Our editors and contributors share the best tips they’ve taken from Triathlete articles and have applied to their own training.
Every day, Triathlete editors and contributors compile the latest research, expert advice and innovative breakthroughs in the sport for readers. In addition to contributing to the overall body of knowledge in triathlon, many lessons inform our own approach as triathletes as well. We asked our staff and contributors for the most profound advice that changed their tri.
“If you have the miles in the bank, you don’t need to keep depositing all the time.”
Days before his 35th straight finish at the Hawaii Ironman, I got to sit down with former pro (and notorious excessive-ist) Ken Glah. His strategy for finishing one of the hardest events in the world for over three decades blew my mind.
Back in the ’90s Ken Glah was known to do crazy things like ride monster 600-mile cycling weeks, but in the years since, he’s taken a much more moderate approach that keeps him consistently qualifying for and finishing Ironman World Championship as an age grouper. Either due to his history of extreme training, his abnormally awesome physiology, or a combination of both, Glah is able to train no more than three to four weeks leading up to his qualifying race and the same amount leading up to Kona each year. The thing that makes him most feel his 55-year-old age? Sitting down.
“No one can tell age-groupers they’re not good enough, and that’s very freeing.”
Interviewing former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Joe Terry in Kona as he prepared to race the 2018 Ironman World Championship validated for me why so many age-groupers are drawn to triathlon. During our on-island sit-down, Terry admitted he doesn’t possess rare elite-level athletic talent. Despite his incredible work ethic, he was cut from the Seahawks after just one season. His then-coach Chuck Knox put it bluntly, “Terry, you’re one hell of a linebacker, but you’re not good enough to be in the NFL.”
Years later, Terry discovered triathlon and he’s as passionate about it now as he once was about football. The difference is no one can tell him he’s not good enough to tri. Like most age-groupers, the process—the training, pushing personal limits—is all that really matters to him.
There’s freedom in exercising our sport however we wish—be it slow, fast, young, or old—on whatever course we choose, whether it be a sanctioned race, or some backwoods secret sanctuary known only to us. No one can crush our spirit—we are in control.
“Things happen in training and in life we can’t control. But you can choose how to react—humor, gratitude, and compassion are always options.”
Editor in Chief
Our 2018 cover contest winner Julie Bockey has a lot to manage: two adult sons with autism, one with Type 1 diabetes, as well as her own Type 1 diabetes. But she has approached those challenges head-on, with self-compassion and humor. As triathletes it’s easy to be hard on ourselves. Maybe it comes from knowing we always have something to improve. But her story is an inspiring reminder to see potential setbacks as opportunities, and to be grateful to get to train, race, explore, and be a part of this community. It’s easy to forget that stuff during the day-to-day.
“The best way to run hills is to maintain intensity on the hills.”
Senior Digital Editor
Article: Efficient Running Up And Down Hills In Triathlons
This actually came from an article that Senior Editor Jené Shaw wrote for the magazine and then was published online. In the piece, she looked at a study from the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport that showed athletes competing in the Ironman World Championship who maintained faster relative speeds on the downhill sections of the course, and who had smaller changes in heart rate between consecutive up and downhills, were more successful relative to their goal times.
This has been eye opening to me and has changed the way I think about tackling hills. Instead of thinking of the downhills as an opportunity to recover, I’ve worked at getting stronger (and steadier) on the uphills so that the downhills are an opportunity to excel.
“A little kicking and bilateral breathing is OK.”
I’ve been a swimmer for 30 years and a swim coach for 15, and sometimes I like to think I know all there is to know about swim technique because that’s how most swimmers and swim coaches operate. When I do need help with a swim article, my two go to sources are Cliff English and Gerry Rodriques. I’ve worked with both of them long enough to know that they’re much smarter than me. The purpose of this article was to address common issues for all levels of swimmers, and I came away from writing it committed to digging my long-lost fins out of a closet and to breathe bilaterally during warm-up and cool-down. I’ve stuck with both for more than a year now, and now my kick has gone from none-existent to almost-visible, and I’ve alleviated some hip pain by occasionally breathing to my right.
“Think smarter, not harder, with your swim training!”
Julia Beeson Polloreno
Contributor, Former Editor in Chief
Article: The Most Effective Way To Become A Better Swimmer
Having a video analysis of my stroke was a game-changer for my swim. I’m a visual learner, and it helped immensely to be able to play back footage of my stroke to see and understand the very nuanced movements that happen while swimming. I had multiple ‘a-ha!’ moments in the process of identifying my inefficiencies and technique mistakes. A very worthy investment of time and money!
“Strength training is key to bouncing back post-baby.”
Contributor, Women’s Running Managing Editor
Article: Sarah Haskins: Back in Full Swing
Well, duh, I’ve written/read/edited tons of stories over the years that talk about the importance of making strength training a priority in triathlon training, but I found it to be especially important with all the changes your body goes through during and after pregnancy. Even with the time challenges of now juggling daycare, work schedule and workouts, I was able to achieve breakthroughs in my workouts and races by adding weekly yoga (offered at our office) and other short exercises.
It clicked when I was talking to Sarah Haskins, who was saying yoga had been so huge for her after having her daughter, and I realized that was where I could attribute my own post-pregnancy breakthroughs.
“Choose what you eat (and when you eat it) wisely.”
I find a good grass-fed piece of lean sirloin 2 nights before a big race is my go-to. Since red meat is a little harder on the digestive system, I don’t like to eat it the night before a race, especially if the start is early in the morning. Two days out gives you all the benefits of an iron rich piece of protein but allows your digestive system time to process it.
The night prior to a race I focus on a higher carb and fat meal, low in fiber, so there is lots in the tank the next day. Simple carbs like white pasta, artisan bread (non-whole grain) or white rice are easily digested. Having some butter on the bread, cheese in the pasta, or even having something like pizza or ravioli seems to provide sustained energy the next day.
“There is always something to learn.”
Resident Swim Expert
The biggest thing I learned was that there are more topics related to swimming than I ever imagined. I originally signed on to write for Triathlete for one year and coming up with a topic for 12th month was quite a challenge. I had a moment of panic when they sent me a contract for another year!
So, six years later, and with many topics and articles behind me, I now have a stronger understanding of how many swimming-related lessons there are for a non-swimmer. It has helped me as a writer, a coach, and as a swimmer to appreciate all the little things I take for granted.
“Belief is the absence of negativity.”
Article: Quotes from the 2013 Ironman Championship Pro Panel
I was covering the 2013 Ironman 70.3 Championships in Henderson, Nev. That year, Heather Wurtele was having her best season yet—her run speed seemingly appeared overnight, and she had this great new confidence radiating from her. Naturally, I wanted to know her secret. Her answer surprised me:
“It’s not so much an increase in my self-esteem as it is that I’m easier on myself. Belief is the absence of negativity.”
For so long, Wurtele (who is 6’2”) was told she was too tall to be a fast runner, and she believed it. When she decided to tune out the negativity (on the sidelines and in her head), she started kicking ass and taking names. It’s a small, but effective change in mindset—removing the negativity really does make a difference.
“Train your blind spots.”
Contributor, Former Senior Editor
Article: Eliminate Your Cycling Weaknesses
From Endurance Corner founder Gordo Byrn: You have to figure out your blind spots and train those. Sometimes it takes an objective outsider to make you realize where you’re lacking and then make you work on those things.
Gordo is full of smart nuggets and lessons he’s learned from using himself as a triathlon guinea pig. The blind spots thing is something he learned from working with Scott Molina and Dave Scott, and also speaks to the importance of finding a good coach.
Ultimately, I think it made me look at my weaknesses in a different way and be conscientious of having a variety of tools in the triathlon toolbox. My takeaways from interacting with Gordo and doing a training camp with him is that there is no one perfect training method—don’t be afraid to test things out on yourself.