Essential Sports Nutrition


It's Ironman Canada race week!

I can't believe it's finally race week! Today we leave for Canada and on Sunday, we get to race a bucket-list race in beautiful Whistler, Canada. 

We selected this race venue because of its challenging, yet beautiful course. The weather is predicted to be in the low 50's at the start of the day (race start 6am PST) and it will rise to the low 70's. The 2.4 mile swim is a two loop course in Alta Lake. The water temp should be around 65 degrees and wetsuit legal. The 2-loop bike course features ~8000 feet of elevation gain over 112 miles. It will be a "slow" bike course that will require a lot of strength, tactics, good riding skills, fueling and mental strength. The run course will be just as spectacular as the bike. The 26.2 mile run is a two loop course with a little over 1000 feet of elevation gain. The finish of the 140.6 mile race is in the Olympic Village of Whistler.

I'm thrilled to share the course with 13 of our athletes. We selected this race venue because it offers an Ironman and 70.3 distance on the same day. We will have two athletes racing the full (one first-timer Ironman) and eleven athletes racing the 70.3. I just love racing with our athletes as it's great to see familiar faces on and off the course and to share the entire experience with others.

This Ironman journey has been an interesting one. Our coach (Cait Snow) did an incredible job preparing us for this race. While it felt like a lot of training, every week was carefully designed with our needs in mind. There was a nice mix of frequency and volume with a touch of intensity sprinkled in. Overall, it was a solid build to Ironman Canada. I loved the training/workouts and it was a lot of fun to see what my body could do each day. We had daily communication with our coach and the closer we got to the race, the more she was careful to make sure we were still adapting to training stress.

Karel is bringing great fitness to this race. He was pushed hard by Cait in ways that he didn't know was capable by his body. I'm super excited to see what Karel can do on this race course as I feel he is getting stronger and faster every season.

I have felt stronger than ever before - specifically in swim and bike. Because of my previous running struggles (injuries) in the past, Cait was extremely careful to build me slowly with my running and to design workouts that would help build my confidence and suit my strengths (running off the bike). I was able to put together many months of consistent training, tolerating a high volume of training in swimming, biking and running.

Unfortunately, near the end of our group training camp in late June, I started to experience some left lower back pain on the bike. I contributed it to a lot of twisting to look behind me at our athletes and altering my riding style throughout the camp environment. Karel and I did not do any of our own training throughout our group training camp as it was all about our athletes and making sure they got the most out of their camp experience.

On the last day of camp (June 30th), we were getting ready to head to the lake for our last camp workout (swim and run) and as I was bending over to put on my socks and shoes, I felt a painful tug in my lower back. I had to lay down to relieve the pain. It was something that was a bit familiar to me as I have had issues with my back/hips for as long as I can remember. This reminded me of when I injured myself back in 2007 before my first Ironman World Championship. I was a little worried but the pain subsided, I taped my back/hips with KT tape and we drove to the lake. I was a little tight during the swim but the run felt fine as I ran with our campers.

To play it smart and safe, Cait had me take the next two days really easy to let things calm down. I took a day off on Monday (mental day to recover from camp) and Tues was an easy swim. I felt a little tightness in my back but no pain during the swim.

On Wednesday we did a "test" workout on the bike with some building efforts to see how I responded to different efforts. I felt a bit of tightness in my back but it actually got better as the ride went on. I ran off the bike and all was OK. I actually felt fine running. So on Thursday I was back to normal training and didn't feel concerned about my back anymore - what a relief!

I put together four solid days of training (Thurs-Sun) but come Sunday, near the end of the run, my left side started to feel off. It wasn't painful, just a bit of tugging in my left leg. After I returned home from my 90 minute run (my last long run), my inner thigh and groin started to tighten up. It was really uncomfortable. I did my afternoon swim - which helped to loosen things up - but to make a long story short, I've been dealing with hip/back/upper leg issues since July 7th. To be extra cautious, I haven't really ran since then as I was feeling a tugging and tightness around my hip/back/leg. Again, this is nothing new for me as I have dealt with hip/back issues for all of my triathlon career but have been able to manage it for the past 6 years without any hiccups. Until now....

So here I am, just a few days away from my 15th Ironman in uncertainty. Will I be able to run at all and if so, how much? I am mentally preparing myself that I will not finish this Ironman and I am ok with this.

While this injury has altered my run training over the past 2.5 weeks, Cait made sure that I was maintaining my fitness and focusing on what I CAN do. So instead of running on land, I have been doing water jogging in place of my runs. That means interval runs, brick runs and even a double run - all in deep water. I have been swimming and biking as planned as both cause me no pain or issues and I actually feel better after I swim and bike.

During the first week of this setback, I focused on calming down my leg. So this meant massage and dry needling and exercises to help get my ribs/pelvis back into a good spot. My SI joint likes to give me issues and this time was a nasty one as my pelvis got all out of whack. After things calmed down, my next goal/focus was to walk normally. I was bracing my leg (straight leg) because of the tugging I was feeling in my groin and adductors. My ITB was taking the grunt of this so I needed to relearn how to walk normally again. By the 2nd week, I was walking normally. My last goal was to hop with my left leg. Finally I am at that point. So on the positive, I am walking normally, I don't have any pain, I can hop on one leg and aside from after sitting and sleeping (when I get a little tight), I feel "normal" again. I have tried to run and while it is not painful, it's still not "right" just yet. I am being extra cautious and safe as I am not just thinking about IM Canada but Ironman Kona in a few months. I have resisted "testing" the leg as I don't want to do something silly out of ego or fear and put myself back. I am in a good place now and I don't want to jeopardize my health - especially since I want to be active for a lifetime.

The first few days were tough as I was a bit emotionally and in pain but after a few days, I made myself get into a good mindset to put everything into perspective and to use my mind to help me heal. To help with this, I have been repeating a few mantras to help me get through this setback with a positive mindset. These mantras have provided me perspective and also gratitude and I am still excited to travel to Whistler, start the race and give my best for as long as my body will safely allow me to. If I have to drop out in T2 or in the run, so be it. While I'm sure I'll be a tiny bit sad, I have so much to be happy about by watching our athletes and Karel and traveling to a new race venue.

Here are a few mantras that I have used to help me during this time: 
  • I don't need to run for a lifetime but I do need to walk.
  • I'm an athlete for life - not just one race.  
  • Focus only on today. 
  • Don't spend energy on things that are out of my control. 
  • I can't change the situation but I can change my attitude and how I deal with the situation. 
  • Focus on the small things.
  • There are so many great things in life to be happy about. 
  • I'm thankful for all that I have done with my body this season. 
  • If there's a "good" time for an injury, it's when 99% of the work is done. 
  • I can still swim and bike - my two favorite sports!
  • I am so excited to swim and bike in Canada and tackle this tough sport! 
  • If I can't run on race day, that means I get to watch my athletes and cheer. 
  • Focus on what you CAN do, not what you can't do. 
  • There are worse things in life that can happen to me. 
  • There are worse things in life that deserve my tears. 
  • Injuries heal. 
  • It's just one race. 
  • Believe that you are healing every day. 
  • Complaining and tears don't solve issues. 
  • Invest into therapy/treatment so you don't have to pay for MRI's and more intense treatment. 
  • Be patient and smart. 
  • Quick fixes don't fix issues. 
  • Don't rush the healing process just to meet a race day deadline. 
  • Thank you body. You are still awesome. 

Although race day is still a bit of an unknown, I can assure you that I will not do anything silly. Running in pain is NOT my idea of what it takes to finish an Ironman - or any race. I worked really hard to get to where I am right now with my swim/bike/run fitness and over the past two weeks, I invested a lot to be able to move without pain and I don't want to take steps back - only to delay my return to run training in route to IM Kona. I still plan to share pictures/videos/posts about our Ironman Canada experience on my blog and Facebook page over the next week.

Off to Canada!!


Training in the heat - nutrition tips

Triathletes and endurance athletes are very susceptible to dehydration and even more so, a heat-related injury at this time of the year. Whereas in the cold/cooler months of the year, athletes can get away with haphazard fueling and hydration strategies and poor pacing, now is the time in the year when a poorly planned fueling/hydration regime and pushing too-hard or too-far will negatively affect workouts, adaptations and health.

Let it be known that training in the heat is incredibly stressful for the body. Seeing that training (in any environment) already creates difficulty for the body to adequately digest and absorb nutrients and fluids, you can imagine why so many athletes experience harmful health issues, GI struggles, extreme fatigue, heat stress, dehydration and so many more issues during the summer months when training for an event.

As an example, exercise increases body temperature. The harder and longer you train, the higher your resting temperature. Your body compensates by moving the extra heat to the skin via the blood - it then dissipates into the air through sweat (so long as humidity levels allow for evaporation). But when you exercise, your blood serves another important role - it carries oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. Blood is shared between the muscles and the skin. The higher your core temperature, the more blood is used for cooling and less for the working muscles. In other words, your body will always sacrifice muscle function for temperature control. This is why an athlete's body will begin to "shut down" when overheating as this state is life threatening.

Every athlete has his/her own threshold for when the body begins to experience a decline in health and performance as a result of heat stress, dehydration and glycogen depletion.

To keep your body functioning well (in training and on a daily basis), it's extremely important to care for your body with proper fueling and hydration strategies before/during/after workouts and to respect the conditions by pacing appropriately.

Don't be the athlete who......

  • Does not stay well-hydrated on a daily basis (before/after workouts and during the day)
  • Does not bring along fluids/nutrition when running (especially when running off the bike)
  • Is not comfortable drinking while running/riding
  • Rations fluids to avoid stopping (or does not have enough places to refill bottles)
  • Does not have enough hydration bottle cages on the bike (or if they are on, they are not easily accessible)
  • Does not use sport nutrition products properly (not enough or too much carbohydrates, fluids and electrolytes)
  • Does not use sport nutrition products or does not plan ahead and relyies only on water (or nothing at all)
  • Feels it's only a  "short" workout - so you don't need to fuel/drink

There are dozens of excuses and reasons why fluid/electrolyte/calorie needs are not being met during training and racing and not only is it holding you back from training consistently and executing well during workouts, it is also extremely damaging to the body - placing you at risk for injury, sickness, burnout and other serious health complications. Remember - you are not just fueling/hydrating for one workout but for the next series of workouts. If you struggle during one workout, it will affect your future workouts.

Common side-effects of dehydration and heat stress:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • loss of focus
  • chills
  • high heart rate that won't drop even when you reduce the effort or stop
  • no appetite post workout
  • excessive sleepiness
  • extreme weakness
  • low blood pressure
  • stop sweating
  • dry mouth
  • dark urine
  • dry skin
  • no/little urination
  • extreme cramping
  • bloating/puffiness
  • excessive thirst/lost of thirst
  • rapid, elevated pulse (despite effort slowing down)
  • muscle spasms (during and post workout)

Are you currently experiencing any of the above?
If yes, your current fueling/hydration and pacing strategy is NOT working for you.

Every human body is different so you must pay very close attention to your body signs/symptoms/signals when it comes to training and racing in endurance events. If you do not make the effort to keep yourself in good with proper fueling and hydration (and pacing), you will be forced to spend a lot of time getting your body healthy again before you start even thinking about training again.

To help you out, here are a few very simple tips to help you adapt during hot-weather workouts

  • Sip frequently in small amounts, don't gulp fluids. Gulping (especially from a straw) causes you to swallow air, which can cause bloating and belching. This also may disturb the function of the stomach and slows down absorption.
  • Be sure to have a sport drink with you for all workouts lasting more than one-hour - this should contain a mixture of electrolytes, carbohydrates and fluids in an appropriate concentration to digest well and to be efficiently absorbed. I suggest a hypo or isotonic solution with ~20-25g carbohydrates per every ~12-16 ounces and at least 250mg of sodium to optimize gastric emptying.
  • Aim for 24-32 ounces of fluid on the bike per hour and at least 10-12 ounce fluid for every 30 minutes while running (this should be in a sport drink - not plain water in the heat!).
  • Aim to sip your bottle on the bike every 10-15 minutes (you need at least 3-4 gulps to ensure that you are getting in around 3-4 ounces of fluid) and 1-2 sips every 5-8 minutes while running. Frequent drinking on a schedule will not only help to delay fatigue and prevent dehydration but will prevent overdrinking on fluids (particularly ice cold water), which often causes a sloshy stomach.
  • While keeping your insides hydrated is critical, consider ways to keep your body cool on the outside. Suggestions include exercising early morning or in the evening and avoiding workouts in the heat of the day (10-5pm). Choosing indoor workouts over outdoor when health may be compromised (extreme heat). Using water/ice to cool yourself while exercising. Wear a cooling towel/cooling sleeves. Use a visor over a hat. Choose shady areas over direct sunlight. Wear sunscreen to prevent burning. Wear protective clothing.
  • Always plan ahead with your bottle refill stops. Be sure to STOP before you really need to stop so you are never rationing your fluids or going without.
  • Be sure you are setting yourself up for good hydration actions. Cages/hydration systems on the bike should be accessible and easy to use in ALL conditions (ex. bumpy roads, rain, technical courses, rain, etc.). Your run courses in training should allow you to refill bottles that you bring with you OR set up bottles on your course. Everything you do in training should be practice for race day.
  • Wear a hydration belt/pack so you can drink what you drink, when you want to drink it. There are many types on the market - find one that works for you and never run outside without it.
  • Do not wait for thirst to kick in during endurance workouts/racing to start drinking. Start drinking/fueling early. An athlete who waits to drink until he/she is thirsty is already behind on fluid requirements and many times, this will cause an athlete to drink an excessive amount of water. This may cause hyponatremia (very serious health condition) or may cause a sloshy stomach/bloating/stomach cramping. When you fall behind on your fluids, you will likely drink too much at once to play catch up (often a hypertonic/concentrated amount from guzzling a lot of drinks at aid stations or stops at gas stations in training).
  • Make your fueling/hydration strategy during workouts as simple as possible. You should not be using several different methods of consuming electrolytes, calories/carbohydrates/sugars and fluids. But ok to use 2-3 different products/flavors to help with taste bud fatigue. Also, DO NOT overconcentrate your flasks/bottles.
  • Pace yourself and be OK with slower paces that will elicit a higher RPE. Even mild dehydration can negatively affect performance and can cause drowsiness, irritability, loss of concentration and headaches - none of which are performance enhancing or healthy. When dehydration worsen, serious issues occur which affect the heart, brain, muscles and organs (ex. kidneys).
  • If you overwork your body, it is not possible to overfuel/hydrate the body to meet your training/racing demands.
  • Be respectful of your body in the heat. If you are feeling any changes with your body that concern you, first slow down. Don't be a hero and push through - stop! Remind yourself that when your body starts to shut down or gives you signals/signs that something is wrong (ex. headache, chills, vision changes, etc.), your body is no longer adapting to training stress but it's trying to protect you. Never get upset at your body for a bad workout or race if it is simply trying to protect you from a serious heat or other-related injury.

There are far too many athletes failing with workouts and experiencing negative health issues due to poor fueling/hydration strategies before/during/after training and improper pacing. Sport nutrition is a complicated area with many misguided tips and suggestions that are not always practical or healthy. If you know someone who can benefit from this blog, please share.


Training for race day success

Training is easy. You feel great when you get your endorphin boost, you can control your environment (or select your terrain), there is no pressure because no one is watching or tracking you and you know that if a workout doesn't go as planned, you always have tomorrow to try again.

On the other hand, race day is stressful! Feeling pressure to perform - especially in an unfamiliar and/or uncontrolled environment - brings anxiety, nerves and expectations. It's easy to compare yourself to other athletes and experience a heightened fear of failure. Never in training do you feel what you feel on race day. Far too many athletes complain that they can train better than they race - finishing a race feeling like they underperformed, relating back to all the amazingly great workouts that they crushed, yet feel defeated as to why they were unable to perform on race day, despite feeling so prepared. 

One of the great challenges for triathletes is translating training into a great race day result. Despite feeling overly confident in training, it's important to master the necessary confidence, physical skills, nutrition readiness and mental strength for race day.

Competing like you train seems like an obvious strategy but a better approach is to train like you want to compete.

If you think about all that you (try to) do on race week/day in order to set yourself up for success, why not put that same focus, energy and attention to detail into training? 
  • Restful sleep
  • Organized and planned diet
  • Good mobility
  • Planning, focus,, oganization and time-management 
  • Relaxation and visualization/meditation
  • Good warm-ups
  • Proper fueling
  • Great daily hydration 
  • Reviewing the course maps
  • Staying in the moment 
  • Rehearsing pacing/strategy/execution
  • Ensuring gear/equipment is in great condition
  • Fine-tuning sport nutrition 
It seems obvious that if you are going to do something on race day, you should repeatedly do it in training - far too often is this not the case. Rushed and busy schedules, poor planning and lack of application causes athletes to lack confidence for race day. 

If you want to perform well on race day (who doesn't?) it is important that you nail the small (yet very important) components in training. 

For example, this means practicing your pre race and race day nutrition many times in training to ensure confidence for race day. The purpose of training is to build physical and mental skills, habits and strategies that will translate into an optimal performance by your body on race day. Sadly, many athlete get really good at performing workouts underfueled and undernourished and expect to put together a fail-proof pre-race and race day fueling and hydration strategy. I think of this like riding a bike - if you are always riding with poor bike handling skills, you can't expect to master bike handling skills on race day, just because it's race day. The same is true for nutrition. If you are putting together a complex, detailed and precise diet and fueling/hydration strategy for the 48 hours before a race and for race day, but you never practice this approach in training (repeatedly), you've been training half prepared but you are expected to compete 100% prepared. Unfortunately, success doesn't happen this way. You must give 100% to your training if you want to compete well on race day.

The more you treat your training decisions like it's race week/race day, the easier you will find it to perform at your highest level when it counts. Simply put, don't do anything drastic on race week/day that you didn't practice in training. 


Mentally cope with your taper

Taper is an uncomfortable time for most athletes but it can also be one of the most confusing times for an endurance athlete. 

Physically, tapering ensures that the body is rejuvinated and recovered from previous training. Although training volume is greatly reduced, intensity is sprinkled into training in order to wake-­up the body for race day. The endurance athlete who has invested many months to training can now "cash-­out" from previous training investments.

For the first time in a very long time, the body is under little physical stress as it enters race day with a healthy, fit, resilient and responsive body.  

The tapering approach will differ among athletes, depending on fitness ability, prior taper experience and any recent history with setbacks.    

While taper can be physically easy, many athletes mentally struggle with taper. A drastic change in your training schedule can make you feel a little "off." This sudden, yet expected, time in the season can bring question, doubt and uncertainty, alongside an intense fear of athletic readiness.    

Regardless of the type and length of taper, it's important to embrace your taper. As much as you love to train, if you don't taper adequately, you will arrive to race day sore, exhausted, mentally checked ­out and physically unable to perform. But rest too much, and you will arrive to race day flat, exhausted and feeling unfit.    

During taper, most athletes struggle with the change in appetite, sleepiness, random aches/phantom pains, fatigue, mood changes, uncontrollable nerves and extra time that come with the reduction in training volume.   

If you love taper, you likely embrace all of the free time that you have on your hands, not to mention the nervous energy that means your race is quickly approaching.    

Here are a few of my tips to help you mentally cope with taper: 

Enjoy your new (temporary) normal - There is absolutely no reason to be inactive during taper and certainly you don't want to see taper as a time to be sedentary.  When you officially start your taper, enjoy a few days of a very light training (or complete days off). Use this time to enjoy a new normal by doing very little with your body. Sleep in, sit on the patio while sipping your morning coffee or relax on the couch after work and watch a movie. Take advantage of this time after your last big block of training, because then you will gradually bring back structure to your training and spice it up with a little intensity.    

Be smart with your new normal - You should avoid fear based training during taper. In the 2 weeks before a race, you can not gain fitness. Therefore, testing yourself to see if you can run x-­miles or swim at x­-pace or hold x­watts will bring you no physical benefits for race day. Although mentally you may feel more confident going into the race, you want your best effort to be on race day and not in training. Save your energy for when it counts! Additionally, even though your training routine is reduced, this is not the time to pick up a new sport like soccer, basketball, rock climbing or water skiing. Be smart with how you use your time/energy. 

Work on mental strength - With reduced training volume, you now have more time in your life to work on your mental skills (Don't use this extra time for house projects). It's recommend to dedicate at least 20 minutes a day to meditation and visualization in the 2 weeks before your race. This can be done anytime so long as it is done without distractions and in a calm, comfortable place. Although you have the physical skills for race day, you can only compete at the level you are capable of if you remove the fears, anxieties and stressors preventing you from performing at your best. Instead of "hoping" that you will do well, you must believe in yourself, with the abilities to stay calm under pressure and focused on only the controllables.    

Maintain a healthy relationship with your body - In the 4 weeks before a race, you should not be obsessing about your "race weight". Your body may feel different and it may feel tired but changing your diet to try to change how you look will be disastrous for your race. For many athletes, a drop in volume and a change in routine may cause a heightened sense of awareness of body image. Self imposed pressure and anxiety may bring feelings of unworthiness, leading to self defeating thoughts about the body. Change this thought process immediately. A vulnerable athlete who feels uncomfortable with body image is likely to look for coping strategies, like dieting and over-exercising in order to gain control in the weeks before a race. Never is underfueling, intentional dehydrating (or fasting/detoxing) or overexercising performance enhancing. This can severely sabotage performance and health.  If you struggle in this area, you must focus on what your body is capable of doing on race day. When was the last time you thanked your body for allowing you to train for your race? 

Your taper is the culmination of many months of training. It is a very critical time in your training plan where you intentionally change up your normal training regime. Although taper can be an uncomfortable time, athletes who embrace taper are destined to experience race day success.

No matter how you feel your training during taper, trust that you will be just fine on race day.  Yes, even if you feel absolutely horrible in the 24 hours before your race, you WILL be able to perform amazingly well on race day.


Should you snack between your meals?

Snacks often get a bad reputation because most people choose packaged snacks that are packed with sugar, salt and artificial ingredients, adding energy dense and nutrient poor calories to the daily diet. Additionally, it's easy to snack out of boredom and stress.

But if you choose your food wisely, snacking can give you energy to survive the day, help stabilize blood sugar, decrease hunger and fill in nutritional (or energy) gaps. While reducing mindless, boredom snacking will reduce unwanted calories, going too long without eating may slow your metabolism – making it difficult to lose weight, particularly if that was your intention by not eating between meals - and may lead to overeating at your next meal. 

Snack tips:
  • Change up your snacks based on appetite, energy, mood and meal options. 
  • Keep non-perishable snacks on hand for all situations (ex. meeting, traffic, errands)
  • Snack with reason and purpose - hold you over until the next meal, fill in nutrient gaps or control blood sugar?
  • Don’t go more than 3-4 hours without eating.
  • Snacks should look like mini meals - carbs + protein/fat. 
  • A snack should satisfy you. Avoid grazing throughout the day.
Comfort food
1/3 cup instant oats + 1/2 cup milk or water + 1/2 large apple (chopped) + 1 tsp cinnamon (more to taste) + 1 pinch salt. Heat in microwave and top with 1 spoonful dark chocolate chips.

Sweet Heat
1/8 cup cashews
Mixed sliced bell peppers
1 ounce/slice Pepper jack cheese

Crunch attack
3 tbsp air popped corn
1 brown paperbag
Roll down the top of the bag three times and pop in 30 sec intervals until the popping stops to one pop every 3-4 seconds. ~90 seconds.

Standard and Simple
1 plan Greek yogurt
1/2 cup frozen or fresh berries
2 spoonfuls granola

Spoonful of peanut butter
Sprinkle of chopped nuts or drizzle of honey

1 Apple or pear
Small handful pistachios
3-4 dried dates or figs

Ten easy-to-digest pre-workout carbohydrate-rich snack options (~25g carbs each)

      ¾ cup cooked rice
      ½ cup cooked oatmeal
      1 English muffin
      1 slice sourdough bread
      ½ cup applesauce
      6-ounce yogurt
      1 small potato
      10 saltine crackers
      1 cup grits

      1 medium banana

Top five foods to avoid/minimize in the 4 hours before a workout due to risk for intestinal distress:
  1. Bulky salads (dark leafy greens)
  2. Foods with bran
  3. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions
  4. Sugar alcohols, artificial flavors, sweeteners
  5. Beans


Recovery from a long-distance race

Being sore, exhausted and a little run-down after an endurance event is normal. And to be honest, I think many athletes enjoy the feeling that comes with racing in an endurance event as that post-race feeling signifies the effort that was needed to get from the start to the finish. You earned it!

Although there is no one specific guideline, rule or method to speed up recovery after an endurance triathlon event, I feel it's important to walk you through some of the factors that contribute to recovery time after an endurance event, some of the mistakes that athletes make when recovering from an endurance event and a few strategies to help you get back to good health after a long-distance triathlon event.

Why is recovery important?

In training for an event, we welcome (and need) intentional and residual training stress for proper peaking and then we need to provide the body with a taper, in order to reduce the psychological and physiological stressors of consistent training in order to optimize performance and enhance previous training adaptations.

After a race, recovery is the time when the body returns to a normal state of health and mind, so that you can once again, consistently do high-quality training sessions with no residual fatigue from the last event.

Many athletes make the mistake of training for one race at a time and not seeing the season as a progression of fitness from race to race. In other words, you can actually gain fitness from race to race, so long as you properly recover and continue with well-planned, structured training. Take too long of a break and you lose what you gained in previous training but come back to soon, and you remain stale, tired and fatigued with little ability to take fitness to that next level.

Factors affecting race recovery

How fast or effectively you recover from an event depends on many factors. Even within one season, recovery time for one athlete may differ race to race, as some races require a longer recovery time than others.

Factors affecting race recovery include:
  • Distance of the event
  • Prior experience in the sport
  • Finishing time
  • Racing intensity relative to distance
  • Racing intensity relative to race priority/season planning
  • Race preparation and ability (or lack thereof) to remain consistent to training
  • Life stressors (family, travel, personal, work)
  • Age
  • Athletic ability/resilience
  • Length of taper
  • Health status leading up to the race
  • Nerves/anxiety before the race
  • Nutritional status leading up to the race
  • Fueling/hydration execution during the race
  • Pacing during the race
  • Difficulty/ease of race course
  • Environmental conditions on race day
  • Terrain management on race day
  • Type of course layout (ex. downhill running, extreme heat or cold)
  • Setbacks on race day (ex. dehydration, cramping, bonking, nausea/fatigue)
  • Post race nutrition, including refueling and re-hydration
  • Post race sleep habits
  • Post race stress
  • Post race travel
  • Timing of next race
  • Mental state post race
Although you can not control every factor listed above, it's important to consider that your post race recovery doesn't simply include what you do (or don't do) in the 24-72 hours after a race. In addition to the muscle, tendon, bone and joint stress on the body during an endurance event, there is great stress on the heart, organs and brain. Therefore, recovery after an endurance event should not be taken lightly, nor should it be assumed that just because you complete a race that you will return to 100% health in x-days so that you can get back into training again.

Common mistakes made by athletes post-race

The 48-72 hours after an endurance event are critical for optimizing recovery. Seeing that poor sleep, poor hydration and nutrition, extreme muscle soreness and travel will all impede recovery, athletes should be aware of the consequences of returning back to training too quickly. However, doing nothing is not helpful for recovery. Considering that racing is a great stress on the human body, returning back to training too soon, without optimal recovery, may negatively affect metabolic and hormonal health, central nervous system functioning and mood, not to mention lingering fatigue. In other words, if you rush the recovery, you may dig yourself into a hole that you can't get out of for several weeks, if not months - or the rest of the season.

Here are some common mistakes made by athletes post-race: 
  • Using anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation
  • Not executing a rehydration and refueling strategy in the 24 hours post race
  • Eating "too" healthy in the 24 hours post race
  • Eating "too" unhealthy in the 24 hours post race
  • Resuming "normal" training, despite being sleep deprived
  • Resuming "normal" training, despite form being affected by soreness and niggles
  • Being too sedentary in the 3-4 days post race
  • Returning back into intense training because a race didn't go as planned (ex. didn't PR, podium, etc.)
  • Returning back into intense training because a race exceeded your expectations and you are itching to get back into training for the next race
  • Returning back to training because you don't know how to function in life without training
  • You hate resting/recovery
  • Following a fixed training plan and not listening to your body post race.

Get your body back into good health after a long-distance triathlon

You can't 100% recover in the 48 hours after an endurance event as glycogen needs to be resynthesized, hydration status needs to normalize, tissues, muscles and fibers need to heal and sleep patterns must return to normal before any type of training (for physical adaptations) is initiated. However, moving blood can certainly help to expedite the recovery process. Here are a few suggestions to help you recover from your long-distance triathlon.

  • Give yourself 4-6 hours to rehydrate and refuel after the race. Understanding that it may take time for your appetite to return to normal, it's OK to eat what you crave but just be sure to eat and rehydrate with water and electrolytes. Not eating/drinking for 6-8 hours after a race is not good!
  • Continue to focus on good refueling and rehydration methods for the next 48 hours with permission to indulge as you wish, within reason. By this time, you should be slowly returning to your normal eating habits, emphasizing real, wholesome food options.
  • Don't sit in the car or get on an airplane in the 4-8 hours after a race. Ideally, give yourself one extra night of rest and light movement before you are forced to sit for an extended period of time, so that you have an opportunity to move your body.
  • Avoid getting a massage in the 48 hours post race. Rehydrate yourself and focus on daily mobility for the next 48-72 hours. Schedule a flushing massage at least 4+ days post race.
  • Consume anti-inflammatory foods, like pineapple, fish and leafy greens in the 48 hours post race.
  • Wear compression (or compression boots) post race. Graduated compression socks (and not calf sleeves) will help with blood flow.
  • Use a safe and muscle relaxing cream (ex. we use Mg12) on any tight/sore muscles after a race. Avoid taking any anti-inflammatories in the 48 hours post race.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages in the 48 hours post race. Avoid caffeinated beverages in the 6-8 hours before bedtime.
  • Try to get yourself into a good sleep routine as soon as you can. Do not allow yourself to return back into structured training until you can get a consistent 7-8 hours of sleep without waking up throughout the night.
  • To hurry the recovery process, it's advised to do something non weight bearing and very light on the body in the 24 hours after a race (if you can spin on your bike for 15 minutes in the hour after finishing a race, that would be recommended). Instead of recovering by being sedentary, try to move blood through swimming and bike riding.
  • Give yourself 3 days to not follow a training plan but instead, exercise as it comes natural to you. When you have the time, go for a swim or spin but avoid setting an alarm or returning back to your structured training regime too quickly. There's plenty of time for that after you recover.
  • Consider avoiding running for at least 48-72 hours. Since running is very corrosive on the body, it's advised to keep your runs short (ex. 15-60 minutes) while including walk breaks and running every other or 3rd day for the next 5-7 days (ex. if your race is on Sunday, your first run should be no earlier than Wednesday or Thursday and then for the next 5-7 days, you should be running 15-60 minutes every other day or every 3 days).
  • Understand that some body parts will recover faster than others but there is deep damage inside you that you can't feel. Generally speaking, you will not make any additional training adaptations for at least a week and for the less trained/fit, it may take at least 2 weeks to fully recover so that you can begin to train for physiological gains. On the flip side, an elite or trained athlete who is on the verge of overtraining or is racing very intensely, may require 2 weeks to feel fully "healed" after a race.
  • Accept that age, previous fitness and racing execution will affect your recovery. Don't compare your recovery to another athlete, focus only on yourself.
  • If you can't keep good form during a workout, stop immediately. Poor/inefficient form is a sign that your body is not yet recovered and you could risk further damage or injury.
  • Have fun in the 5-7 days after your race. There will be a time to push hard again. Enjoy the lower intensity workouts and having a bit more free time, as you slowly ease back into structured training.


The traveling triathlete - going international

One of my favorite things about being a triathlete is traveling for a race. Today, there are so many incredible places to visit so it's extra special when you combine a love for traveling with a love of racing. 

Traveling to another country is not a simple process. Now add in the gear for swimming, biking and running and travel can become a very overwhelming (and expensive) experience.

Over the years, Karel and I have enjoyed many incredible race-cations - Austria, Prague, Canada, Lake Placid and Kona to name a few. Here are a few tips to help you feel more prepared for your upcoming international event.

  • Review your passport to make sure that it won't expire when you are away. Review country requirements for travel.
  • Review all airline policies for your bike (and bags) before booking your plane ticket, call the airline in advance to notify them that you will be traveling with a bike and when you arrive to the airport, have printed-out information about bike fees/sizing, etc. Arrive to the airport with extra time (at least two hours).
  • Traveling with your bike is not cheap or easy so be sure you educate yourself on how to best travel with your bike to your final destination. Compare prices (and ease-of-travel) with Tri Bike Transport (if available).
  • Consider how you will get to your final destination from the airport with your bike, bags and yourself and others. Rental car, bus, van, etc. Reserve modes of transportation in advance whenever possible.
  • Always confirm your reservations and arrangements at least two weeks before your travel to make sure there are no mistakes made in your travel itinerary.
  • Consider cost vs. ease-of-travel. Sometimes it costs a bit more for an easier travel experience. Do not expect stress free but many times you can plan for a smoother trip by paying for convenience. Budget in advance for your trip so you don't book things last-minute.
  • Review your lodging arrangements. Can you eat healthy while dining out or do you have to be creative in your hotel room?
  • Always allow extra time. If you think you only need 3 days to get yourself adjusted to a new time zone, give yourself 4. I also recommend to enjoy your race-cation after the race (instead of touring before the race). Give yourself a few days to explore with your family/friends after the race.
  • Consider races that are family/friends-friendly so your team is not bored, with nothing to do in an isolated area, in the days leading up to the race. Having a team travel with you can be a very enjoyable experience. You can also use the extra help (ex. driving around/dropping off, cooking food, running errands, etc.) in an unfamiliar environment.
  • If you (or family/friends) have dietary/health issues, be sure to be prepared by notifying airlines, lodging, etc. and reviewing/planning as much as you can, in advance.  Have all medications with you.
  • Notify your bank (credit card) before you travel so that the 'foreign' charges do not cause your credit card to be frozen. Also, be sure to have a written paper of all emergency numbers to carry with you in case of an emergency. Keep a family member back at home in the loop of where you are each day.
  • Make a list of what you need to bring with you as some items may not be available at your final destination (ex. nutrition, gear, etc.). Never make assumptions when you travel. Always be prepared by doing your research. 
  • Don't carry all of your cash with you/in one place. Divide up your cash (but still keep on you at all times) in different places in the case you accidentally lose your wallet. 
  • Consider the best places to exchange currency, instead of relying on the airport kiosk.
  • Don't forget chargers and gadgets. Make sure you are prepared for different power plugs and sockets. Don't forget a universal travel adapter. 
  • Bring your most important gear items with you on the plane, instead of in your suitcase. It's recommended to have at least one set of extra clothing with you in case your luggage gets lost, as well as swim or run gear so that you can still workout when you arrive if your bike/luggage doesn't arrive with you.
  • Pack sport nutrition products in your suitcase and label everything. Double bag your products in case of a spill.
  • When packing, make sure to allow extra room for gifts/swag for your return trip. When considering what to bring vs. what to buy when you arrive to your final destination, factor in the exchange rate if you plan to buy something when you arrive.
  • Have phone numbers available with you in the case your luggage/bike gets lost or you need to reach your accommodations. 
  • Stay hydrated during your travels, with water and electrolytes. 
  • Bring snacks with you during travel, and a few bars (ex. Amrita protein bars - discount Trimarni) for emergency/snack situations.
  • Research the typical cuisine at your final destination and nearby grocery stores.
  • Be mindful of food and water safety while traveling. Consider how food is prepared when you are eating out in a new country as well as any hidden ingredients that may not be well-tolerated in your nervous/traveling belly. Wait until post race to explore a new cuisine. Depending on the water safety at your final destination, plan to have bottled water with you at all times.
  • Eat mini meals every 2 hours to adjust to a new time zone instead of sticking to your normal meal schedule (or grazing throughout the entire day of travel). Do not overdo it on caffeine to stay awake during traveling. When you arrive to your final destination, try to quickly get on the new time zone. Be aware that everyone adjusts differently. Avoid mid-day naps when you arrive. It's better to go to bed early than to struggle to fall asleep.
  • Try to follow a similar eating pattern (but in a new time-zone) to your regular routine in your home environment.
  • Check the airline/country requirements of what you can/can't bring on to the plane (food). Always have food on you in the case of an emergency (even if you need to purchase at the airport). Never assume your travel will go smoothly without delays. 
  • Be firm on your dietary needs and requirements and be confident with your food selections. If a food/meal concerns you, do not eat it. I am all for enjoying a new culture but not at the expense of a body that is not well-fueled or sick on race day. 


  • Bring your recovery routine to the new country. Foam rollers, trigger point therapy sets, compression socks, epson salt, etc. to help you stay relaxed.
  • Trust your training and your race plan. Don't second guess yourself just because you are in a new environment.
  • Review weather well in advance and be prepared for anything.
  • If you have a favorite sheet or a sound machine, bring it with you. Familiar is comforting.
  • Bring ear plugs and an eye mask to help with restful sleeping.
  • Get good sleep to help you feel relaxed and to keep the immune system functioning well.
  • Review all course maps, the race week event schedule and any other race details that will give you a more enjoyable and calm race experience.
  • Search out safe training environments or train with others so that you do not compromise your health/safety before your race. Use a race forum/social media page to ask questions about the best places to train in the days before the race. Look for a pool option if open water swimming is not available before your race.
  • Be sure to thank your team, even if they are not with you in your final destination. Facetime/Skype, call, email - be sure to communicate with those who support you and believe in you. Don't forget to bring home lots of souvenirs for your team.
  • Thank your body. You are not able to do what you love to do without your body. Even if things don't seem to go as planned (they probably won't), this doesn't mean that you are doomed for a bad race.
  • Have fun!  Life is all about experiences and making memories and how cool that you get to race and travel at the same time! 


The aging athlete

This past weekend was an exciting one as there were many triathlon races occurring around the globe. In Michigan, I had three athletes (one coached and two nutrition) racing IM 70.3 Steelhead.
A big congrats to Diane, Julia and Karen for placing 5th, 3rd and 1st (respectively) in the 50-54 age group! These ladies are showing that age is just a number. Even at 50+ years of age, you can still feel fit and perform well with your body.

It's often said that every athlete will "peak" by a certain age and will then decline in speed, endurance and strength. In the mind of an athlete, you may believe that you are losing fitness and you will no longer experience success in your sport. This couldn't be more far from the truth.

One of the great aspects of triathlon is that you can start the sport later in life and still feel like you are still gaining fitness, endurance and strength. Triathlon is not a sport that rewards the young and genetically gifted.

Most of us never come close to our true fitness potential. Therefore, you can't put an age as to when your fitness will begin to decline. It's all about being smart with your training, lifestyle choices and health. And of course, "use it or lose it."

Although several physiological changes occur later in life, this doesn't mean that the aging athlete (ex. over 50 years) should stop setting goals for self-improvement.

As it relates to the fitness and performance decline that many older athletes experience, I believe the biggest mistake that aging athletes make is failing to accept that lifestyle, nutrition and training regimes need to change. You can't train, sleep, eat and recover like your 20-year old self. No longer will your body let you push hard, day after day, as it did when you were younger. There is less margin of error. Whereas a younger athlete may be able to thrive off limited sleep and a poorly planned diet, you need to be smarter when it comes to the best approaches to adapting to training stress.

As you age, you must be willing to change and adapt. For example, when it comes to training, you will only get slower if you just focus on long or aerobic training sessions. Instead, you need strength and intensity added safely into your training. The aging athlete can not compromise sleep - which is often the first to go with a busy life schedule of work and kids and extracurricular activities. Lastly, the aging athlete must constantly fine-tune the daily diet, taking into account energy expenditure, macro and micronutrient needs and fluid intake. Age-related changes in body composition, resting energy expenditure and volume/intensity/frequency of training influence how much and when you eat.

For more information on this topic, I have two past articles for your reading pleasure:

Case Study: The Proactive Senior Athlete

Nutritional needs for the older female athlete.


Greenville Endurance Triathlon Camp - recap

We recently finished our 13th group training camp. We had triathletes travel to Greenville, SC from all over the U.S. for 4.5 days of swimming, biking and running. The campers left feeling accomplished and exhausted - with new skills, knowledge, memories and friendships.

Although putting on a triathlon training camp for 15 athletes is incredibly time-consuming, stressful and exhausting, it's always a rewarding experience to see how our campers stretch comfort zones, push physical and mental limits and are open to trying new things. Most of all, we feel incredibly lucky that such incredible human beings attend our camp. Every camper is kind, supportive, humble and supportive. While there are times that we want our campers to shine and show-off their strengths, we believe that no camper ever feels too slow or too fast at our camp. It's the perfect mix of learning, working and fun.

The final stats are in and over 4.5 days, our campers accomplished.....

~4 hours of swimming
~12 hours of cycling (~12,000+ elevation feet gained on the bike)
~3.5 hours of running
Total: ~19.5 hours of training!!

This camp would not be possible without the help of our SAG support Joey (and photographer), our on-course support (and giver of positive energy) Al and our amazing assistant coach Joe (who is an expert problem-solver).

Also, a huge thank you to the following Trimarni affiliates who supported our camp with sport nutrition products for our campers to use throughout their intentional training overload: 

Infinit Nutrition
BASE Performance
Breakthrough Nutrition
Skratch Labs

As a sport dietitian, I feel it’s important to align myself with a variety of companies who offer well-formulated sport nutrition drinks. By offering these products to my athletes, they can try out different products, during all types of workouts, and then decide which ones will work the best based on personal experience.

A big thanks to Mg12, AMP performance and Veronica's Health Crunch for supplying products for the camper swag bags!

Here's a quick recap of camp: 
AM: 90 minute OWS-specific pool swim at Furman
AM: 75-minute hill run workout
PM: 3 hour terrain management/heavy gear work bike workout

AM: 3 hour terrain management bike + time trial
AM: 30 min brick run (race pacing)
PM: 90 min endurance focused swim + smoothies from Dane at Run In!

AM: 5 hour ride
AM: 30 min interval brick run
PM: Pizza party (Yum Sidewall pizza!)

AM: 1 hour open water swim workout
AM: 90 minute progressive interval hill run

Congrats to our campers for surviving camp!
We can't wait to see you next year!


TriWeek: Race Day Worries

With the taper-induced phantom pains and niggles and lethargy behind, you may find yourself with a bit of self-doubt, worry and anxiety with only a few nights of sleep before your triathlon race.

While it's perfectly normal to feel some stress, nerves and pressure before an important event, use that powerful energy to fire you up so it brings out the best version of yourself on race day.

Because lack of self-belief and worry can have a disastrous effect on your race day performance, here are a few tips to improve your confidence for race day:

  1. Stop worrying about the uncontrollables - If you find yourself emotionally stressed out in the week or two before a big event, there's a good chance that you are dealing with a roller coaster of emotions dealing with the "what ifs". Worrying about things that are out of your control, like the weather or competition, is self sabotaging. Turn those negative thoughts into something positive so that those thoughts do not paint a bad mental picture and drain your energy before the race.
  2. Stop focusing on the outcome - Too much mental energy on paces, speed. times or results can leave you emotionally drained, worried and anxious. It can also keep you from making good decisions, in the moment. Remove any extra pressure on what needs to happen as an end result and focus on the process of delivering yourself to the finish line. Remind yourself of all the tools that you have gained over the season and that a great race day performance is all about being in the moment and dealing with obstacles as they come about.
  3. List your mantras - Every athlete will have low moments in a race - lots of them. There will be voices in your head that will try to convince you to slow down and maybe even quit when the going gets tough. How will you challenge these voices? What will help you take your focus off your self-doubts and refocus your mind to get you to a positive state of flow? By repeating a powerful statement to yourself over and over again in your mind, you'll find yourself pushing through these low moments and getting through the low moments of racing.
  4. Reflect on your journey - Look at your individual journey to see how far you've come. Don't compare yourself with anyone else. Remember that time when you couldn't do what you can do now? Or when you completed that tough workout that you didn't think was possible? What obstacles did you have to overcome to get to the start line? Focus on the highlighted moments instead of dwelling on what should have or could have been.
  5. Mental preparation - Picture yourself at various points during the race and work through all types of scenarios - the good and the bad. Look at course maps, videos and pictures to help you put images to places on the course. And don't forget to visualize yourself crossing the finish line.
  6. Focus on what you can control - Take care of yourself. Don't worry about anyone else. Focus on what you can control such as your gear and equipment, your sleep, nutrition and hydration as well as your thoughts. Surround yourself with energy givers, not energy suckers and avoid forums/media that cause self-doubt, worry or stress.
  7. Have fun - Remind yourself that this is just a hobby. Your self-worth and athletic worthiness is not determined by one race. Enjoy being on the roller coaster of emotions as it's your body's way of preparing you for action. Make sure to remind yourself why you signed up for this event and how special it will be to cross that finish line. Don't let your nerves and worries suck the fun out of racing. Focus on what you can control, trust your training, visualize success, mentally prepare yourself and don't forget to have fun.


TriWeek: Running Tips

Running is the most convenient sport of triathlon - you can do it anywhere, anytime. 
Running is the most cost effective sport of triathlon.
Running is the sport where you will likely experience a big endorphin-rush.
Running is a way to relieve stress.
Running is a way to get outside.
Running is familiar to most triathletes - either from road racing (ex. 5K, half marathon, marathon) or running for fitness.
Running is a way to change the body composition.

Running is the sport where most triathletes feel there is much room for improvement.
Running is the sport where most triathletes experience GI distress.
Running is the sport that is most remembered at the end of a triathlon.
Most triathlon performances are defined by the run portion.
Most triathletes feel they need to run harder or longer to run better off the bike. 
Many triathletes feel that if they lost weight, they'd be a better runner.

Running has the greatest risk for injury.

Based on the above, triathletes have a strong emotional component to running. Because of this, athletes put a great amount of extra attention into run training - feeling like they always need to run more (harder or faster).

Interestingly, great runners rarely make great triathletes. Because the sport of triathlon is swimbikerun, you need to train in a way that makes you a better triathlete. To run well off the bike, you need to be strong on the swim and bike and most importantly, you need to be efficient and strong on the run. Instant of putting the focus into running distance or speed, you need to learn how to hold good running technique as you get tired/fatigued.

Training to become a faster runner does not mean that you'll become a better runner off the bike. Therefore, your run training must train you in a way that allows you to tolerate the demands of running on tired legs. Therefore, your ability to run well off the bike is not determined by how fast you can run but how well you can resist fatigue.

Sadly, there's no secret strategy for preparing for a perfect run off the bike. There are many variables that can affect running performance, like the terrain, weather, fit on the bike and swim environment. Nerves and mental toughness can also impact the run. Many successful triathletes have had incredible race day performances despite feeling horrible on the run.

Because running off the bike is extremely demanding (some triathletes are better at it than others), you want to think of ways that you can improve your potential to run well off the bike on race day.

To help reduce your risk of injury, train more consistently and improve the chance of running well off the bike, here are some workout suggestions to break you from the bad habit of just running for distance and/or pace/time. 

  1. Speed work - Fast running does mean faster running off the bike. Fast running is a recipe for injury. However, this doesn't mean that triathletes shouldn't include speed work in training. Short intensity efforts (ex. strides) will help active fast twitch muscle fibers and strengthen the glutes and the muscles in the feet. It's important that the distance (and intensity) is not great enough that you would risk poor form, which would increase the risk for injury. Speed can also be incorporated into a brick or long run, to help you learn how to run well with tired legs.
  2. Long runs - It's important for triathletes to accumulate running volume, but there are many ways to do so. You "long" run should be safe for your body, at your current level of fitness. Ultimately, for your run training to pay off, you need to be consistent. There's little benefit of running more than 2.5 hours at one time as the longer you run, the more time you need to recover from that run. The goal is to train with the least amount of training stress, while making the most performance gains. Instead, it's better to think about what happens within a long run. Progressive running, brick runs, double runs and back-to-back running days can all help to build running endurance, in a safe and productive way.
  3. Easy runs - Running easy does not mean running slow. It's important to learn how to run at an effort that costs as little energy as possible (less stress on the joints, muscles and heart). Most triathletes have two speeds when it comes to running - tempo and hard. When asked to run easy, it feels impossible - this is because the athlete has never learned how to run with good running economy at an easy effort. Don't make the mistake of making 80% of your runs at 80% effort and higher. You'll become a faster runner by learning to run easy. Work on controlling breathing/heart rate without being tied to running a certain pace.
  4. Hills - Hill workouts offer a strength component of running. Hills also force you to run with good form as you don't have to work for the propulsion like you would on the track/flat road, despite having a high heart rate. Running on hills will make you a stronger athlete, preparing you for the demands of triathlon running.
  5. Frequency running - To reduce the risk for injury, but to train enough to improve resilience and endurance, it's important to run often - but not too much. It's not about how many miles you run but how those miles add up. Running somewhere between 4-5 times per week can help with running economy as you have several opportunities to run easy, with good form and also a few times to tax the system with hills and intensity. By breaking up your long runs into two runs in one day, incorporating walk breaks in your runs, running off the bike or running a few days in a row (and then with a day off from running) can help you safely adapt to running, while minimizing the risk for injury. Most of all, you have to figure out the right prescription for your body so that you can be consistent with your triathlon training.
  6. Other workouts - Your bike and swim workouts can help you become a better runner. Running more doesn't make you a better swimmer. Swimming is a great way to build endurance while giving your land legs time to recover. By placing non-weight bearing load on your body, you can build endurance, strength and power - which will transfer to your running. Strength training will also help stabilize your muscles to improve balance and posture. 
Knowing that running is where most triathletes get injured, it's important to be smart with your run training. The body can only manage so much training stress - be wise with how you place that stress on your body so that you can be consistent with your swimbikerun training. 


TriWeek: Cycling Tips

The bike portion of a triathlon represents the majority of your overall racing time. However, most athletes look to the run as the area where significant improvements in fitness need to be made. But to run to your potential, you must consider what precedes the run - the swim and the bike.

When it comes to training for the cycling portion of a triathlon, we can't see the bike as a time trial event. If you are simply seeking a personal best time/power wattage/speed, you are likely overbiking. On the flip side, if you simply "save your legs" on the bike because you are worried about running out of energy for the run, you'll underbike.

To deliver a strong race day bike, you must train to do so. Instead of putting all of your focus on FTP, TSS, IF or average power watts, consider the following that will have a huge impact on your cycling and running abilities:
  • Posture and form
  • Skills/bike handling
  • Pedaling mechanics
  • Terrain management
  • Fueling/hydration
  • Pacing
To become a better triathlon cyclist, the first thing you must learn to do is learn how to ride your bike well. If you are afraid to reach for your water bottle cages or if you don't know how to change your gears on variable terrain, all that indoor training to improve your FTP will not show when you ride outside. If you are athletically uncomfortable on your bike or afraid to ride hills or around other cyclists, this will likely cost you a lot of mental energy. If you are unable to make tactical decisions with your posture, pedal stroke, pacing or terrain management - especially when you are fatigued - you'll finish the bike feeling exhausted. It's important for your safety and overall cycling enjoyment to improve your cycling skills and terrain management. 

Here are a few components to master to help you become a better triathlon cyclist:
  1. Resilience - Because of the corrosive nature of running, use your bike training to become a stronger athlete. Strengthen your muscles, your aerobic system and mental toughness through your bike training. This will pay off with a stronger body to run well off the bike. This means - ride your bike often. Let your (specific) bike training make up at least 40-50% of your overall weekly training volume. While there's nothing wrong with going out and riding your bike, it's important to make sure that your workouts are helping you become a stronger and more economical rider.
  2. Pedaling mechanics - Learn how to ride your bike well. A smoother pedal stroke makes for improved riding efficiency. Workouts should include riding at variable cadences (fast and slow cadences) at different intensities.
  3. Posture - Don't overlook the importance of a proper bike fit. Your position on the bike should allow you to ride efficiently with a wide or open hip angle so you can make smooth pedal strokes. Your bike fit should take into consideration of how your load is distributed from your aerobars/elbow pads, pedals and saddle. With the right fit, you'll ride stronger and faster. When you ride, you should be an active participant in what you are doing. Stay engaged, attentive and aware of the decisions you are making as you ride your bike. Learn how to stay relaxed but also aerodynamically efficient. Learn how to sit up and stand while you are riding - don't assume that staying aero is the "best" position to stay in for your entire triathlon bike portion.
  4. Neuromuscular firing - Muscle fibers receive messages from the brain. Train in a way where you have to think about what you are doing instead of just pedaling at one effort, with one specific cadence and at one specific riding style.
  5. Fueling and hydration - Master your fueling/hydration in training so that you are well prepared for the demands of race day. What you take in during the bike will impact your run.
  6. Enjoyment - To improve your bike fitness, you need to ride relaxed. If you are scared or tense, you will not ride your bike well. You want to feel safe and confident on your bike. To improve your comfort on two wheels, practice, practice, practice your skills. 

Helpful Cycling Drills
  • Specific cadence drills -
    Workout main set example: 3 x 12 minutes as (2 minutes at 55rpm, 100+ rpm, 65 rpm, 100+ rpm, 75+ rpm, 100 rpm). 3 minute EZ spin (choice cadence) between.
  • Standing Drills (must be done outside) - learning how to shift your weight and to take the load off your quads.
  • Heavy Gear -
    Workout main set example: 2 x 20 minutes at 50-60 rpm - all at moderate effort.
  • Fast pedaling/high cadence -
    Workout main set example: 8 x 30 sec at 100+ rpm (strong effort) w/ 90 sec EZ between (but keeping a smooth pedal stroke)
  • Single leg drills -
    Workout main set example: 4 rounds of (30 sec right leg, 30 sec left leg, 90 sec normal pedaling)
  • Figure 8's, u-turns, cornering (must be done outside) - Perform in an empty parking lot. 
For most triathletes, there is a big disconnect between fitness and skills. While you can develop great fitness through indoor training, you must have the outdoor skills to transfer your indoor fitness to the outdoors. Your biggest room for improvement will come through smart bike training (not from more/harder running). By learning how to ride your bike better, you'll ride faster and run better off the bike.