“Go-To” Trainer Workouts

By Debbie
January 20, 2015 on 1:50 pm | In From the shop, Product Information, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Team Athlete Mark Tripp. Embarking on his first year as a Pro, he’s one to watch. Check out Mark’s blog and follow him on Twitter – @trippmj.

For most people, including me, riding outdoors is a lot more appealing than staring at a wall while riding your bike on a stationary trainer. But there are still those occasional cold and rainy days that end up interfering with planned bike workouts.  For these types of days, I am sharing two of my “go-to” trainer workouts. I ride these two workouts regularly and for different purposes.  One is intended to be an endurance workout for strength building and the other is more of an interval speed workout.

I should point out that these workouts are geared towards training for the Olympic distance triathlon, which consists of a 40 kilometer distance bike leg.  For my trainer setup I use a compact crank and my rear cassette has the following gearing: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25.  For both workouts I also try to maintain a 90-95 RPM cadence throughout the entire workout.

Trainer sessions can be efficient and valuable additions to your triathlon training.  I understand that they can sometimes be boring, so to fight the boredom, I recommend incorporating some entertainment that helps the time pass by but does not distract you from your workout goals.  I typically listen to up-tempo music or if the timing is right, watch a football or basketball game on television.  If that doesn’t work, maybe try closing your eyes and pretend you are riding through the Swiss Alps.  Whatever you do, try to choose something that helps pass the time but doesn’t distract you from your trainer session goals. Happy trainering!!

Trainer set-up

Power Workout

I like this workout for early season training when I am trying to simply build strength and endurance.  It is perfect for the spring months when the days are still short.  If I am feeling frisky, I insert another half hour after the first 5 minute recovery that consists of 20 min (L-17), 3 min (L-16), 2 min (L-15), and 5 min (S-17).  If I am feeling less than frisky, I insert a 5 min cool down at 40 minutes and stop.  Note that the gearing descriptions describe the gearing in the form of “crank-rear”.  As an example, “S-17” means small chainring on the crank and 17 tooth chainring on the rear cassette, “L-16″ would be large chainring and 16-tooth on the rear.

Time                        Gearing          Description

5 min                        S-17                Warm-up

30 min                      L-17                Cruise

3 min                        L-16                Hard

2 min                        L-15                Harder

5 min                        S-17                Recover

12 min                      L-17                Cruise

2 min                        L-16                Hard

1 min                        L-15                Harder

5 min                        S-17                Cool-down

Total: 1 hr 5 min

Strava data

Interval Workout

I like this workout for mid-season when I already built a base.  If I am feeling frisky, I’ll drop a gear on my rear cassette for parts 2 and 3 except for the recovery portions.  If I am feeling less than frisky, I’ll only repeat the first two parts twice each.

Time                               Gearing          Description

5 min                               S-17                Warm-up

Part 1 (repeat 3x)

1 min                               L-18                Moderate

3 min                               L-17                Cruise

1 min                               L-16                Hard

2 min                               S-17                Recovery

Part 2 (repeat 3x)

2 min                               L-18                Moderate

5 min                               L-17                Cruise

1 min                               L-16                Hard

2 min                               S-17                Recovery

Part 3 (repeat 2x)

1 min                               L-16                Hard

1 min                               L-15                Very Hard

1 min                               S-17                Recovery

Part 4

4 min                               S-17                Cool-down

Total: 1 hr 6 min

No More Belly-aching!

By Debbie
January 12, 2015 on 12:00 pm | In Community, Nutrition Tips, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Monica Pagels. Unexplained tummy aches? Wondering if you can go gluten-free as a triathlete? Tune in and hear what Monica has to say!

Ever feel like your body just won’t cooperate during a workout? Maybe you just feel sluggish, or maybe feel muscle pain or fatigue, or maybe you’ve had that all too embarrassing intestinal discomfort while out on the run. If you’ve been a runner as long as I have (30 years and counting), you have experienced it all!  But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if our runs could all be just as good as that one magical Fall long run in the woods when everything felt perfect and easy, and you remembered why you loved to run?!

Magical fall runs

Recently, my running, and fitness in general, went from bad to worse. In June, I was at the top of my game, having just completed my first Ironman in Coeur D’Alene, and by August I was suffering from extreme fatigue and muscle pain during my runs. Many said it was a delayed reaction to the IM, and to just ride/run through it. By October, my running was suffering even more, I was falling asleep during the day, my belly ached, and I suffered extreme headaches. Never before had I felt this bad for this many workouts in a row! Something had to change! By January, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, which is an auto-immune disorder where your body attacks itself upon ingesting the protein gluten (wheat).  The cure, go figure, is to eliminate gluten from your diet… easier said than done, coming from the pasta-loving queen and post-race pizza crave!  We have all done crazier things, I thought, to improve our performance, so why not give it a try. Within 4 weeks, my everyday symptoms of fatigue, stomachaches, and headaches had all but disappeared, I had lost almost 10 pounds, and imagine my delight – I could finally run under 8 minute-mile pace again! Now, almost a year later, I continue to see improvements in the way I feel and how my body performs during workouts and races…and recovery!

What?! No more of this??

Could your workouts use some improvements? Are you darting off into the woods for those emergency bathroom stops? Giving up gluten may be worth a try! You do not have to be diagnosed with Celiac disease to have an intolerance to gluten. Admit it, we, as triathletes, love our pasta, breads and pizza! Could we have consumed it in such excess that our bodies now punish us? When I first gave up gluten, I thought it would be challenging to stick to the diet. I quickly realized that it is not what you are giving up, but what you are gaining instead!  I turned to much more whole and natural foods such as fruits, vegetables and long grain rice. I also love chicken, and have even come up with my own black bean burger recipe! Yes, I have become quite the pro in the kitchen, from peanut butter balls with chia seeds and red maca powder, to quinoa and apple energy bars, to beet and zucchini muffins! The benefits far outweigh the challenge of foregoing that fine micro-brew I used to cherish after a marathon (gluten-free beer is pretty decent, by the way)!

Gluten-free CAN be tasty!

Give the gluten-free life a try and see how it improves your performance, as well as your overall health. You will be amazed at the results, and your body will thank you by completing runs bathroom-stop free and begging for more miles!!

For terrific gluten free recipes or a list of gluten free foods, try the following websites:

Or, to hear more of my gluten-free journey and how it may help you, feel free to message me on Facebook!

The Best Thing about Triathlon

By Debbie
January 5, 2015 on 12:00 pm | In Community, Random Musings, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion George Cespedes. What is the best thing about triathlon? The fitness? Being able to eat whatever you want? The competition? Read on to learn what George thinks, and I think he’s onto something! Follow George on twitter – @georgecespedes.

We humans like to be part of a tribe. We have evolved to ascend to the top of the food chain, so to speak, by banding together in tribes, and through cooperation and shared experiences, built great civilizations and exist as part of many communities.

Triathlon is one such community that I love being a part of. Triathletes are awesome people. While we often find ourselves solo on long training rides or runs, or swimming endless laps in the pool with only the sound of our own labored breath in our ears, we do this to be a part of special niche in society. We share a love of testing our physical and mental boundaries, of following a training plan and the satisfaction of finishing a race.

As competitive as triathletes can be in training, racing and even life, they are also each others’ greatest cheerleaders, supporters and partners in pain.  We all know what it takes to get from the swim start to the finish chute and we love to celebrate the accomplishments of others.

Celebrating the finish - together

There is no bigger crowd gathered than around midnight of that epic race…you know the one I mean. Watching the last finishers stagger under the giant finish line clock to hear, “you are an Ironman,” somehow invigorates us all.  We race to be fit, to beat our previous finish time, to test ourselves, but we celebrate our fellow triathlete competitors’ accomplishments as happily as our own.

Crowds at midnight

Through my years as a triathlete, I have had enjoyed seeing the race kits from many different organizations and wondered what drives them to raise money for this cause or that person. I have raced for the Melanoma Research Foundation for the past two years and have just joined team Blazeman to race for ALS. I know, personally, that it gives meaning to the training time spent away from my family, the aches and pains that follow, and the tough miles out on the course. I am not just doing it for myself, for bragging rights, but to make a small difference in the world and give back to society in a meaningful and mutually beneficial way.

Another big reason I love being part of the triathlon community is because of how diverse it is. People from all walks of life, ages, and abilities make up the sport and triathlon community. I love meeting triathletes at different events across the country. Being a member of the TriSports Champions team has given me the opportunity to meet so many of these unique and wonderful people. We are all out there racing for our own reasons, but we share a lot of the same experiences and goals.  I follow my teammates and friends to see how they are doing and I know they are doing the same for me. We want everyone to have a good race, to have a PR, to finish, because beyond our competitive fire is a shared passion for the sport and we know what it takes to finish, even if you are the last finisher.

Diversity is the name of the game

Being part of the triathlon community has enriched my life in so many ways.  It’s about so much more than being really fit, new PRs, finisher’s medals and swag bags, though. The best thing about triathlon is the triathletes!

How to Deal with Long-Lasting Injuries

By Debbie
December 22, 2014 on 12:18 pm | In Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Team Athlete Laura Balis. She has, unfortunately, gotten very familiar with injury, so pay attention, what she has to say just may help you! Follow Laura on Twitter – @LauraBalis.

This isn’t the most upbeat topic to write or read about… but it’s something I’ve dealt with for the past year, and I’m sure there are others out there going through similar struggles. It seems like triathletes don’t like to talk about or admit that we’re injured. Maybe we don’t want our competitors to know that we’re injured and feel like they have an edge on us. But there are also times when we’re not at our best and race anyway, and we feel like telling everyone, “Hey, you only beat me today because I’m injured!” But of course we don’t do that.

Staying motivated when you’re dealing with a long-lasting injury can be tough. I’m hoping that by sharing some of my experiences and tips, I may be able to help someone else who’s dealing with a pain-in-the-butt injury.

To make a long, long story short, I’ve dealt with calf pain and plantar fasciitis for about three years, and haven’t been able to run at all for the past year and a half. So, after this long ordeal that I’m going through, here’s my advice for physically and mentally dealing with injuries:

  • Get second opinions – and third, fourth, and fifth… Be stubborn! I really believed that there was someone out there who could figure out and treat my injuries, so I kept going until I found someone who could. There are lots of good doctors and PTs out there, but they don’t all have experience with the same injuries.
  • Figure out who your support network is. I talked to my husband about my injuries, a lot – probably more than he wanted to hear! I also had a couple girlfriends and my sister who I could call for a sympathetic ear or some advice.
  • Do what you can and what’s fun. Luckily, most of the time that I’ve been dealing with the calf and foot issues, I’ve still been able to swim and ride. But I didn’t really feel motivated to go out and ride for hours and hours by myself when I wasn’t training for anything, and didn’t know if I had any races in my future. So I did whatever I felt like, mostly lots of shorter, fun rides with my husband on the river trail. As for swimming, I was able to join in with a friend’s swim workouts – and only do the parts that sounded fun!
  • Find some new hobbies or something else to do with your time. When you can’t train much, all of a sudden you have more free time! The doctor and physical therapy appointments and rehab exercises can take some time. But if you still have more time, maybe pick up an extra hobby or volunteer to keep yourself busy and keep your mind off of not training. I started doing some freelance work on top of my normal job since I had more time for it.
  • Stay motivated (as much as you can!). One thing that helped me as I started feeling like I’d make it through the injuries and be able to race again was putting together a tentative race schedule for the season. It was fun to look up different races and start to get excited about them, and was enough motivation to get me out the door for some longer rides.

GO for FUN rides...there's more out there than just training rides!

Things I Found Out Being a First Time Mom

By Debbie
December 16, 2014 on 4:28 pm | In Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Team Athlete Hayley Benson. Think you have to give up your triathlon lifestyle because you are starting a family? Think again! Follow Hayley’s blog.

Pregnancy:

No matter what kind of shape you are in, or what kind of athlete you are, or how strong willed you, are your body and pregnancy will have its own ideas.  I was quite convinced that I would run throughout my pregnancy. We lived so close to the hospital that I was even convinced that I would jog the 1.5 miles to the delivery room when labor arrived.  How naïve was I!  I am one of those annoying people who actually likes running and could run a sub-6 minute mile even after months of not running, so I thought for sure I would be running through my pregnancy.  This just wasn’t the case. I managed a little bit in the early stages, but due to the Arizona heat, the bowling ball in my stomach and the nausea, I just couldn’t do it at all after 28 weeks.

Doing flip turns in the pool during pregnancy will not harm your baby.

No amount of activity, swimming, hiking, running, whatever you are able to do during pregnancy, will induce labor. When it’s time, it’s time, there’s no changing it. I was taking long hikes, swimming 1000s of yards and my baby was still late.

Pregnant and active!

After delivery:

I’m sorry to say, but you will pee yourself while running the first few times after delivery. Things are a little stretched out and traumatized down there, but this is a TRANSIENT thing and it does go away.

You will get your fitness back far quicker than you ever expected. You will not believe this, but I’m writing it anyway because it is true.  I understand why you don’t believe it, you are bloated, beyond tired, still on the heavy side even after dumping out the actual baby, but you do get your fitness back fast. The body is remarkable at recovery.

Getting out with baby...the new training methods!

The first few months of babyhood:

Every new Mom athlete needs to have an espresso machine and a treadmill.  You will be sleeping A LOT less and you will need caffeine.  You will need to take advantage of when baby sleeps to get some training done, so buy a decent treadmill…you are going to use it a lot. You don’t have to get a new one, there are some great deals on Craigslist.

Get back on the bandwagon with racing, that first race is always going to be nerve-wracking, but when it comes down to it, it’s an accomplishment in itself just to be on the starting line when you are trying to care for a young baby.  I can attest that even if you can’t breast feed your baby right before the start of a 10km race, your baby will not starve during the time it takes you to complete the race, no matter how slow you are.  I remember being quite convinced that my baby would starve while I did my first 10km post delivery. Hey, I was sleep deprived and rational thought was non-existent.  Triathlons generally take longer than running races, so I would advise either breast feeding or pumping before the race, especially if your Tri top is very tight fitting because you will not be able to get it on without pumping first!

Still getting medals post-pregnancy!

You will have to train tired…if you waited to train until you weren’t tired you would never get any training done.  You can tolerate more sleep deprivation than you think you can, and don’t listen to the “babies sleep through the night at x weeks/months old, at x weight, at x developmental stage,” your baby will sleep through the night whenever he or she feels like it. In my case I had to wait 9 months!

The times when you could ride your bike from sunrise to sunset, when you could just take off on an adventure trail run and come back when you feel like it are gone, you have to think about who is going to watch the baby.  If you are lucky enough to get out for an epic training session, it can’t be too epic as you have to be able to function when you get home. There are no days off from motherhood (yes, you will have a bit of nostalgia for those old times…it’s OK to feel like that).

Hire a coach if at all possible. If you are like most mere mortals, you are also working a steady job, as well as being an athlete and a parent, and you don’t have the time to put in crazy amounts of hours training. A coach will help streamline what you do.  I am actually faster post-baby and with less hours training all thanks to a good coach.

Being an athlete and a Mom isn’t easy, but then again, if it were easy it wouldn’t be worth doing. My daughter, Sierra, is worth the challenges I have had to overcome with my athletics and she enriches my life.  I’m looking forward to teaching her to swim, bike and run, just like mom!

Fast mama

Triathlon Recovery 101

By Debbie
November 25, 2014 on 1:23 pm | In Nutrition Tips, Product Information, Random Musings, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Team Athlete Ali Rutledge. During this week of giving thanks, you should also thank your body by giving it the tools to recover better! Follow Ali on Twitter – alaida.

When it comes to triathlon success, recovery is a key component. Here are a few things to help you recover to your best.

  1. Compression - Use after a hard workout to speed up the recovery process. This will promote blood flow and remove toxins from your aching muscles. You can use a variety of socks, calf sleeves (active recovery only – do NOT use if you are just lounging around), tights or recovery pump boots, just to name a few.

    Zensah Argyle Compression Socks

  2. Ice - Used since the beginning of triathlon time, cold water is cheap and reduces soreness. A bath tub, lake or any body of water 55 degrees for 15 minutes will do. Your best result will be after your hard workout. If you have problems tolerating the cold, sipping warm fluids can help.

    Ice can really suck in the short run, but the benefits are awesome!

  3. Massage - You can use your own licensed massage therapist or your own tools for self massage. Today there are many massage tools on the market. Just a few to name are a foam roller, the Stick, or Trigger Point Therapy products. Massage promotes healing by removing old blood with toxins and getting fresh blood flow to the injured areas to promote recovery.

    Work the junk out of those muscles!

  4. Active Recovery - This will promote blood flow and homeostasis if done correctly. An easy spin, low-intensity run or an easy swim can promote recovery to injured tissues. You must leave your ego at home for this one!
  5. Rest - Recovery days, good sleep and a mental boost are imperative for improving athletic performance. We all need physical and mental relief from the stress of training. Doing something different or just a sleep-in day is a good example. You will feel fresh and ready to go the next day.
  6. Nutrition – Within 30 minutes after a hard training session, recovery nutrition is important to repair muscles and rebuild glycogen stores. There are many bars, shakes or just real food from which to chose. Blender bottles work great to mix any drinks. Eat like a champion!!

    Be smart with your nutrition

A training plan is not complete without a good recovery plan.  Being smart about your recovery will be the key to making a happy and healthy triathlete.  Cheers to swim, bike, run and recovery!

Becoming Friends with the Bike

By Debbie
November 4, 2014 on 11:42 am | In Life at TriSports.com, Product Information, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Team TriSports member Pam Winders. She’s living proof that you simply can’t fake the bike. Follow Pam on Twitter – pamye6.

It’s interesting how things always come full circle. This past summer I have had friends come up to me after races, devastated with their bike performance. They proceed to pick my brain as to why I believe their bike didn’t go as planned and what training they could have done prior to the race in order to succeed and see where they went wrong. It amazed me how many of those people had only gone on a ride or two prior to the race. So with that, I basically told them what they didn’t want to hear, which was the obvious; if you want to do well and meet your goals, then you have to do the work and actually train for your desired results.

When I first started triathlon four years ago I was always amazed with the bike portion of the race…there are some really fast riders out there! I wanted to be the fastest, so my first goal in triathlon was to “master,” or at least get better on, the bike. I quickly learned two things; 1) Bikes are REALLY expensive and 2) There are no shortcuts to success – aka: you have to do the work in order to see the results you’re seeking.

With my overachieving goal of always being on the podium, I went out and bought Betty, an awesome women’s specific Felt DA, and a bike trainer. When I started triathlon I was living in Alaska, so getting out on the road and accumulating what I call “real life” miles was nonexistent; therefore the trainer was a necessity. In addition, I purchased my first pair of heavy duty diaper biking shorts. I wasn’t winning any fashion awards in them, and I definitely wasn’t picking up any hot guys, but I knew that in order for me to put the time in the saddle, comfort was vital.

Hardcore cycling in Alaska

From that point on I spent many days, especially Sundays, in my living room watching NFL while riding Betty instead of snuggled up on the couch. As I began to educate myself more on biking, I learned to incorporate more specific workouts for racing and that’s when the real fun began. I would include hill repeats, speed and distance intervals and soon enough I was seeing dramatic changes in my riding; I could ride longer and was stronger and faster!!

My real love for biking didn’t come until after that initially painful boring living room period from which I went out and did my first “real life” ride of the season racing St. George 70.3. Not the smartest move on my part after training in dark, cold Alaska on a trainer and a treadmill all winter, but all the hard work and time I put in by becoming friends with my bike made it so worth it and I was actually able to enjoy the ride instead of suffer through it.

After St. George I’ve continued to embrace my bike; I’ve put on a power meter, which I’d highly recommend to anyone wanting to race competitively or who has a thing for numbers. By incorporating power into my riding, it has taken my training to a whole different excruciating level of pain and sweat, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A strong bike = good chances for a podium position!

In the end, the only way to get better and have fun while riding is to put in the time and become friends with your bike!!

The Off-Season

By Debbie
October 21, 2014 on 1:51 pm | In Life at TriSports.com, Product Information, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Liz Miller. The off-season is coming, so what are you going to do about it? Check out Liz’s blog or follow her on Twitter – FeWmnLiz (can you tell she’s a geologist?).

Some people dread the off-season, and other people love it. I usually feel a little bit of both excitement and anxiety when it’s time to transition to the off-season. Excitement because the off-season typically means sleeping in, weekends away without my swim, bike, and run gear, and maybe more than just an occasional glass of wine. Dread because the off-season also means shorter days, potential lack of motivation, and the occasional unwanted weight gain (especially around the holidays!).

In preparation for my off-season, I started looking around for some fun activities that didn’t necessarily involve swimming, biking, or running, or least not all 3 activities in the same race! Here are a few ideas for those of you who are getting ready to start your off-season, or maybe just looking for a few ideas to refresh your off-season routine.

Find a new type of race

I recently participated in my very first ultra-marathon. I have always been intrigued by ultra-marathons, but I typically need to save my quads and knees for quality long runs during Ironman training. This means that running 50K on trails is out of the question! But once your triathlon season is done, an ultra-marathon is a great way to put your fitness into something new and different.

I had a blast in my first ultra-marathon, not to mention the fact that since I wasn’t running with the goal of winning, I had more than enough time to stop and take pictures! Who can complain about running 50K when you have beautiful scenery like this?

The view during the Mt. Taylor 50K on 9/27/2014 (mttaylor50k.com)

Also, if you live somewhere with snow, look for some winter racing options. Snowshoe and cross country ski races are a great way to have some fun and challenge yourself without the pressure or stress that can sometimes be involved with a triathlon.

The ski to snowshoe transition during the Mt. Taylor Quad a few years ago (mttaylorquad.org)

Lastly, the winter can be a great time to try a swim meet or two! I participated in my first swim meet two years ago, and while I got DQ’ed from one event and certainly didn’t win any of the other events that I entered, I had a good time and enjoyed the challenge. Check out the U.S. Masters website for a list of local Masters groups that might be sponsoring an upcoming meet.

Try something new (or go back to something old!)

A few years ago, I took an “Introduction to Kettlebells” class that was required before participating in the local YMCA’s kettlebell course. I was hooked! It was a great mix of strength training and cardio work, and the 6 AM class was a great way to kick off the workday. The off-season is the perfect time to work on strength training (which is often overlooked during triathlon training), and kettlebells is a great way to do that.

Other strength training classes include TRX, Cross Fit, and other local YMCA or gym classes. I have found that TRX is another butt-kicker of a workout, relying mostly on body weight rather than weights, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s easy!

Yoga and Pilates are additional options for new and different workouts that offer a nice variety to your typical swim, bike, and run schedule. Power and Bikram yoga can both be very challenging if you feel that you need a harder workout, and Pilates can really help with core strength, which can translate into better cycling form and faster running.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself!

The off-season shouldn’t be about constantly watching your food intake, weeks of difficult workouts, and a lack of social life. The off-season should be about kicking back, enjoying a treat now and then, and maybe sitting on the couch to watch a little more football than what is reasonable. Even more importantly, the off-season is about giving your mind and body a break from the rigors of triathlon training, to have some fun and not be too worried about missing a workout here and there.

Kicking back during a week-long canoe trip on Lake Mead during my winter off-season, 2012

The off-season also gives all of us triathletes time to step back, reflect on our performances over the season, and set new goals for the next year. And it’s important to remember that while we might lose a bit of fitness during the off-season, we’ll quickly gain it back at the start of the season, along with a renewed excitement for the sport and exciting goals to keep us motivated for the season.

Getting Faster in the Water

By Debbie
October 13, 2014 on 10:00 am | In Product Information, Training, Water | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Tom Golden. He’ll blow most peoples’ doors off in the water, so read on and get fast.

Much like a drug addict wanting a greater high, every year we, as triathletes, evaluate how to get to get more out of our addiction and take it to the next level.  For me, I think about that every year when it comes to running, which is my need-to-improve sport.  Fortunately, I grew up as a distance swimmer and consider it the lethal part of my race. More often than not, I hear from fellow triathletes, “I wish I had your swim” and “I just can’t seem to get faster.”  When I ask what they are doing in the water, I usually hear the same thing and think to myself, “no wonder your swim has not improved, you’re not really pushing your swim.”  I am by no means an expert but I have a very simple way to improve over the course of a season.  In fact, if you have 3 months left this year you still have time.

First, get in a masters swim program. [Editor's note: Many triathletes are intimidated by the thought of joining a Masters swim group, mostly because of the name...don't be. There are lanes for the very fast, but also the very slow, and they welcome everyone!] There are several really reasons for this. I know it costs money, but if you get in a good program, it’s worth every penny.  I used to swim on my own and it did the trick, but getting in the water and being pushed to race others in practice is a sure fire way to improve. It builds consistency at each workout.   You also gain the confidence of swimming tactfully.  You gain insight on how to wear someone out by changing your pace, or pacing with someone and then trying to drop them as they tire out.  You also gain knowledge from other, more experienced swimmers around you.  Having a coach from the deck to correct your stroke is essential, as well. Get the right equipment – kickboard, fins, paddles, buoy, your favorite goggles, and sometimes even a snorkel, and you’ll be ready to go.

A coach on deck can really help you improve your stroke

Second, it’s important to know that most masters programs are not designed for triathletes or distance swimming of 1.2 or 2.4 miles.  Most programs are tailored to a mid-distance sprint of a 200 or 500 yard race.  As a distance swimmer, you may think you need to be doing long sets of 800 repeats, and sometimes that’s good, but more importantly you need to learn how to pace and hold that pace. In a masters program, you will need to modify what you are doing so that you can work on pacing.  For instance, let’s say the set calls for 8×200 descend 1-4, 5-8.  You would adapt that set to holding a solid steady pace on each repeat and then get after the last one. Or going out moderate on the first 100 and negative split by 2 seconds on the second 100.  This will teach your body how to hold a pace, which is what you want to do in a race.  Be sure to be aware of others around you who are doing the set the way the coach called for and make sure that you don’t get in their way.

Use other swimmers to learn how to pace

Third, you need to adapt over time working in a tighter interval.  For example, each season, after all the fitness is gone and I get back in the water after a month break, I will start out in the 1:15 per 100 threshold lane. I focus on that concept of holding a pace no matter what the set calls for.  After about a week, I move to the 1:10 per 100 lane, again working on holding a pace. I will spend about a month letting my body adapt to shorter rest intervals.  Then I will move to the 1:05 threshold lane and do the same for the majority of my season.  Now to be honest, the first month in that lane sucks and I may barely make the interval but that’s exactly what you want to do.  Hold a pace and let your body adapt.  Hang with it, be consistent and it will pay off.

And pay off it does...the author exiting the water at 2013 IMAZ in a faster time than most of the pro field

Finally, like the other two sports, having good form and being efficient in the water is important and should not be sacrificed.  To this day, in every workout in every set on every repeat, I am thinking about reaching out and finishing through on my stroke. How I am breathing, rotating through the water, snapping my hips and how I am catching the water.  All the tips in the world are useless if your form is a mess.  So take the time to get instruction and watch good swimmers in the water.  Good luck and I hope you get fast!

The swim is just the start of what can be a very long day...make it as easy on yourself as possible!

The Urban Triathlete

By Debbie
September 8, 2014 on 3:34 pm | In Community, Life at TriSports.com, Random Musings, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Anthony Bagnetto. Pay attention all you city-folk! Check out Anthony’s blog or follow him on Twitter – anthonybagnetto.

Being a triathlete is difficult.  Let’s face it, it’s a huge reason we all do it. ‘Easy’ bores us, only one discipline bores us (what, no transitions!?). Early mornings, inclement weather, technical and nutritional failures are all par for our course. But there is yet another subset of us who face an additional challenge in preparing for races which, time wise, is 95% of being a triathlete.

I’m speaking of us inner city dwellers. No, not the townhouse owners on the city’s edge with driveways and parking but us brave-hearted souls who dream of a second bedroom so we can not have bikes hanging precariously from the wall over our beds as we sleep. The barriers we face on top of the difficulties inherent in our endeavors require a lot of creativity and close intimacy with repetition.

The concrete jungle

I live in the heart of New York City, and happily, there is a strong, thriving triathlete community here with no fewer than 8 solid Tri teams, organizations, and countless cycling and running teams. The community is strong, the will is there–the space isn’t. We are up against each other every morning, runners darting out into cyclists, cyclists swerving into running paths. And, of course, the tens of thousands of tourists that descend, making going fast dangerous and nearly impossible.

This all happens on a 6 mile circle between the hours of 5-7:30am every weekday morning in our training ground, THE ONLY training ground, Central Park. OK, that’s not totally true. There are several spacious parks in the other boroughs, but if you’re centrally located, the commuting time might take longer than your workout time.

Central Park - triathlete training grounds

I’ve broken down challenges and clever ways we city-folk create to overcome them by discipline.

Swimming:

Being in the northeast and surrounded by concrete, the idea of an outdoor 8-lane Olympic sized pool is a pipe dream. Access to a 25 yard or a 25 or 50 meter pool is supremely hard, or at least very expensive, as they come with mandatory gyms fees attached (by my count, there are 3 Olympic lane swimming pools in Manhattan, none of them easy to reach). One way triathletes get around this is through those tri teams that we belong to. They often have relationships with different facilities, so if you are going to do mostly group workouts, you are allowed to use the pool with the group as part of your membership. Some private triathlon coaches, like myself, have these relationships, as well, and can get you in for private lessons.

Some are lucky/rich enough to have a pool in their doorman building, and I’ve had clients in a lot of them. While this sounds awesome, it really isn’t. I haven’t found one yet that’s actually 25 yards long. So being good at both math and flip turns is essential.

As for open water practice, you can head way out to one of the Brooklyn beaches and brave the waves but as for anywhere else, as they say there, “fuggedaboutit”

Biking:

Here in Manhattan there are 3 options, and only 2 of them really useful for any kind of speed work. The West Side Highway has a very nice bike/running path but therein lies the problem. Runners, walkers and aerobar’d speedster triathletes competing for space within 5 feet of each other isn’t ideal for anything other than slow recovery rides. Which leaves that 6 mile loop of Central Park I mentioned and that’s only useful during non-tourist hours before 8:30am. If you are a long course triathlete, it’s off to Jersey, along the well-ridden 9W route. While this option is great (wide shoulders, frequent cyclist-friendly coffee shops and bathrooms) it can become mind-numbingly repetitive. Plus, depending on where you live in NYC, the commute to get out over the George Washington bridge (read: warmup) can be over a half hour each way.

Want to really bike? Then get out of town!

There are a handful of growing indoor cycling studios with computrainers and flatscreens that welcome both teams and individuals for different workouts, and they become very popular in the winter offseason. Even these are cramped, though, and few have shower or changing facilities.

Running:

This is really where my city (or really any other city) shines for triathletes as it is much easier to lace up some shoes and be running just outside your door in only minutes. On foot there is no need to stick to the boring 6 mile drive in Central Park since you can veer onto any number of the hundreds of trails that crisscross the many iconic acres. Running with traffic can be challenging, but it’s a skill easily learned and, unless you are doing speed work, you can generally work the traffic lights so that there is minimal stopping. The people-watching is unrivaled and, with each neighborhood sometimes seeming like a separate country, boredom is never an issue.

Endless possibilities for run training

No matter which leg of a triathlon you are training for, in a city it’s difficult to escape the glass, steel and concrete bearing down on you every day. So when you are at those races in the country and you see a few of us looking up at the clear wide open sky in astonishment, just remember, this is our escape both figuratively and literally. We won’t let it slow us down, though, we just take it in faster.

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