Category Archives: General Tri

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Triathlon Goals: Guide to Reviewing and Revising

The triathlon season is over, and the year will soon be coming to a close. So, did you reach all of your goals for this past season? Were you 90% effective? 80%? 50%?  Regardless of how well you did last year; you can still make improvements for the next season. Review your goals from last year and build on those successes to set new ones. “ How is this done?” you may say.  Well read on and find out just how simple this process can be.

Were Your Goals Attainable?

First you need to find out if your goals were attainable or not. Did you merely set your goals too high/low or did you make mistakes in training that made you less successful? Reviewing your training log best does this. On a sheet of paper list your years training goals on the left and your training cycles on the right.

Now you can objectively see if your training and goals lined up. Did you put in the appropriate amount of training to reach your goals? Was your training specific enough to reach your goals? This is a simple way of learning what you need to do to achieve your goals for the next season.

Revising Your Goals

Next you need to revise your goals for the next season. Regardless if your goals are to improve your swim times, record a sub 2:30 Olympic distance race, or finish an iron distance event; you need to start with that goal and when you hope to accomplish it.

For example, Lisa wants to improve her Olympic distance PR. Her previous PR was 2:50 and her goal was 2:25. She finished her best race this past season in 2:35, a 15-minute improvement! Looking back over last year’s goal, Lisa decides a 2:25 was a bit of a lofty goal for her in one year. Her goal for next season is to improve to 2:25, one that she feels is attainable for her.

Create a Plan to Achieve Your Goals

So, how does Lisa go about achieving her goals?

First she has too break up her training schedule into cycles. A macro-cycle is the whole triathlon season. A mini-cycle usually consists of a base phase, speed phase, race phase and a maintenance phase. A micro-cycle is essentially your weekly training within each phase of training.

Lisa needs to pick out some races during the year, which she can key on, and some, which she can train through. Her “A” races are races she wishes to compete well in and/or achieve her PR. Lisa’s “B” races are races which she will train through to gain race experience and gauge her progress.

 She Chooses 2 “A” races for the year and 4 “B” races. One of her “A” races will be the Stud Woman Triathlon on May 19th and the other is her regional qualifier for Nationals on September 4th.

Work Backwards From Your Goals

Now comes the real work. It is essential that Lisa set up her cycles so that her best performances fall on May 19th and September 4th.  

So, we want to back up about 16 weeks prior to her first “A” race. She will put in 10 weeks of base mileage followed by 6 weeks of speed and race specific workouts. Her 6-week speed period should even include one or two of her “B” races if she so desires. The race phase is a shorter period that includes time to taper and recover from her “A” race effort, usually 2 weeks for this race distance.  

After the Stud Woman Triathlon, Lisa will go into a maintenance phase. Now, this doesn’t mean she can slack off. She can include quality sessions during this phase, but the really intense sessions will be saved for the speed cycle.  From here the cycle is essentially a repeat-speed/race/recovery.

How to Plan

The amount and type of training done during each micro cycle is up to Lisa and her coach. This part of the scheduling is part science and part art.

That is why it is a good idea to obtain the services of a coach or someone more experienced than you to help out. For example, you probably don’t want to put a hard interval session on the bike the day before a run session on the track. When you get into the day to day business of training, you will be happy to have a guide to help you get the most out of your time instead of logging “junk” mileage.

Having your yearly schedule easily accessible on the desktop of your computer or in a handy binder is also a plus. This way you will not only have it handy, but also be able to spot mistakes or plan for setbacks. It is definitely the best way to follow and analyze your progress during and after the season to make sure you reach your goals.

Be Sure to Build in Recovery!

One word about recovery. It is always a good way to schedule easy days/weeks into your plan. Most athletes I know like to sandwich an easy day in between their quality bike and run sessions for the week.

Personally, I also liked scheduling a recovery week every 4th week in my plan. I would back my intensity off by about 25% and my distances by about 30-40% during this week.  I think this is essentially crucial when you are preparing for the longer distance races.

This is a very simplistic view of how to period-ize your training. Hopefully, it will encourage you to analyze your training program in order to squeeze the most out of every mile. Both newbie and veteran alike can benefit from this system. Good luck in your upcoming season. I hope you achieve all your triathlon goals.

Orthotics: What are They and Are They Right For You

Often injured athletes swear by them and some have stated they actually improve performance. Orthotics are one of the most often asked about items in the clinic where I work. Orthotics in and of themselves will not make you become the next Mark Allen once placed in your shoes. But, they can help alleviate pain and discomfort in the foot and leg if properly prescribed and fabricated.

What are Orthotics?

Orthotics are a device that is placed in a shoe to eliminate pathological stresses to the foot or other portions of the leg (Hunter, etal).

They can help reduce pain associated with plantar fascitis, patellar pain syndromes, illiotibial band syndrome, shin splints, achilles tendonitis, and even stress fractures. Some sources go so far as to say they help even with back pain.

My point is, orthotics can be an effective part of a treatment program for a recurrent or chronic problem. But, they should be used as part as an overall treatment program and never as the sole treatment option.

Is an Orthotic for You?

Well a doctor, physical therapist, or athletic trainer is a good place to start.

These people can evaluate your problem and make suggestions for the best possible outcome. I myself don’t recommend an orthotic device to every person who comes to the clinic with foot or leg pain associated with running.

In fact, quite the opposite. If I think an athlete can do without orthotic intervention I tell them so. It saves them from undue cost and from having to stick them in all their shoes. If I think an orthotic will help the athlete as part of their treatment process, though, I would definitely give it a try. If you have tried other treatment options without success and are considering orthotics ask your doctor or therapist. You may be one step closer to being pain free.

How do Orthotics Work?

By far, the most often cited use for orthotics is to control a biomechanical problem. The most common biomechanical problem they are used to correct is hyperpronation. This is basically an excessive inward rolling of the ankle during ambulation (for further clarification see my article on plantar fascitis). Orthotics can also help provide shock absorption during walking/running and help to relieve pressure sensitive areas of the foot.

Orthotics can be full length, meaning they run the entire length of the foot, or three quarter length, where the orthotic stops just behind the balls of the foot. They can be rigid, semirigid, or soft.

Rigid Orthotics

Rigid orthotics are most commonly used when absolute control of a biomechanical deformity is needed.

They are made out of inflexible acrylics or carbon fiber composites. Due to their inability to absorb shock we rarely use these devices with running injuries. Although, they do work well in athletes who are involved in non-endurance sports, such as football, or with a heavier athlete whose problem is not well controlled with a semirigid device.

One of the major drawbacks of rigid orthotics is the person’s foot has to be casted and the cast sent away to have the device manufactured.

The other drawback to this procedure is price. It is not uncommon for a set too cost over $200.

Soft Orthotics

Soft orthotics are used in a variety of conditions from rheumatoid arthritis to diabetic foot conditions and occasionally in athletics.

They are generally made of Plastizote, polyurethane, or similar soft materials. Soft orthotics are great shock absorbers and help to decrease shear forces along the skin. However, they do little to help correct biomechamical problems. Usually, if an athlete has no biomechanical deficiencies and just needs shock absorption, we will use on over the counter insert, such as Spenco, in his or her shoe.

Rarely do we fabricate a soft orthotic for a runner because of its inefficiency to control foot motion. But, when we do, it is easily done in the clinic and relatively cost efficient.

Semirigid Orthotics

Semirigid orthotics are by far the most prescribed device we fabricate in the clinic. As the name implies they are neither rigid nor soft.

They are usually made from a soft and a rigid material that are glued or melted together, molded to the shape of the foot and trimmed to fit in the shoe. The materials we use are Plastizote, the softer of the two, and Aliplast.

Older semirigid orthotics were made from cork, but it is hard to shape and doesn’t last as long as the newer materials. These devices have the stiffness to be able to control biomechanical problems and the flexibility and cushioning to be worn during prolonged running.

Like the soft orthotics they are easily fabricated in the clinic and relatively cost efficient. One of the great things about being able to fashion these devices in your own clinic is if the athlete has a problem. If more cushioning is needed, if the orthotic is “sticking” the person, or if the device needs to be beveled, the person can come in and in no time at all additions can be made.

In fact, this is the problem with many of the mail order orthotics. They have to be packed and shipped every time you need the device adjusted which leads to more money being spent out of your pocket. So, I highly recommend getting the orthotics made locally.

Commonly Asked Questions

How Long Do Orthodics Last?

The semirigid devices we fabricate generally last around a year. Although, if one is putting in many miles (such as Ironman or marathon training) we may need to resurface the device at about 6 months. This ensures adequate cushioning during longer training and racing.

How Long to Wear-in Orthotics?

Generally I suggest a “wearing” in period of about a week to let the foot adapt to the device.

Do I Need New Shoes to Wear With My Orthotics?

I tell people that the orthotic is only as good as its base of support. If you put a new orthotic in an old worn shoe it will not be as effective.

One needs to make sure they are in the right shoe for their foot and that they buy new shoes every 500-600 miles. For a person putting in 30 miles a week that’s about 5 months.

Some sources suggest that buying two pair of shoes and alternating them maybe of benefit. I myself have never done this, mainly because of cost issues, but I do know many athletes who do.

Are Orthotics Different for Running Shoes vs Regular Shoes?

The orthotics I fabricate can be alternated between any of your training or racing shoes. I mention this only because the orthotic needs to be cut a little lower to fit into racing or fast paced training shoes. So, if you are getting orthotics made I highly recommend taking all your running shoes with you and making sure of a proper fit in all your shoes.

How Do You Clean Orthotics?

The orthotics can be easily cleaned with dish soap and water and left to air dry overnight. Generally, the orthotics I make for running shoes are for just that. If a person has a more severe problem they may need a second pair made for their work shoes. These are cut a bit higher and have more bulk than a sport orthotic.

How Long Do You Wear Orthotics?

A person will have to wear their orthotics as long as their pain persists or as long as they have a biomechanical problem. I myself suffered for years from chronic plantar fascitis and finally got it under control with the use of orthotics and night splints. I now am running pain free, but if I try to run without my orthotics my feet let me know it the next day. So, if someone wants to wean him or herself from orthotics that’s great, but heed the warning signs.

75 Best Tips to Save Time in Your Triathlon Transition

Transitions are what occur between the swim, bike, and run segments of multisport events, and are often considered the fourth discipline of triathlon.

In the typical swim-bike-run triathlon, transition 1, or T1, refers to the transition between swim and bike, while T2 refers to the transition between bike and run.

Transitions can be thought of as the fourth discipline of triathlon, and athletes can improve their race performances by working to achieve consistently smooth and efficient transitions. At the races, mere seconds can separate the winners from second place, award winners from the empty handed, and the qualifiers from those who will have to try again next time.

With many races now posting T1 and T2 splits (transition times) within the results, good transitions can make for bragging rights in and of themselves.

Saving Time in Transition

While most triathletes work hard to improve their swim, bike, and run times, many overlook the potentially large time savings which are possible through the practice and refinement of transitions. What these athletes should realize is that everyone can improve their transition times with effective planning and practice. It is much easier to save time with quick transitions than it is to swim, bike, or run faster in the race.

While accumulated experience in the races can eventually hone an athlete’s transitions, even the most experienced need occasional practice to keep them sharp and mistake-free.

Beginners can avoid learning the “do’s and don’ts” the hard way, by getting some instruction or coaching from those who know the tricks of the trade, and practicing before a race. Coaches can spice up multisport training by including occasional transition practices and by challenging their athletes to switch disciplines and associated equipment efficiently and quickly, even when faced with unexpected problems.

General tips for the athlete

Transitions are important for every triathlete, regardless of ability. For some, the importance lies in the chance to recover from one discipline while preparing for the next, ensuring comfort and safety for the next even, and saving time, or at least not losing time to one’s opponents. It is important to identify one’s competitive orientation before working to improve transitions.

For all triathletes, planning is the key to successful transitions. The more that one plans and prepares before the event, the less that one needs to do during the race, and the smoother that transitions will go.

Bringing the Right Gear Into Transition

From the outset, one needs to select equipment appropriate for triathlon, and not be afraid to modify one’s equipment for racing convenience, provided that safety is not compromised in the process.

While some triathletes insist on lugging large bags full of anything conceivably needed into the transition area (TA), simplicity is a crucial element in the planning of transitions. The athlete should have a list of all necessary articles for the race, and pack for races according to that list. Everything aside from the absolutely necessary items going into TA should be left in the car. As a side note, it is helpful to mark all equipment with one’s name, using a permanent marker, as many athletes use identical equipment.

How to Arrange Your Gear in Transition

Another key for successful transition planning is the arrangement of equipment in transition.

One should try to arrange the equipment in the order that it will be used, and attempt to minimize the amount of travel or movement required to go from one step to another. One should picture a miniature assembly line, where everything necessary is right at one’s fingertips, and the equipment is lined up to be used in perfect sequence with no sidetracking or backtracking.

The Swim Equipment in Transition

Starting with swim equipment, one should select goggles designed for outdoor use, and able to take a hit or kick without coming off. For rough swims, the goggle straps should go under the swim cap, so they’re less likely to come off. Socket-rocket type goggles might be great for the pool, but can cut the skin around the eye socket when someone plants a kick square on the lens. For the best swim goggles you can check out our top triathlon swim goggles. Similarly, some coaches recommend replacing rubber goggle straps with nylon shock cord, which is unlikely to break, even when it’s old.

Wetsuits should be relatively easy to remove, even when the athlete is dizzy, breathing heavy, and cold. Consider cutting ankle and wrist areas of the wetsuit, if removal is a problem. Simply trim off a two to four-inch straight or diagonal ring of the neoprene up from the ankle or wrist. The slight loss of buoyancy and warmth will most likely not be noticed, and the wetsuit will come off much easier.

Triathlon clothing should be something that is comfortable and non-chafing for all three disciplines. Ideally, the right race clothing can be worn from start to finish without fuss, discomfort, or adjustment.

The Bike Equipment in Transition

For biking equipment, triathlon-specific shoes are most helpful. You can check our the best triathlon cycling shoes. These are the type with just one or two Velcro straps on the top of the foot, and a loop on the heel for pulling. One should be careful not to select shoes with too big a tongue, or one should cut down the tongue to facilitate getting the foot into the shoe quickly. If straps come out of bindings too easily, one can add a rivet, zip-tie or other device to the ends to prevent this from happening.

Pedals and cleats should be any type that is easy and quick to connect shoe to pedal without having to look.

The primary purpose of a helmet is to save one’s head in an accident, and one should not skimp on safety for speed or convenience. With that said, one should select a helmet that can be buckled quickly to create a safe and secure fit. USAT rules mandate that the athlete buckle the helmet before getting on his/her bike, and to keep it fastened throughout the bike portion. If you are in the market for a new cycling helmet you can check out our top cycling helmets.

As for the bike itself, most any type be used for smooth transitions, but one should consider the placement of bottles and other accessories in how the bike will be mounted, dismounted, racked, un-racked, and re-racked.

The Run Equipment in Transition

For running equipment, the shoes are most important. It is helpful to replace the regular shoelaces with elastic laces and lace locks. One should be able to slip the shoes on quickly, and to find a comfortable and secure fit.

A running hat or visor may be helpful, as is a race number belt. Other important things to have for transition are: good sunscreen, skin lube, sunglasses, spare energy gel or bar, fluids, tools, spare tubes/tires, and a waterproof bag for wet items after the race.

Become Familiar with the Race Venue

Each race venue is different, and while a triathlete may execute transitions similarly in terms of equipment, it is essential that he/she become familiar with the specific characteristics of each venue prior to the race.

Once an athlete has found his/her assigned transition spot, he/she should immediately familiarize himself/herself with the finish of the swim and swim-in, bike-out, bike-in, and run-out areas of TA. If transition spots are not pre-assigned, he/she should select a spot that minimizes congestion and overall distance of travel within TA.

Many transitions have been flubbed by athletes failing to remember where their transition spot was located. To remedy this, one should walk through the flow of transition before the race to create a visual map, looking for landmarks or counting racks to help aid the memory.

Some races allow the use of chalk on the pavement, or tying of helium-filled balloons to the racks, but neither of these methods is necessary with proper planning and conscientious preparation.

However, a familiar and bright towel laid out to cover one’s transition spot can expedite the trip (and make for a good way to clean off the feet), once an athlete has found the right rack, though certain events do not allow any items to cover the ground.

As a courtesy to others, one should take as little TA space as possible, and leave extra gear in the car.

It is also important to determine the location of the mount line and dismount line for the bike, and to determine a proper gear for starting on the bike. USAT rules stipulate that athletes must pass the mount line before getting on the bike to begin the ride.

At the end of the ride, athletes must dismount the bike before reaching the dismount line. An athlete makes final adjustments to her transition spot before heading to swim start.

Transition Tips

For this section, the intention is to offer specific tips by ability. While overachieving triathletes are often tempted to try more advanced skills than they are capable of completing, it is essential that an athlete master the basics before moving on to the more complicated techniques.

Beginners should primarily concern themselves with ensuring a fun, comfortable, and safe racing experience, rather than stressing about their speed in transition.

Intermediates can begin to weigh the pros and cons of each piece of equipment used, and each action taken in transition, to determine the balance between comfort and speed, and between luxury and necessity.

Advanced triathletes will need to adopt advanced transition skills, and to rid themselves of all but the most essential and fast equipment.

Athletes should never try anything new on race day.

Transition Set Up

1. Familiarize self with the rules, and how they apply to the race venue.

2. No glass containers are allowed in transition area (USAT Rules).

3. Put on sunscreen before getting body marked.

4. Apply skin lube to any areas that may chafe, including neck, armpits, crotch.

5. If a wetsuit is used, lube the ankles, wrists, neck, and armpits before putting on the wetsuit. It may help to keep socks on while putting on the wetsuit.

6. Check overall operation of the bicycle, and select an appropriate gear for starting.

7. Ensure proper tire pressure.

8. Make sure brakes clamp and release properly, and that each wheel rotates freely.

9. USAT rules stipulate that the majority of the bicycle must be on the side of the rack corresponding with the athlete’s transition spot. The bike may face either forward or backwards.

10. Make sure the bike is equipped with adequate fluids and food for the distance.

11. Consider how one will deal with mechanical problems, and equip the bike accordingly.

12. Lay out equipment in the order in which it will be used.

13. Make sure helmet is unbuckled, straps are laid open, and helmet upside down with front facing toward athlete. Set sunglasses in place for quick wear. If you’re looking for the best sunglasses for triathletes, check out our triathlon sunglasses guide.

14. Check out swim start and finish, and familiarize self with transition flow.

15. Prepare run shoes (and your triathlon socks) for quick wear, and have a plan for blister prevention.

16. If used, ensure timing chip is properly placed and secure. Make sure band is set in such a way that it won’t fall off or chafe the ankle during the race.

17. Make sure that bike numbers, helmet numbers, and bib numbers are properly placed. Plan not to wear bib number on swim or bike, unless required.

Advanced Transition Setup Tips

18. Leave bike shoes clicked into pedals, and secure them in upright position. Ways to secure the shoes may vary: looping rubber bands or floss (either should break easily upon pedaling) from the heel loop to the bike, using Velcro to attach shoe to the bike frame or crank arm, etc. Using rubber bands, the left shoe can be attached to the rear quick-release, while the right can be attached to a bottle cage, front derailleur, or elsewhere.

19. Attach sunglasses to helmet or bike frame, so they can be put on while riding.

20. Keep helmet on handlebars, using Velcro or other means to ensure its stability.

21. Use baby powder or skin lube in shoes for blister prevention if necessary.

22. Consider using liquid bandage (like nail polish) as blister preventative for potential hot-spots.

23. Practice swim starts and finishes to determine depth and appropriate start/finish techniques.

Long Distance Transition Setup Tips

24. Prepare special needs bags with nutritional needs, fluids, salt, extra socks, etc.

25. Ensure gels and/or bars and bottles are securely attached to bike.

26. Have tools, tubes and/or pre-glued tubular ready securely attached to bike.

Transition 1 (T1) Swim to Bike Tips

27. Begin a mental rehearsal of T1 toward the end of the swim.

28. Remove goggles from eyes upon ability to stand, ensuring best vision.

29. If a wetsuit is worn, leave cap and goggles on head and begin unzipping wetsuit immediately, working it down to hips before reaching TA. Upon reaching transition spot, finish removing the wetsuit by pulling it insideout over legs and feet. This process can be made easier by standing on one side of the suit and pulling up with the opposite leg. It may be necessary to use the bike rack for balance, and one should avoid sitting, if possible. Some races have wetsuit peelers to help athletes.

30. Make sure that cap and goggles are not discarded or lost on the way to transition. This will avoid an abandonment of equipment penalty under USAT & ITU rules.

31. Stow all swimming items underneath bike, and out of the way of others.

32. Put on helmet and fasten buckle before removing bike from rack. (USAT rules stipulate helmet is buckled before mounting, while ITU rules stipulate helmet is buckled before un-racking bike.)

33. Remember USAT rules generally do not allow riding in the transition area.

34. Always keep the bike to the right when pushing it or mounting, to stay clear of chain rings and chain.

35. Walk or run the bike past the mount line before getting on the bike, and make sure the path is clear before mounting.

36. Many accidents happen just past the mount line. Be careful to maintain a straight path while getting up to speed, and to look ahead, rather than down at pedals or shoes.

Beginner Transition 1 (T1) Tips

37. Put on bike shoes, sunglasses, and helmet before removing bike from rack.

38. Consider wearing bike shorts, bike gloves, & tri socks to increase comfort.

39. Hold on to handlebars or the bike stem to walk or run with bike to mount line.

40. Consider mounting bike well past the mount line and/or off to the side, as it is a courtesy to the speedy experienced athletes who may be coming quickly from behind.

Intermediate Transition 1 (T1) Tips

41. Use a stem- or seat-carry to direct bike in transition while running with bike.

42. Consider using a full flying mount or modified flying mount at the mount line. The modified flying mount is done by holding onto the handlebars, stepping onto the left pedal or shoe and pushing off with the right leg. As the bike rolls, the athlete swings the right leg over the saddle, steps onto the right pedal or shoe, and begins pedaling. The full flying mount is done by holding onto the handlebars, jumping onto the saddle, stepping onto the pedals, and beginning to pedal. Get up to race speed before beginning to put feet in shoes. Re-accelerate after getting one foot in shoe, before putting other foot in shoe.

43. Put on sunglasses once up to speed, remembering to place glasses underneath helmet straps

Advanced Transition 1 (T1) Tips

44. If ocean swim, try to catch a breaking wave in to the finish

45. Dolphin dive to swim exit, if possible.

46. Upon ability to stand in water, begin high stepping over water to shore.

47. With bike, use a seat-carry to run with bike, and flying mount to start.

48. Get up to race speed and in good position before beginning to put feet in shoes.

49. Re-accelerate after getting one foot in shoe, before putting other foot in shoe.

50. Put on sunglasses once up to speed, remembering to place glasses underneath helmet straps.

Transition 1 (T1) Tips for Long Distance Races

51. Find wetsuit peeling volunteers, if available.

52. Get T1 bag from numbered hanger, and proceed to changing tent.

53. Remove items from bag, change, and place swim items back inside.

General Transition 2 (T2) Bike to Run Tips

54. Begin a mental rehearsal of T2 toward the end of the bike.

55. If possible, use last part of bike to loosen up legs and prepare for the run.

56. In last part of the bike, keep the cadence in the 90-95 range, to facilitate the switch to running.

57. Reduce speed and get off bike on left side before the dismount line.

58. Walk or run the bike back to transition spot, and rack bike properly (USAT rules stipulate that the majority of the bicycle must be on the side of the rack corresponding with the athlete’s transition spot. The bike may face forwards or backwards.)

59. Rack bike before unbuckling and removing helmet (ITU rules require this).

60. Put on running shoes, and adjust laces if necessary.

61. Grab hat, bib number, and any other items to put on and adjust while running.

Beginner Transition 2 (T2) Tips

62. Come to full stop prior to dismount line, and step over bike to dismount.

63. Use a handlebar- or stem-carry to direct bike to transition spot.

64. Make sure to have dry running socks before putting on running shoes.

65. Remove bike shorts and gloves, if worn.

66. Reapply sunscreen or skin lube, if necessary.

Advanced Transition 2 (T2) Tips

67. Pull feet out of shoes well before dismount line, leaving shoes attached to pedals.

68. Continue to pedal on top of shoes for finish of bike.

69. Consider using a flying dismount to get off bike before dismount line. Keep hands on handlebars, stand and place body weight on left shoe/pedal. Swing right leg behind saddle or over top tube so that legs are both on left side of bike. Ideally, right leg will be placed in front of left leg before dismount. Before dismount line, slow down to a running pace, and hop off bike into a running stride. It may be helpful to lift up bike’s back end briefly at dismount, so that the shoes do not scrape the ground and come out of the pedals.

70. If race number belt is used, attach it to hat, so both can be grabbed and put on while running.

71. Consider using shorter, quick steps at beginning of run, and lengthening stride over time.

Transition 2 (T2) Tips for Long Distance Races

72. Volunteer may take the bike from you at dismount in some events.

73. Grab T2 bag from numbered hanger and proceed to change tent.

74. Change to run gear, and stuff bike gear into bag.

75. Reapply sunscreen and skin lube.

What the coach can do to help athletes with transitions

Much like taking medicine, it may be hard to get some athletes to comply with practicing transitions, even though they know it is good for them. Some athletes only want to swim-bike-run, accumulate volume, and keep their heart rates high, so are resistant to diversions like transition work. For these athletes, the coach will have to be creative in getting the athlete to practice transitions.

One good way is to have the athlete set up their gear for transition after a normal training ride. The coach then instructs the athlete that his/her next training ride will start and end with a race-simulating transition right from the house.

This could be done several times a week, and could even be done with stationary trainer workouts. For those needing work on flying mounts and dismounts, the coach can instruct the athlete to leave his/her shoes on the pedals at all times, for all rides. This way, the athlete gets used to getting on the bike and getting into the shoes while riding, then getting out of them and dismounting at the end of the ride.

Some athletes never want to take a day off, and some have problems dealing with reduced training for the taper.

Enter transition training- what a great thing to practice on days of reduced volume and intensity!

For coaches who work in person with groups of athletes, transition practice can be a fun and social alternative from the usual workout. Combination workouts involving repeated short sets of swim-bike, bike-run, or swim-bike-run are a great way to work on transitions and race-specific fitness simultaneously.

This type of workout is useful to prepare athletes for early season races, when they might still be a bit rusty from the long offseason. If the athlete has access to a pool, stationary trainer, and place to run, he/she can do several mini-triathlons in a short amount of time.

For example, one could do a workout consisting of 4 sets of (300m swimming, transition, 10’ bike, transition, 5’ run) in about an hour and a half with a warm-up and cool-down.

Transition Contingency Training

Once an athlete has a good handle on executing a smooth and quick transition, the coach can challenge him/her by using contingency training in their transition work.

Every veteran triathlete has stories about surprises encountered on the race course, and many of these surprises can happen in transition. Simply put, sometimes what the athlete arrives from finishing the swim or bike to find in TA bears little resemblance to what was once a carefully arranged transition spot.

Sometimes shoes and helmets or other essential gear is missing. Sometimes, equipment has been knocked over or pushed to the side, or maybe someone else has put their gear where it doesn’t belong. Other times, there are mechanical issues as simple as a derailed chain or a loose quick-release to deal with.

About Contingency Training

The point is that coaches can better prepare athletes for the curve balls thrown their way in races, by using contingency training. At some camps and clinics, this is done by having all the athletes set up their transitions, go to the start line, and face away from TA. Then, the coaches come through to wreak havoc on the perfectly arranged transition spots (but NOT creating really unsafe situations).

For example: gears are shifted, chains are derailed, shoes are taken out of pedals, running shoes are tossed away or switched with those of other athletes, items are stuffed down into shoes, helmets are buckled, brakes are set to rub on the wheels, and air is let out of a tire or two to create the dreaded but all-too-common transition flat tire. When the laughing stops, the athletes have performed good psychological skills training and learned important lessons about solving race problems with a cool head, and continuing with the race.

At the race, coaches aren’t usually allowed inside the transition area, unless they are participating in the event themselves. However, there are plenty of ways that the coach can help his/her athletes with transitions from the sidelines.

First off, the coach can help the athlete plan and prepare prior to the race, especially if it’s one of the most important races of the season. On race day, it is always good for the coach to check over the bike to determine whether everything is functioning well. The coach can help with any last-minute adjustments to equipment, and help to instill a sense of calm and confidence in the athlete by verifying that the equipment is ready for the athlete to use.

He or she can also help the athlete determine what gear to use at the start of the ride, and perhaps look over the final transition set-up from outside the TA. Beyond that, the coach can give the athlete some verbal cues to keep them focused on being smooth and quick without making mistakes.

Conclusion

Transition times can make all the difference between satisfaction and frustration, and wise athletes and coaches know it is less taxing to save time in transitions than in the race.

For the less competitive, good transitions mean that mistakes are avoided and nothing is forgotten that could prevent an athlete from experiencing a safe and fun race. Coaches can play an important role in the performance of their athletes by making transition training a priority in the training plan, and by staying current with the latest techniques and equipment for good transitions.

Coaches can make their training plans race-specific, exciting, and fun for their athletes by including occasional transition practices, combination workouts, and contingency training.

4 Easy Steps for Triathletes to Find Time to Train

Few of us have the luxury of training for triathlon on a full time basis. Most of us must learn to balance our training and racing with our daily responsibilities.

It’s a fact – spending your hard-earned cash and hiring a qualified coach who writes you a technologically advanced, scientifically proven training program, is going to do nothing to improve your race times if you don’t have the time to do the workouts.

While a few lucky people may have the time and flexibility to train at high volume, it is much more common to find triathletes of all levels scrounging to fit the bare minimum of workouts into a crazy schedule. Life does get in the way!

Worrying about the lack of available training time does nothing about it – finding ways to maximize the productivity of the time you do have does.

Step 1: Calculate How Much Time You You

What I suggest to my athletes is that they first sit down and take a realistic look at their weekly schedule – work, family obligations, sleep, and the like. From there, make decisions about how much time you have to spend training. Be sure to take into consideration travel and shower time and the like. Be creative about ways to sneak a workout in – look outside the box, so to speak. There is often much more time available than may appear at first glance. Only when you have a realistic idea of how much time you have, can you even start to think about designing an appropriate training schedule.

Step 2: Build a Plan

Once you have a weekly schedule of available training time, then it is time to build a plan that fits. If you have 8 hours a week, then write workouts that total 8 hours a week! Seems obvious, but one of the quickest ways to get discouraged about your training is to consistently fall short of your training goals. Better to plan 2 workouts a week in each discipline and actually do them, than to plan for 3 and beat yourself up because you can’t get them done..

Step 3: Plan Building Strategies

So you have a plan now, what’s next? Follow it! It is preferable to have a 6 workout per week plan and follow it than the 10 or 12 workout plan that never gets done. You can make steady progress on 2 sessions a week in each sport if you are dedicated about getting those workouts in. If you are able to throw in an additional workout in your weakest link – so much the better.

One good way to maximize limited training time is to work on a basic 2x per week schedule with a rotating extra workout every week. For example, week 1 you do 2x swim, 2x bike and 3x run, week #2 you do 2x swim, 2x run and 3x bike, and week #3 would be 2x bike, 2x run and 3x swim. I find that this is great for athletes who are fairly balanced in all disciplines..

If you are not so balanced, it is important to train your weaknesses. It is all too easy for someone with limited training time, or anyone for that matter, to get seduced into spending large chunks of time on the sport they are best at………..and generally enjoy the most. Much better to invest time, especially in the early season, in the areas that have the opportunity for the most improvement. You’re not going to improve your slug-like swim split if you don’t get yourself to the pool as often as possible!

Step 4: Match Your Plan to Your Goals

Ok, so now you have designed a plan that fits the time you have available, does it match your goals? Nothing wrong with lofty goals, we all have them, but it’s also a good idea to have some less challenging goals that are in synch with your training level. Not saying you need to accept less than your “best”, just that what constitutes your “best” needs to take into account just how much training you are able to do.

While everyone has to deal with issue of missed workouts occasionally, it is best to make an honest effort to get those workouts in. The fewer workouts on your schedule, the more critical each workout becomes. The best way to triathlon success with limited training time is to do every workout with purpose – there are no workouts to waste. Communicate with family and friends about your training schedule in advance to lessen the chance of avoidable conflict. Every workout you complete successfully brings you one step closer to meeting your goals.

While training more may often be a good thing, training smarter is always better! Do your research, or find someone to do it for you. Finding out the methods and training principles that work best for you, your goals and your situation and then using them to make the time you spend training as focused and productive as possible will pay huge dividends come race day. Make every minute count and you will be well on your way to a successful season!

6 Best Tips for Triathlon Mental Preparation

To win at any sport takes a combination of natural ability and mental skills. Both of these attributes must be developed and honed. You may or may not be capable of winning at your sport; few people are, but you can learn from those that do win. There are key psychological characteristics a winning athlete must possess. These are just as important as natural ability and can be identified and worked on just as you would a physical limiter.

1. Grace under Pressure

The ability to focus under pressure is a key characteristic of a winner. A winning athlete will not get pulled off their game despite outside pressure or stimulus. They remain calm, cool, and collected. In endurance sports a winner has to objectively strategize in a race without getting emotional.

This means knowing when to attack and when to hold back. Races are fluid situations and strategy must be as well. Crashes, flats, or inclement weather can be a part of any race but a winner will overcome these and continue racing to their best ability. Never quit a race even if it is not going the way you planned. This is a bad habit to get into.

Most athletes tend to over pace and burn out, attempting to race beyond their ability. Have a deliberate strategy planned out. Know your pacing parameters, threshold, and ability, and race accordingly. Race your own race and do not get pulled off your game for any reason. Focus on the process of racing and what is going on in you and around you, not the outcome.

2. Learn From Mistakes

A bad race is only bad if you do not learn from it. Race data is some of the most relevant information you can gather: this is why it is important to never quit a race.

A winner examines race data carefully and adapts and modifies their training to rectify their weaknesses. They do not get discouraged but seek the right questions and answers. They do not make excuses.

Was your performance due to bad pacing lack of proper hydration or fueling? Or was it right on target? You should record your splits, speed, heart rate data (from a heart rate monitor), and if possible power and pacing data.

Sometimes your racing can be right on but your opponent is simply better than you. If that is the case all you can do is train harder and smarter for your next events.

3. Precision

Winners demand precision. This includes precise training, the best equipment, proper rest and recovery, and a nutrition plan to meet their specific demands. The more guess work you take out of these variables, the more performance you will gain. Use every angle to get yourself faster. The right pre-race meal, a new wheel set, a better timed recovery drink, a properly fitted bike, or the right amount of sleep will all help your performance improve. Do not leave anything to chance.

4. No Visions of Grandeur

I always ask potential athletes what they want to gain from their training. I once had a cyclist answer “to win.” On one level this is an admirable aspiration but very few athletes can actually achieve this goal. His experience was minimal and testing indicated he was genetically average, not gifted. He was so discouraged he gave his sport up.

It is important to set reasonable and attainable goals. The best are performance-based (I want to increase my next 5k pace by 5 seconds per mile); versus outcome-based (I want to win such and such race).

Remember that your training dictates your racing and do not expect a huge improvement in performance beyond your known abilities on race day. A winner knows his or her capabilities and seeks to develop them to their maximum potential. He or she does not have expectations beyond what is learned and earned.

5. Eat Pain

Pain threshold is individualized. Some people are able to sustain a high level of pain for long periods of time. Others do not have this ability. This is not a character flaw.

Hospitals now test patients for individual pain threshold and modify medications accordingly. What hurts for some will be discomfort for others. That being said, in order to be a successful athlete you have to develop a tolerance for discomfort and pain.

A developed sprint athlete will spend their entire race at, above, and slightly below their lactate threshold. This type of tolerance for pain takes a lot of focus and mental fortitude, not just in races but in training as well. A winner has the ability to consume this pain and persevere.

6. Get Technical

Random training produces random results whereas specific training produces specific results. Do not expect to be faster by simply putting the time in. Winners train with purpose and specificity.

They seek outside assistance and employ the latest methodologies. They use the best training technology; heart rate monitors, diet software, power meters, pace meters, and cycling computers. If you really want to get fast you need to define your limiters and come up with a corresponding training plan. Use performance tests to regularly assess training progress. Record and track all your work out data. Get a good coach to put this all together for you.

To me a winner is anyone who accepts the challenge of developing to their own true potential. This may mean a podium finish, an age group finish, or a new PR. A winners’ mentality does not just end with racing but extends to many areas of life. It is pride and confidence in utilizing your ability.

Ultimate Guide to Triathlon Base Training

One of the hardest concepts for an athlete to understand and implement is base training. It is counter-intuitive to run or bike slowly in order to gain performance later in the season. It is also very difficult to take a step back from the intense training you were doing a few weeks ago, and bring the speed and pace way down. But if you have the discipline to train aerobically for a period of time, when everyone else is still hammering away, it will pay you dividends down the road.

When to Start Base Training

First and foremost you need a break. I prescribe a 3-4 week transition phase at the end of each season and immediately follow it with base training. Transition is a time to rest and recover both physically and mentally.

We do not take total time off because the fitness loss takes too long to make up. Instead I give my athletes maximum flexibility with their training, plenty of rest, and let them leave the heart rate monitor at home. This gives them a few weeks to refocus before we begin structured base training.

You can not train hard year round without taking regular periods of reduced volume and intensity. If you attempt to you will in all likelihood find yourself burned out, over trained, and perhaps injured.

You will also find your performance degrading rather than improving. Most athletes build base in the fall and winter when there are not a lot of races. If one of my athletes wants to race during base we call it a fun / training race and do not set any performance goals.

Physiology of Base Training

There are two basic energy systems you use when training; anaerobic and aerobic. Unfortunately, you can not build both your aerobic and anaerobic systems at the same time very well. The idea behind base training is to train your aerobic energy system specifically and solely. Why is this important? The more work you perform aerobically, or in the presence of oxygen, the more efficient you are. Prolonged aerobic training produces muscular adaptations that improves oxygen transport to the muscles, reduces the rate of lactate formation, improves the rate of lactate removal, and increases energy production and utilization. These adaptations occur slowly over time.

Fat is a primary fuel source for the aerobic energy system. Over the course of a base period your body learns to more readily break down and utilize fat as an energy source. As an added bonus this adaptation helps post exercise fat metabolism as well. This is an important factor, especially for long distance athletes. The fat we have in our bodies could provide enough energy to perform many distance events back to back, whereas muscle glycogen depletion can occur in as little as one hour. The less muscle glycogen you utilize, the more efficient you are. Contrary to the aerobic system, the anaerobic system consumes carbohydrate rapidly and the byproduct is lactic acid.

Other adaptations of aerobic training include increased stroke volume of the heart, capillary density, and mitochondrial density. Stroke volume increase simply means that your heart pumps more blood per beat. Mitochondria are structures within muscle cells that produce energy from fat and carbohydrate oxidation. Think of them as tiny batteries for muscle contractions. Regular endurance training can double these structures (1). By increasing capillary density we can effectively transport more blood to the working muscles. The process of building capillaries occurs gradually. Because high stress training breaks down capillaries, base training is best for allowing the slow growth of capillaries.

Base Training Planning

There should be progression during base season as with any other training period. I normally prescribe 12-16 weeks of base training. This will vary with athlete’s fitness level, and the type of event they will be peaking for. Over the course of base I progress from the low end of the aerobic energy system and gradually proceed in steps to the high end.

The heart rate zones I use fall into the 71-90% range of lactate threshold or 61-80% of max heart rate. I also incorporate specific strength training at an aerobic level. This entails different types of low cadence cycling and slow hill running or even walking. These work outs also increase in volume throughout base. Base training is an excellent time to work on form and economy as well. As intensities increase later in the season it is harder for the athlete to concentrate on form.

By establishing good economy habits early in the season the athlete will carry them forth. It also important to keep the athlete’s mind moving with drills and technique work when they are training at low intensity to keep boredom at bay. Base training does not mean you will never move fast. Run strides, foot speed drills, and fast pedal work can all be integrated. Towards the end of base I start power work but use brief durations and full recovery between efforts.

How does this transfer into performance gain?

Let me give you a hypothetical example. Suppose athlete Sam runs a 7 min. mile at lactate threshold. His fastest aerobic pace, or aerobic threshold, is an 8 min. mile. We start off Sam’s base training at the low end aerobic zones at which he runs a 9 min. mile and he begrudgingly complies. Over the course of his 12 week base program the above mentioned adaptations occur. At the end of his base season he now runs a 7:30 min. mile- aerobically. This is the “base” for Sam to build on for the rest of his season. Improving on the previous season is now more obtainable with proper training. If Sam’s race is an Iron Man in which the aerobic energy system is used predominantly this improvement in aerobic speed is crucial.

Sticking to the Plan

The hard part of base training is having the discipline to train at these low intensities. It may mean running very slowly or even walking. It may mean separating from your training group in order to pursue your individual goals. It also means avoiding the contest of egos that group training often turns into. If you can find a training partner with similar goals and fitness level you may be able to train with them, but more often than not what I see is a base work gone awry. Even spending short amounts of time above your aerobic zone degrades the work out.

The area between the top of the aerobic threshold and anaerobic threshold is somewhat of a no mans land of fitness. It is a mix of aerobic and anaerobic states. For the amount of effort the athlete puts forth, not a whole lot of fitness is produced. It does not train the aerobic or anaerobic energy system to a high degree. This area does have its place in training; it is just not in base season. Unfortunately this area is where I find a lot of athletes spending the majority of their seasons, which retards aerobic development. The athletes heart rate shoots up to this zone with little power or speed being produced when it gets there.

Another issue is having accurate zones. I regularly performance test my athletes in order to ensure their zones are correct and to confirm their training. After performing many of these tests, and comparing them to race data, I get a very clear estimate of lactate threshold. I use a percentage of LTHR to determine individual zones. I also recommend validation through clinical testing. I have witnessed athletes using zones that are several years old. Assuming fitness has improved over this time their zones would no longer be accurate and they may have spent an entire base season training the wrong energy system.

You have to let your anaerobic system atrophy during base. This means you will loose some of your anaerobic endurance and the ability to sustain speed near lactate threshold. Expect to loose some top end coming out of base, but this is what you are going to spend the rest of your season working on. It often takes several seasons to see the result of sound base training if you are a novice athlete. Be patient, it is a process that is slow and can not be rushed, but the sooner you get started the faster you will be.

5 Top Off Season Training Priorities for Triathletes

This time of year, most triathletes are winding their seasons down.  For the most part, your racing season has ended, and the smart athletes are taking a significant break from training to recharge their bodies for next year.  What else can an athlete do during the next few months to improve next year’s performance?

After a transition period of two to four weeks of very light, completely unstructured training, our top priorities should be to increase our muscular strength, improving our technique in all three sports of the triathlon (the swim, bike and run), and maintain our basic endurance.

1. Strength Training

Developing greater muscular strength during the off-season should be a priority for almost every triathlete.  Incorporating strength training will improve efficiency in all three sports, improve workout recovery, and reduce the frequency and severity of injuries.  Next week’s article will provide details on the optimal off-season strength training program for triathletes.

2. Improve Technique

To perform better next year, most athletes need to make a significant change in technique.  Despite what many athletes believe, simply training more than you did this year isn’t really the key to success next year.  Many athletes, even advanced ones, should significantly alter technique to perform more efficiently.  Right now, early in the off-season, is the optimal time to undertake changes to technique.

During the racing season, the pressure of racing well prevents athletes from successfully making major changes.  Adjustments in technique almost always cause a check-mark shaped change in performance.  Immediately following the change, performance usually declines in the short term.  Mastering a new skill requires time and frequently emphasizes different muscles, which may not be conditioned for optimal performance.  After the athlete has had time to fully master the new skill and his muscles have been trained using the new technique, performance improves significantly.  Making such a change early in the off-season gives the athlete months to perfect the new techniques before they will be tested in competition.

Making technique changes early in the off-season also decreases the risk of injury.  Putting new stresses on the body’s tissues during periods of high volume and/or high intensity training is asking for trouble.  This time of year, most endurance athletes have reduced training mileage considerably and training intensity is the lowest of the year.  By the time training volume and intensity are increased for pre-season training, the tissues will have adapted to the new techniques.

Many future articles in this series will discuss technique in all three triathlon segments.  Following are some basic technique changes that triathletes could begin to learn now to improve next year’s performance.

3. Increase Torso Rotation in Swim Stroke

Efficient swimmers rotate their torsos further and faster than less advanced swimmers.  Maximizing torso rotation allows easier breathing, generates much of the power for propulsion, and puts the body in the water in a position to cut through the water instead of lowing through it.  More details about swim mechanics will come in future articles in this series, but this off-season, work on rotating your body more on every stroke and you will swim faster and more efficiently.

4. Increasing Cycling Cadence

Watching Lance Armstrong drop his competition so easily at the Tour de France using his high cadence pedaling style, many cyclists and triathletes decided to try increasing cadence for themselves each July.  Many of them find that increasing cadence leaves them out of breath instead of in front of their competitors. 

Increasing cadence will help improve most athletes’ cycling performance, but to do so requires preparation.   Increasing cadence is a long term project.  Start now. Once a rider has practiced it, high cadence pedaling will be easier on the legs than grinding in a bigger gear.  Regardless, sustained high cadence pedaling requires many hours of practice before it becomes more efficient than pushing a bigger gear.  Begin adapting your body to higher cadence riding now by using smaller gears at higher cadence for all your winter riding.  Increase gradually and give your legs time to adjust.  Purchasing a bike-computer with a cadence function is important as it will allow you to monitor your progress for just a few dollars. 

5. Reduce Running Stride Length and Increase Turnover

Most runners ignore technique, but I have found that even elite runners can improve performance significantly by changing to more efficient techniques.  In the past month alone, two athletes I coach have won World Championships.  Even at their level, we consistently work on perfecting running technique.  The benefits are even greater for beginners and intermediates.

Shorter and quicker strides lead to faster running times.  Start incorporating these techniques into your running now to allow your legs to learn to run this way efficiently before next season.  Shorter strides require less force at push-off and reduce the need for vertical displacement (up and down movement).

Attempting to pull the leg backward faster increases both turnover and stride length.  The result is such a high running speed that it will not be sustainable.  That is sprinting, not efficient distance running.  A better strategy for learning higher turnover running is to concentrate on quick leg recovery.  This increases turnover, but allows a slightly shorter stride.  Remember that you can decrease stride length by 15% if you increase turnover by 20% and still run faster (and be able to sustain it).  Make sure that there is no pause at the completion of the follow through and drive the knee forward quickly.

A metronome is a small electronic device that beeps at whatever speed you set it to.  Timing your foot-strike with the beeping can be a great way to monitor turnover and gradually accustom your legs to higher turnover.

More information about running technique is available in my book The Triathlete’s Guide to Run Training or on my video Evolution Running: Run Faster with Fewer Injuries.  Both are available at www.EvolutionRunning.com

Summary

This off-season, keep volume and intensity low for your swim, bike, and run workouts, but prioritize easy workouts concentrating on developing efficient techniques and strength training workouts.  When the season starts next spring you’ll be glad you did.

Do Guys Need to Shave for Triathlons

For years I have heard a variety of reasons why male triathletes shave their body hair and primarily their legs and I guess to some extent, they all have their place in the annals of “justification”.  

If you were to break down the triathlon into its three components, swim, bike and run, shaving is only considered necessary in two of the three: swimming and cycling.  And of these, cycling is the most common.  And because you are a triathlete, you now qualify for the label of “cyclist”.  This of course gives you the green light to shave your legs.  

Is Shaving Legs Only for Women?

For us guys, shaving our legs is a big step, especially for the first time! Nestled among our newfound lifestyle of cool bikes, hard-bodies, testosterone and ego mania, is this… “chick” thing… called shaving your legs.  

Although it is a “tri-thing” men can’t help but treat it like a “chick” thing… and become unglued at though of it!   Nowhere does this show more than we do the shopping at the grocery store. The innate act of grabbing razors and shaving cream off the shelves takes on a whole new meaning. We have now crossed the line.  

However, it won’t be long before this “chick thing’ becomes tradition.  Soon you will find yourself arguing with your mate as to who left the dull razor in the shower.   

Why Do Male Triathletes Shave?

And although I now perform this ritual once or twice a week, I am still seeking the real reason WHY?  After years of approaching cyclists with this question, about four reasons seem to come up the most:

1. Aerodynamics

With regards to cycling, this is one reason I have a hard time believing.  Shaving to become “aero” applies to swimmers primarily and we will touch on that in a moment. 

2. The Bike Crash

There’s an old adage that applies to cyclists and it goes something like this – “there are two types of cyclists, those that have fallen (wiped out) and those that will.”  If you have never experienced the pure joy of feeling your elbow, hip or the palms of your hand become one with the asphalt, then be patient…you will!  

Especially, if you plan on sticking with this sport. The more mileage you put on your bike, the higher the odds of you being inaugurated into this unfortunate club.  So, the shaved legs, I am told, helps the healing process – no hair to contribute to infection and Band-Aids peel off much easier.

3. The Rub-Down

I have heard that rubdowns and/or massages, are more effective when applied to a hairless leg.

4. Keeps You Cooler

Finally shaved legs are much cooler than hairy legs in the hot summer. 

Shaving Makes the Most Sense for Swimmers

Now for swimmers, shaving down has always been a tradition and is both physically and psychologically beneficial.  

Physically, most swimmers, men and women remain as hairy as possible throughout the most intense part of their training usually during the winter months.  That’s right, women too – specifically their legs.  

After a proper taper in preparation for a major swim meet, the swimmer will shave his/her legs, arms, back, and men will shave their chest and even their head. The removal of the body hair is said to reduce drag or water resistance allowing the swimmer to slip through the water and thus swim faster.  

But the real fact is, shaving for a swimmer is primarily psychological.  I have shaved my chest, arms, legs, and even my head twice and only a true swimmer can understand the feeling of diving into a 76-degree pool completely shaved… You feel immortal. 

So why do triathletes shave if they wear a wetsuit when they swim?

There really is no need.

And then I remembered something my old swim coach used to say and do.  As the winter season was coming to a close and spring was just around the corner (we used to swim outdoors year round), each afternoon just after we stretched and just prior to beginning workout, he would make us lay down on the deck to get a tan.

The reason?

And I quote, “because, when you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you swim good.”

Let’s face it…most of us keep our legs shaved throughout our triathlon training because it looks and feels pretty cool!  And yes, even the chicks dig it…once you sell them on the idea that you are a triathlete and throw in a few of those BS reasons mentioned above.  My wife sure doesn’t complain.

So, basically, shaving is an ego thing…and so what if it is!

I say, what the hell…

Keep your legs shaved, stir up some controversy, look cool, feel good and hall ass in your next race!

18 Week Sprint Distance Intermediate Training Plan

The following program is designed for the triathlete who is ready to take his or her performance in a Sprint Distance Triathlon to the next level. Furthermore, he/she has competed in several triathlons, perhaps even a season of triathlons. Unlike the Beginner Sprint Distance Training Program listed on this site, the Intermediate Program will be a substantial increase in effort. Even though the over-all race will take between 45 – 60 minutes (depending on the distance) your effort will really resemble more of a sprint then that performed by a beginner. It also takes into consideration the following: 1) the triathlete can run at least 6 miles for a long run or has trained for and competed in 5K or 10K road races 2) the triathlete can swim 1500-2000 yards three times per week and 3) the triathlete can ride at least 15 – 25 miles 3-4 times per week on the bike.

The first 12 weeks of the program is considered a base building phase gradually increasing mileage and yardage. A speedwork/quality phase makes up weeks 13-16 with weeks 17 and 18 dedicated to the taper. You will also notice three recovery weeks on weeks 4, 8 and 12. These are important. Stick to them. You will also notice, weeks 9 – 11 are maintenance – you will not move up but rather maintain the same regimen for three weeks. During the Speedwork/Quality phase you will be cutting back on the distances covered in each event while maintaining your overall endurance via one long run and bike during the week.

For the swims you can check out 8 swim workouts for advanced sprint training.

SwimBikeRun
Week 1   
Monday1000 yds. a.m. 30 min p.m. 
Tuesdays1000 yds. a.m 20 min p.m.
Wednesday 30 min. p.m. 
Thursday1000 yds. a.m 30 min p.m.
Friday   
Saturday  30 min a.m.
Sunday 30 min a.m. 
Week 2   
Monday1000 yds. a.m45 min  p.m. 
Tuesday1250 yds. a.m 20  min p.m.
Wednesday 30 min  p.m. 
Thursday1000 yds. a.m 30 min p.m.
Friday   
Saturday  35 min a.m.
Sunday 45 min  a.m. 
Week 3   
Monday1000 yds. a.m45 min  p.m. 
Tuesday1250 yds. a.m 20 min  p.m
Wednesday 45 min  p.m. 
Thursday1250 yds. a.m 35 min p.m
Friday   
Saturday  40 min a.m
Sunday 60  min  a.m. 
Week 4RecoveryRecoveryRecovery
Monday1000 yds. a.m30  min  p.m. 
Tuesday1000 yds. a.m 20 min p.m
Wednesday 30 min  p.m. 
Thursday1000 yds. a.m 30 min p.m
Friday   
Saturday  30 min a.m
Sunday 45 min  a.m. 
Week 5   
Monday1000 yds. a.m45 min  p.m. 
Tuesday1500 yds. a.m 25 min p.m
Wednesday 45 min  p.m. 
Thursday1250 yds. a.m 40 min p.m
Friday 30 min spin  p.m. 
Saturday  45  min a.m
Sunday 60 min  a.m. 
Week 6   
Monday1250 yds. a.m45 min  p.m. 
Tuesday1500 yds. a.m 30 min p.m
Wednesday 60 min  p.m. 
Thursday1500 yds. a.m 40 min p.m
Friday 45 min spin  p.m. 
Saturday  45  min a.m
Sunday 75 min  a.m. 
Week 7   
Monday 1250 yds. a.m45  min  p.m. 
Tuesday 1750 yds. a.m 30 min p.m
Wednesday 60 min  p.m. 
Thursday1500 yds. a.m 40  min p.m
Friday 45 min  spin  p.m. 
Saturday  50 min a.m
Sunday 90 min. a.m. 
Week 8RecoveryRecoveryRecovery
Monday1000 yds. a.m30 min  p.m. 
Tuesday1250 yds. a.m 20 min p.m
Wednesday 45 min   p.m. 
Thursday1250 yds. a.m 35 min p.m
Friday 30 min  spin  p.m. 
Saturday  40 min a.m
Sunday 60 min   a.m. 
Week 9   
Monday1250 yds. a.m60 min  p.m. 
Tuesday2000 yds. a.m 30 min p.m
Wednesday 60 min  p.m. 
Thursday1500 yds. a.m 45 min p.m
Friday 45 min  spin p.m. 
Saturday1000 yds. 60 min p.m
Sunday 90 min. a.m.20  min  p.m
Week 10   
Monday1500 yds. a.m60 min. p.m. 
Tuesday 2000 yds. a.m 30 min p.m
Wednesday 60 min. p.m. 
Thursday 1750 yds. a.m 45 min p.m
Friday 45 min. spin p.m. 
Saturday 1000 yds. 60  min a.m
Sunday 90 min. a.m.20 min  p.m
Week 11   
Monday 1500 yds. a.m60 min. p.m. 
Tuesday2000 yds. a.m 30 min p.m
Wednesday 60 min. p.m. 
Thursday1750 yds. a.m 45 min p.m
Friday 45 min. spin p.m. 
Saturday1000 yds. 60  min a.m
Sunday 90 min. a.m.20 min p.m
Week 12RecoveryRecoveryRecovery
Monday 1000 yds. a.m45 min. p.m. 
Tuesday 1500 yds. a.m 20 min p.m
Wednesday 45 min. p.m. 
Thursday1200 yds. a.m 30  min p.m
Friday 30 min. spin p.m. 
Saturday1000 yds. 45  min a.m
Sunday 60 min. a.m.20 min p.m
Week 13Speedwork andQuality
Monday 1500 yds. a.m60 min. p.m. 
Tuesday2000 yds. a.m Quality Day
Wednesday Quality Day 
ThursdayQuality Day a.m. 30 min p.m
Friday 45 min. p.m. 
Saturday 1000 yds. p.m 60 min a.m
Sunday 90  min. a.m.30 min. p.m
Week 14   
Monday1500 yds. a.m60 min. p.m. 
Tuesday2000 yds. a.m Quality Day
Wednesday Quality Day 
ThursdayQuality Day a.m. 30 min p.m
Friday 45  min. p.m. 
Saturday 1000 yds. 60 min a.m
Sunday 90 min. a.m.30 min p.m
Week 15   
Monday1500 yds. a.m60  min. p.m. 
Tuesday 2000 yds. a.m Quality Day
Wednesday Quality Day 
ThursdayQuality Day a.m. 30 min p.m
Friday 45 min. p.m. 
Saturday 1000 yds. 60 min a.m
Sunday 90 min. a.m.30 min. p.m
Week 16   
Monday 1500 yds. a.m60 min. p.m. 
Tuesday2000 yds. a.m Quality Day
Wednesday Quality Day 
ThursdayQuality Day a.m. 30 min p.m
Friday 45 min. p.m. 
Saturday 1000 yds. 60 min a.m
Sunday 90 min. a.m.30 min.p.m
Week 17Begin TaperBegin TaperBegin Taper
Monday   
Tuesday 2900 yds a.m. 60 min p.m
Wednesday 60 min. p.m. 
Thursday 1000 yds a.m. 30 min p.m
Friday 30  min. p.m. 
Saturday 1000 yds. 45 min p.m
Sunday 60  min. a.m. 
Week 18   
Monday 1500 yds a.m. 40 min p.m
Tuesday 45 min. p.m. 
Wednesday1000 yds30 min. p.m.30 min p.m
Thursday(Travel Day)(Travel Day)(Travel Day)
Friday15 min. easy15 min. spin10 min. run
SaturdayRace DayRace DayRace Day
Sunday Race Day Race Day Race Day 

The Different Triathlon Distances

There are four main distances for triathlons, starting with the shortest distance, the Sprint Triathlon, all the way to the longest official triathlon, the Ironman. The Half Ironman is sometimes called the 70.3 and the full Ironman is sometimes called 140.6 which represented the total kilometers of the race. Swimming is first, followed by the first transition (called T1), then on to the bike, followed by the second transition (called T2), and then finally a run to the finish!

RaceSwimBikeRun
Sprint0.5 mi (0.8k)15 mi (24k)3 mi (5k)
Olympic/International0.93 mi (1.5k)24.8 mi (40k)6.2 mi (10k)
Half Ironman1.2 mi (1.93k)56 mi (90k)13.1 mi (21k)
Ironman2.4 mi (3.9k)112 mi (180k)26.2 mi (42.2k)

Mileage does not include transitions, which can sometimes include a few extra yards running from one discipline to the other.

Sprint Triathlon

The sprint triathlon is a great starting point for beginners and also for more advanced triathletes looking to improve their time. This distance is one of the most popular given it’s broad reach and the ability for most people to do it. The swim can be done in either a pool or body of water such as a lake or ocean.

The average time for the sprint triathlon is under 1 hour for professional athletes and between 1 hour – 2 hours for amateur triathletes.

Olympic or International Triathlon

The Olympic or International triathlon is a standard competitive distance, and as the name suggests it’s the distance run in the Olympics and collegiate competitions.

The average time for the Olympic or international triathlon 2 hours or less for professionals and between 3 hours and 5 hours for amateurs.

Half Ironman Triathlon

The half Ironman distance

The average time to finish the Half Ironman is around 4 hours for pros and between 5 – 7 hours for amateurs.

Ironman Triathlon

The Ironman distance, aka the ‘Full Ironman’ is considered the epitome of the triathlon races, being the most popular long distance triathlon event.