are already excited about the race start, and the adrenaline of the moment can cause your heart rate to spike. This is where most people run into issues. My advice is to find some clear water and swim your own race.

If you are uncomfortable with contact,  start on the side of your wave, or let the group go for moment and then start. I haven’t found a good simulation for a race start. They get much easier with experience.

Conditions – Open water conditions are always changing. The swim is affected by wind, current, temp and weather. You need to be aware of the conditions. There should be pre-race meeting that will explain the water conditions. It’s a good idea to attend so you know what to expect. Also, remember you have no control over the conditions, so there’s no need to freak out.

Sighting – Sighting is the process of picking a landmark, and using that landmark to control your swim direction. Sounds easy right? It’s not easy, and takes practice. This is another skill to work on during your open water swim practice.

Every 8-10 breaths you look up and see where you are swimming. The best landmarks are big and obvious, like water towers or a large building. There will also be buoys marking the course. During a swim buoys can be difficult to see because of chop or glare. It is best to use a combination of landmarks and buoys.

Here’s an excellent article from Triathlete Europe on swim sighting.

Relax – It is so important that I put relax in the list a second time. Swimming with a red lined heart rate, and tight muscles is counter productive and can lead to panic. The best way to combat these issues is to find a way to relax. You can fight against the water, but the water will always win. My best advice is to relax, flow through the water, and find your rhythm.


“You Can” – Overcome Reasons Not to Try a Triathlon


Has completing a triathlon been in the back of your mind, but you haven’t signed up? Do you say, I’d love to do a triathlon one day? Let’s make one day today. There are always reasons to start something one day in the future. These reasons make us put off things we really want to do, until later becomes never.

Here are the top reasons I hear for not trying a triathlon, and some suggestions to deal with these issues:

“I can’t – Its too hard” – If you are in a general state of good health, you can train for and complete a triathlon. Its just takes a little knowledge, and some quality training. Choose a good training plan, that fits into your lifestyle, and will get to race day ready. What you should say is I can’t right now.

Training for a race will get difficult at times. There may be times when you really think you can’t. These are the times when you can dig deep and make a breakthrough. The more you struggle and persevere, the sweeter the reward.

“I’m not fit enough” – You may or may not be fit enough to finish a triathlon right now. That’s why proper training is so important to make sure you are fit enough. Athletes of all sizes and ages complete triathlons. If you wait until you are fit enough, it may never happen.

“I don’t have the time” –  Everyone is busy. You may not have the time right now with your current schedule. You have to make time for things you want to do, and will make a positive impact on your life. If you are really honest with yourself, you have more time than you think. There are 168 hours in a week. Can you spare 6-5 hours to train? You can get up an hour earlier, and fit in a run. You can swim at the YMCA during lunch twice a week. Pay yourself first with your time, and invest in your health and wellness.

Link: First Triathlon in under Four Hours a Week 

“I’ll embarrass myself” – When is the last time someone was challenging themselves to try new things to better their lifestyle, and you laughed in their face? I am going with never. Most people respect others who are trying to improve themselves with new exciting goals. Put yourself out there, and others will admire your courage to try new things.

Link: Fantastic Finish Fridays. Stories from new triathletes that overcame fears to finish their first triathlon.

“Triathlon is too expensive” – Triathlon can be an expensive sport, but you can get started for less than you think. Try out your first race with some borrowed equipment, and see how you like it. If you get hooked, then you can invest in better equipment.

Link: Getting started in Triathlon for less than $100

“I don’t have the equipment” – If you look in your garage right now, you probably have almost everything you need for your first race. You only need a bike, helmet, goggles, running shoes and something to wear. All of the other accessories like GPS watches, race belts, and compression sleeves, aren’t necessary. Keep it simple for your first race and have fun.

Link: First Race Esstenials

photo credit: natellev via photopin cc

Dive In! 7 tips for selecting your first TRIATHLON


Congrats! You’ve decided to dive in and and become a triathlete. Now it’s time to sign up for you first race. We want you to have a great experience at you first race. You have put in the commitment and training, and now its time to show your greatness.

Here’s some tips to help you decide which race is best for you:

1. Race Distance – Sprint distance triathlons are usually best for first time triathletes. Typical distances for a sprint triathlon are ~500M Swim, 12 mile bike, and 5k run. The majority of people will finish this race around 90 minutes. Sprints are short enough to let it rip, if you are feeling great. If it’s not your day, you can cruise through the finish.

2. Race Location – Consider you logistics when choosing a race. Sometimes the effort to get to the race, can be as nerve racking as the event itself. Some things to consider here:

  • How far do I have to travel?  If you have a private helicopter, this is not an issue.
  • Do I need to stay in a hotel? If the race has an early start, and you have a significant commute to get there, staying close to the race start will decrease race morning anxiety greatly.
  • Is the race spectator friendly? Your friends and family have supported you through all of your training, and want to cheer you on during the race. Races that are held in parks or in downtown areas work well for families.

Tips to decrease race more anxiety.

3. Swim (open water vs. pool) –  If you are not yet comfortable swimming in open water, you may want to start with a pool swim. This is usually the largest concern for new triathletes, and justifiably so. In open water, most times you can’t see the bottom, there are many other swimmers around you, and swimming in a straight line isn’t easy.  A pool swim will be staggered, so you are not in a a big crowd, and there is a black line at the bottom to follow.

If you are considering entering your first open water triathlon, here are some tips:

Enter the Washing Machine – Tips for your first open water swim

4. Bike/Run Course – Check the course info page for the race, and pay attention to the course profile. A short event can be made very difficult by elevation. Be sure you are comfortable with the climbs and descents, if the course is hilly. Bike handling skills take time to develop. If you are still working on your handling skills, save those technical sections, and screaming descents for later.

Run courses can vary in their terrain.  Courses can be on pavement, trails, sand, the surface of the moon, you never know. Most of the time this is not a deal breaker on the decision to sign up for a race, but be prepared. I once didn’t check out a course in advance and it had 8 large sets of  steps on it. I was not prepared, and that course crushed me.

5. Local Weather – I know we can’t control the weather, and it is unpredictable. This is one area where you can play to your strengths. If you can run all day like a camel in the heat, then sign up for a summer race. If you melt like a snowman above 80 Deg, then pick a fall race.

6. Race Organization –  The quality of the race promoter will have a huge impact on the overall event. Race promoters vary in there experience and commitment to quality. Be sure to check into the race promoter before signing up for an event. Ask other athletes about the promoter’s events, they will be happy to share their experience, good or bad.

7. Post Race Party – This may sound like a silly thing to consider, but some races have great post race parties. If you are racing with friends,  you want to celebrate after the race. A beer never tastes so good, as after a hard race.  There are a few races I do every year, just because the party is so much fun.

What are you waiting for? Get on www.active.com and get signed up.

If you know of a great beginner friendly race, please leave the info in the comments.