10 Triathlon Training Secrets from 10 TriDot Coaches
January 16, 2023

Looking for triathlon tips you won’t find anywhere else? On today’s episode, 10 TriDot coaches chime in with their best tip to take your training to the next level. How might Kaizen methodology improve your triathlon performance? What can your hip adductors tell you about your training? Are you building capillary beds in your feet? You don't want to miss these unique pieces of wisdom!

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Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together.

Andrew Harley: Welcome to the TriDot podcast! Really cool episode today, where we will hear ten tri training tips from ten different TriDot coaches. I reached out to ten of our coaches who are not usually on the podcast, and challenged them to send me a training tip that maybe isn’t commonly talked about, something next-level per se, something that they tell their own coached athletes that they don’t think an athlete would necessarily hear emphasized anywhere else. I am amped to hear what they’ve come up with. We’re going to listen to their prerecorded tips, and then a few of us here on the show will reflect on what they shared. Joining us for this is TriDot media contributor, Vanessa Ronksley. Vanessa has been a TriDot Ambassador since 2020 and has a background in education. She works for the University of Calgary as a project manager. She’s from Calgary, Canada originally, but is currently living in Sidney, Australia with her family. She contributes to TriDot media as Vanessa, the Average Triathlete with Elite-Level Enthusiasm. Vanessa, thanks for joining us for the full episode today!

Vanessa Ronksley: Thanks Andrew! This sounds like a super-fun podcast, and I’m really pumped to be here and chat about these training tips.

Andrew: Also with us is TriDot coach Jeff Raines. Jeff is a USAT Level 2 and IRONMAN U certified coach, who has a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, and was a D1 collegiate runner. He has over fifty IRONMAN event finishes to his credit, and has coached hundreds of athletes to the IRONMAN finish line. Hey there, Jeff!

Jeff Raines: What’s up Andrew! I’m ready for another next-level podcast! Also, it’s my first official podcast with Vanessa. Like you said just a second ago, it’s her first full episode, and I am super-pumped that I get to experience it with her.

Andrew: I’m Andrew the Average Triathlete, Voice of the People and Captain of the Middle of the Pack. As always, we’ll roll through our warmup question, settle in for our main set topic, and then wind things down with Vanessa and I both sticking around for the cooldown.

Before we get too deep into the show today, I want to give a shout out to our good friends at UCAN. Here at TriDot we are huge believers in using UCAN to fuel our training and racing. In the crowded field of nutrition companies, what separates UCAN from the pack is the science behind LIVSTEADY, the key ingredient in UCAN products. While most energy powders are filled with sugar or stimulants that cause a spike and crash, UCAN energy powders, powered by LIVSTEADY, deliver a steady release of complex carbs to give you stable blood sugar and provide long-lasting energy. I personally fuel many of my workouts with the orange-flavored Edge gel and the unflavored UCAN Energy. Between their energy mix, energy bars, almond butter, and more, there is definitely a LIVSTEADY product that you will love. So head to their website, ucan.co and use the code TRIDOT to save 20% on your entire order. That’s ucan.co, promo code TRIDOT.

Warm up theme: Time to warm up! Let’s get moving.

Andrew: Riding a tandem bike offers a similar but different experience from riding a standard solo bike, allowing you to share the effort and share the fun with a fellow cyclist. For our warmup question today, if you were going for a ride on a tandem bike and could choose anyone and anywhere to share the experience with, who are you riding with, and where are you cycling? Vanessa!

Vanessa: Wow. I have actually ridden a tandem bike with my husband PJ, and we had so much fun! We had a really great time, but he wanted to be the captain and I like to be in control, so I’m not choosing him. I’m actually going to choose my son Ethan and my daughter Eliana. They actually make these triplet bikes for three riders. I had to look it up, but I wanted to make sure I included both my kids because they both really like riding their bikes just as much as I do. I would take them to New Zealand, and I can just picture us riding all day long through the hills dotted with tiny little sheep, and of course next to the ocean, and obviously we’d be stopping at all the bakeries along the way. I’ve dreamed of doing a family bike ride around New Zealand, so this would be perfect for the three of us. Obviously PJ can come too; he will be the designated pack horse. I’ll carry the kids on the back of the bike, and he can carry all our stuff.

Andrew: Yeah, let him ride solo. Let him be the captain of his own bike, and he just has all the packs, gear, food, and snacks!

Vanessa: Exactly!

Andrew: Jeff Raines, what is this answer for you? Tandem bike, where are you riding and who are you riding with?

Jeff: A lot of this depends on who’s Maverick and who’s Goose. Kind of what Vanessa said, it depends on whoever’s going to lead. But actually you got me thinking, Vanessa, I’m actually a triplet. I’ve got a brother and a sister, and if it was a three-person bike, then I’d have to say my triplet siblings and I on a bike. I’ve actually dreamed of the day where the three of us do a triathlon relay together. My sister is actually an endurance athlete and she’s done multiple IRONMANs, but not my brother. He's the one that we’ve really got to convince to get him in there, but that would be super cool if the three of us did a tri. But my true answer has got to be my wife and I. Our best times, our best memories, and our favorite things to do is train and race together. We actually did our first IRONMAN together hip-to-hip, obviously we leap-frogged the bike and legal drafted the bike.

Andrew: Cuties!

Jeff: But it’s been like, seven years because we have a two, four, and sixyear-old, so we haven’t gotten to do that in years. So I would love to do an IRONMAN or maybe half with her, and we’d do the bike together on the tandem, that would just be awesome. And it would have to be overseas; I think Challenge Roth would be awesome to ride a tandem.

Vanessa: Sounds like Andrew might be joining you at that race! Isn’t that his dream race?

Jeff: Ooh, that’s right! That’s his next full!

Andrew: Y’all are just trying to start rumors in TriDot Nation, is what’s happening here. Maybe one day eventually, it’s not on the plans yet that’s for sure. My answer here is interesting. All three of us are really leaning towards family for this activity. For me, my answer is my wife Morgan. Morgan is not a cyclist, but she is very adventurous. I would want to take her on a tandem bike around the loop that we did at the TriDot Ambassador Camp at St. George, where we go through Snow Canyon, up the climb at the end of Snow Canyon, and then back around to the resort where we stayed. Beautiful loop, beautiful scenery, there’s no loop like that one in the world. I’ve been to St. George now three different times on behalf of TriDot, and have not been able to take Morgan with me. I would love for her to see the scenery there in Southern Utah, it’s the coolest town, a beautiful town. So I’d take her there, have a nice dinner in St. George, and take her on a tandem bike through Snow Canyon and up the famous Snow Canyon climb. That would be a really cool way to share my love of cycling with her, and I think she would enjoy that particular loop, so that’s my answer here. We’re going to throw this out to our TriDot audience like we always do. Make sure you are a member of the I AM TriDot Facebook group. We have triathletes talking swim, bike, and run every single day of the week in that Facebook group. Find the post asking you, if you were going out on a tandem bike ride, who would you want to ride with, and where would you go?

Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1…

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There is an absurd amount of multisport wisdom in the TriDot coaching family. I don’t know if you all realize it, but at the moment that we’re recording this podcast, there are close to a hundred active TriDot coaches all over the world. Some are full-time on our staff, some are full-time triathlon coaches, but they are independent and have their own coaching company. Some are pro triathletes, some are part-time coaches with another job of some sort. Some are TriDot Ambassadors that just wanted to give back to the tri community with their knowledge of TriDot and triathlon. With this podcast we intentionally keep the circle of voices that you hear a little tighter; without being able to see us chatting week to week, I just want to keep some form of familiarity with the voices that you hear. So I’m really excited, as we launch the TriDot Triathlon YouTube show here in just a few weeks, that we’ll be able to bring more coaches on, so you can meet them, see them, and learn from their expertise. But today on the podcast we’re going to get a little glimpse of what wisdom our coaches have to offer. We’ll hear ten different TriDot coaches give us a next-level tri training tip, and then Vanessa and Jeff and I will discuss what each of them have to say. So Vanessa, Jeff, we have never done something like this on the podcast before. What are you two hoping to hear today from the coaches that we’ve invited to share?

Vanessa: I’m hoping to hear some little gold nuggets of information that I can use in my own training, because some days I feel like I need all the help that I can get, that’s for sure. I think that I’m actually going to write them down and pull one out of a pile before each week of training, then have that be the intention for the week. Doesn’t that sound fun?

Andrew: That does sound fun! It sounds productive, it sounds very Vanessa, I love it! Maybe some other people will jump on that bandwagon and do that as well. Jeff Raines, what are you hoping to get out of this experience?

Jeff: First of all, Vanessa’s answer was next-level, and she gets cool points and bonus points and teacher’s-pet points for that answer. That is super awesome. Me personally, I’m just hoping to hear some of the things that we tend to purposely ignore, maybe even some of the things that are uncomfortable to hear, and uncomfortable to implement or do in our day-to-day. There’s so many things that we know we should do but we tend to ignore, or touch on it a little bit and move on, and not just really dive into. So I guess you could say that I want to feel uncomfortable today, Andrew.

Andrew: Yeah, let’s see if our coaches stretch you, Jeff, and stretch Vanessa and me, and our athletes listening out of our comfort zones. Let’s get rolling and see what our coaches have to say! So Tip #1, this comes to us from TriDot coach Matt Sommer. Matt is the fitness director at Alamance Country Club in Burlington, North Carolina. He has been coaching with TriDot since 2018. Let’s hear what training tip Coach Matt has for us.

Matt Sommer: Hi, this is coach Matt Sommer with a next-level tri training tip for you. One thing I’m constantly having to remind my athletes is that we need to embrace our recovery with as much zeal and effort as we do our training sessions. All too often, we get done with a training session and we have to rush off to the next thing. That does not put us in a position for success for future training sessions. I like to remind my athletes that it’s important that we take about five to ten minutes after all sessions to focus on recovery. That could look like static or dynamic stretching, percussion massage, Normatecs, an ice bath, or a multitude of other things. And it doesn’t stop there. One thing I also like to remind them is that we need to make sure we’re getting adequate sleep and nutrition. That’s the ultimate recovery. Now if you have access to other tools such as Normatec recovery boots, dry needling, massage, those can also assist and facilitate appropriate recovery. I also like to remind all my athletes that it’s important that we listen to the body when it whispers, so it doesn’t have to yell at us. I know that sounds like a pretty simple thing, but all too often we find ourselves not listening to our bodies. Sometimes you need to listen. First thing in the morning, if something doesn’t feel right, it's probably not going to get better throughout the day. So maybe take that as a cue that we need to either regress a training session intensity, or even shorten the intensity or duration of a training session, or even have to skip that training session. Well, one thing I’ve learned over the years is to listen to your body.

Andrew: Matt was getting all up in my business on this one, because I am very slow to miss a workout. When I’m really in that training rhythm I hate missing a run, I hate missing a bike. I’m pretty good about going down to the pool. I am very quick to talk myself out of spending those twenty minutes upstairs doing some stretching, or spending those thirty minutes doing strength work on a Tuesday after a bike session or whatever. Matt’s mindset of “the other stuff”, the recovery stuff, the strength stuff, all of that supports the fun stuff. It’s not necessarily fun to go lay on a floor for thirty minutes and do some stretching. It’s fun to go out my front door and go for a run. But that 30minute stretching session supports the 30minute stuff that I want to do, and my body is a body that, if I don’t stay on top of my recovery like Matt is reminding us to, if I don’t stay intentional with it my body very quickly will start whispering at me, “Hey, we’ve got some tightness, we’ve got some problems,” and that whispering will turn into yelling just like Matt’s talking about if I don’t address it. So Matt is up in my grill with this reminder, straight up at the top of the episode. Good stuff from Matt. It’s good to stay on top of the other stuff, stay on top of the recovery, and be as mindful with the recovery as we are with the training itself. Vanessa, what did you get here listening to Matt?

Vanessa: Before I started doing triathlon, I had very set hours that I would complete workouts and training in other sports, and the recovery was completely built into that time. It would be dedicated by a coach who’d say, “Hey, this next 20 minutes you’re going to be stretching and doing whatever.” It was also a very social aspect of training, which is something that you don’t get when you’re training on your own all the time. So it was definitely the first thing that I cut from all of my training sessions, and for the first few years of my triathlon life, I was battling injury after injury, and it was this cyclical pattern.

Andrew: You’re like, “Why can’t I stay healthy?”

Vanessa: Exactly. I would get injured, I’d go to physio, I’d rehab, I would be fine for about six weeks. Then I’d get injured, go to physio, and rehab. It was ultimately because I was not recovering properly, and I had some body imbalances that had to be sorted out. So this definitely is an amazing concept, I love what he said. I’m going to have to break down everything that he did say into about five different weeks of little notes for myself, because there were so many pieces of information that one could focus on in there. There’s like, ten weeks’ worth of training intention, which is totally awesome.

Andrew: Well buckle up Vanessa, because that was Next Level Tri Training Tip #1, and we’ve got nine more to go. That was great stuff from Matt, we’re moving on to #2 from coach Brandy Ramirez from Kingman, Arizona. She is the president and CEO of SheStrong, Inc., and is the race director for the Monarch Triathlon SuperHalf. She’s been coaching with TriDot since 2020, and has already become a great member of the community. Here is what Coach Brandy has to say.

Brandy Ramirez: Hi, this is Coach Brandy, and my tip for you is to be kind to yourself. Maybe in your workout yesterday you didn’t feel strong. Maybe you could not hold that Zone 4 for the scheduled time, or your threshold felt weak. Maybe you could not even get your workout in because, well, life happened. Whether it was work, your spouse, your kids, whatever the reason, at the end of the day there was just no time left to train. This happens, and in that moment you need to be kind to yourself. Do not try and double up your next training, do not beat yourself up over it, and do not stress out over it. Leave it in the past where it belongs. Today is a new day, a day to make gains and improve. We all have that voice inside, and most times that voice is pretty destructive. Change that voice. The brain is a powerful tool. Positive thoughts and continued positive reinforcement will turn into positive output, so be kind to yourself.

Andrew: Vanessa, what do you think about Coach Brandy reminding us to be kind to ourselves?

Vanessa: I think Coach Brandy needs to make that a meditation and post it on YouTube, because everything she said was like, “Yes. I’ve done that, I do that, I do that, I do that.” Yeah, I’m in a place right now in my training where I’m really struggling on the bike, and I do all of those things. I’m not hitting my Zone 4 for the duration of the period of time, I have to stop during my bikes to catch my breath and have my legs stop screaming at me, and one of the things I have NOT been doing is being kind to myself. So I think that’s a really impactful statement that she is saying, and something that most people in triathlon can definitely work on, because we all like to perform our best at all times. It kind of goes hand-in-hand with that Type A personality. I think that’s very powerful, and something I’m definitely going to need to work at and be mindful of.

Andrew: Like you said Vanessa, triathletes typically are very driven people. We typically set goals, have races on the calendar, we have certain swim, bike, and run dots, our certain paces and thresholds we want to get to. And yeah, sometimes with that, we can be very hard on ourselves, and we can make it very difficult on ourselves to process a day where it didn’t go to plan, or a session that didn’t necessarily go how we wanted it to. Listening to Brandy, I thought back to my days as a competitive tennis player. One lesson that I always took out of growing up playing tennis, is you have to have a short memory. In tennis you can play a point, you can lose the point, you can totally whiff on a shot, you can totally miss a shot, the other opponent can play better than you within that point. But as soon as that point’s over, you go back to the service line and start a new point, and if your head is still dwelling on what happened in the point that just happened, that’s only going to negatively impact you on the next point. So you’ve got to put whatever happened on that point to the side and move on to the next one. If you lose a game – great, there’s another game about to start, and you’ve got to be in the moment, in the point that you’re playing right now. It’s kind of that way with our triathlon training. You have to be in the session that you’re in right now. And guess what, if a certain run session doesn’t go according to plan and you just don’t nail it, or Vanessa, what you’re talking about, I have a bike session where my legs just didn’t have the juice they needed today – cool, learn from it, but don’t dwell on it. Move on to the next day, move on to the next workout, and be kind to yourself like Brandy suggests. Give yourself a chance to right it and make up for it tomorrow. I’ve thought of that many times as Brandy was talking there.

Going to Vanessa’s coach, this is Coach Ryan Tibball for Tip #3. Ryan is from Keller, Texas and is a respiratory therapist by trade. He was a guest on Podcast Episode .48, which was called “O2, VO2, and You: Improving Respiratory Fitness for Better Health and Performance”. Ryan has been coaching with TriDot since 2015. Here is his Next-Level Tri Training Tip.

Ryan Tibball: Hey TriDot family! I’m Ryan Tibball, TriDot Business Coach and Triathlon Coach, and today I want to talk about mobility, especially as it pertains to your training. As triathletes we can be really stuck in seated positions at work, and then on top of that, we’re on our tri bikes, etc. So a lot of times, what we ignore are our adductors, the inside of your thighs. Something I really focus on with my triathletes is I have them really get honed in on the inside of their thighs, those adductors, because those adductors are very strong, very engaged throughout your cycling as well as your running mechanics. What happens is, if those get tight, then your IT bands on the other side are affected, especially the lateral side of your quads, etc. So you look at the opposite side, which is the inside of those thighs. A foam roller is a good way to start working on those adductors, getting them used to that pressure that you may be putting on them to increase the flexibility and mobility of those muscles. Then you can move on from that to using PVC pipe. It’s a little bit harder, but again a little bit more aggressive, so as you progress forward in your journey in your mobility, those get better. Along with that, working on the mobility of your adductors can improve your hip mobility, which is another big thing that we use as movers in the sport of triathlon. Also activating the glute medius in particular, the smaller muscle in that glute area, by doing dynamic glute medius-type stretching routines prior to your running, prior to your biking, even prior to swimming. These are so important, and such a big hip stability-type muscle. I do really emphasize this as, arguably, one of the fourth or fifth disciplines of our sport. Work on the mobility of the adductors, work on the mobility of your glute medius. It's something that, if you do on a regular, consistent routine, you will start to notice improvements in your disciplines specifically.

Andrew: Coach Ryan getting real sciencey there with the biology of some key spots on the human body, encouraging us to work on our mobility. Coach Jeff, what’d you think here?

Jeff: I immediately thought back to Dr. BJ Leeper, and that podcast episode where he was really honing in on the difference between mobility and stability. What those are, how they’re differentiated, and how people misconceive those. Ryan is absolutely right that mobility should be that fifth or sixth aspect of our sport. Swim, bike, run, we got nutrition, strength, and then mobility, so we’ll call it the sixth. But if the strength isn’t there, most likely the mobility isn’t either. More importantly, the mobility kind of needs to be there before you start trying to add stability or strength around that. The first things to go are hip flexors, the adductors, abductors, and the glutes. In triathletes especially, everything is in that sagittal plane that we’ve talked about before. Swimming, your legs go up and down. Biking, they’re up and down in that twodimensional plane so to speak, and running is the same. So anything that provides that lift and/or side-to-side movement that would use those hip flexors, glutes, adductors, abductor positions. First we’ve got to have the mobility, the range of motion. We’ve got wake that up, we’ve got to really hone in on that. Then we want to build strength around that, and that’s muscular endurance. By the time we get off the bike and still have a big run to do, we’re going into that run portion kind of trashed, kind of beat up, tight, tired, and we still have the big and arguably hardest effort to go, and the first things to go is the mobility and the range of motion. The hip flexors get tight, we lose the knee drive. Now we don’t travel as far in each step that we take, and the human body has to compensate. It subconsciously does that, especially midrace. The last thing you’re thinking about is, “Did I lose two millimeters on my knee drive because I have a weak left glute, and the left glute means the opposite right-side hip drop, and I’m losing two millimeters per stride?” It’s crazy.

Andrew: I think that, word-for-word. Yep, absolutely. Jeff, it’s really funny, ever since I heard you point that out, I’ve noticed that’s the part of the leg that starts giving out first in a race. There’s always a point at every single race, particularly half-IRONMAN and above, where I feel that muscle start going, and I’m like, “Yep, there it is, Jeff told me this was coming. There it goes!” I just love the way Ryan pointed out at the end of that tip how improving mobility and stability doesn’t have to be something that takes you a ton of time, it doesn’t have to be something that is super intensive. A few key movements that you do consistently throughout your workout week for just a little bit of time can go a long, long way. That’s certainly been the case for me whenever I do actually do my homework here and do the moves that I’m supposed to. You’ll find within a matter of weeks, man, it really makes a difference in how your body feels in your workouts if you add some mobility and some stability into your routine. Moving on to Tip #4, this is TriDot coach Kurt Madden. Kurt has made a few appearances on the podcast. He’s a legend of the sport, who has been racing since the late 70’s and coaching with TriDot since 2018. We’ve heard a ton of wisdom from Kurt on the podcast, but I’m excited to hear what his Next Level Tri Tip is. Let’s check it out.

Kurt Madden: This is Coach Madden, and I wanted to give all of our listeners a few Next-Level Tri Training Tips. You know, over the years I’ve learned and embraced the mantra of kaizen. Kaizen simply means continuous improvement in small, sequential steps. What I like about kaizen is it can be applied to any aspect of your life. The next time you go into Trader Joe’s, which is one of my favorite stores, you really want to keep that in your back pocket. You’re cruising through the store, you go to the checkout, and typically the person at the checkout register will ask you, “Did you find everything?” And you might want to share, “You know, I did – wait just a minute, the one thing I couldn’t find was kaizen.” I would only predict that you’re going to get an immediate response, because at Trader Joe’s they have embraced kaizen as one of their core values. As you look at where you are right now in your journey as a triathlete, remember the kaizen mantra. It will really give you much more meaning, it will elevate your engagement level for all of your training sessions, especially as you’re doing your warmup and cooldown drills. The next thing is the kaizen mantra will allow you to really optimize your nutritional routine, because you’re always taking that mindset of, “What can I do to improve just a little bit more as I’m fueling and getting my body prepared for this day and the next day?” The kaizen mantra will also give you awesome results with your recovery sessions, because it’ll make you think, “How can I continuously improve with my recovery?” when you're going from one training session to the next. Then I think what I’d like to close with is really, when you actually model what the kaizen mantra means, that continuous improvement in all aspects of your life is really going to inspire someone else to improve something that they’re doing. They might not have the confidence, or they might be thinking, “Hey, I’m plateauing out,” but this will definitely give them time to reflect, and inspire them to do bigger and better things. In closing, thank you so much. I want to wish everyone the very, very, very best in your upcoming training seasons, and I look forward to watching everyone learn and grow and do great things.

Andrew: I always like it when I have something in common with Kurt Madden. At the Harley household we also like Trader Joe’s. We do a majority of our grocery shopping at Central Market here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but we very often swing by Trader Joe’s for a few little items as well to go in the pantry. So Kurt teaching us about kaizen – that he and Trader Joe’s have dear to their hearts – I had not heard of this term before, continuously improving in small, sequential steps. Vanessa, what’d you think?

Vanessa: I think that I need to have a Trader Joe’s to go to, because that sounds like a wonderful business model. There are no Trader Joe’s here in Australia, and there are no Trader Joe’s in Calgary where I live, but it sounds like a really amazing place to shop, that’s for sure. But I think what Kurt has said is a really important tip to be able to execute. That is, to look at the small improvements that we get on a day-to-day basis. They may be so small that we don’t even recognize that we’ve had an improvement, so I think that is super important to look at the big picture, and maybe look at things month-by-month as opposed to each session. I can say for sure, what he’s saying about people sharing that they’ve had these bouts of training plateau or something like that, and they share that they overcome it – I find that is on hundred percent exemplified, and it occurs all of the time on the I AM TriDot Facebook page. It is so wonderful to be able to go there and to read what someone has said about, “Hey, I haven’t improved in my swim for a year, and now all of a sudden I’m dropping seconds like there’s no tomorrow.” To see those kinds of posts is just so uplifting, and it makes you feel like, “Okay, if I’m there too, then I can definitely get myself to where this person is, and seeing these improvements.” It’s just so valuable to have that community support aspect of the TriDot page, and to reignite your passion about using each training session as one of those small little steps to eventually realizing your bigger goals. I think that this is a really great training tip, and it does take time. We’re an endurance sport, and it takes time to see those improvements. They’re not going to happen right away necessarily. I know for myself, I like to see big improvements all the time, so when I don’t see those big improvements, sometimes it’s a little bit disheartening. But it’s really important to take a step back and see those small improvements, and that consistency is where the magic actually happens.

Andrew: That’s so true. As Kurt was talking, I was thinking how in the cycling world we talk about marginal gains, and that’s the concept of a lot of small improvements to your bike setup that can make a big difference on race day. You buy a more aero set of front brakes and that saves you 3 watts, and you use a wax lubricant instead of an oil lubricant and that saves you 5 watts, and you use latex inner tubes instead of butyl inner tubes and that saves you 3 watts per wheel. All of a sudden, three small purchases that make you just a pinch faster add up to 20 watts on the bike. It’s this concept of marginal gains. In the bike world, with aerodynamics and watt savings, we can quantify it. It’s a lot harder to quantify taking small sequential steps in your training or your recovery or in your nutrition, and it’s hard to quantify how those actually save you time on race day, but Coach Kurt is exactly right. We know that if we make a lot of small improvements over time, we’re definitely going to see improvement as athletes and as people.

Moving on to our next tip, this is Tip #5. I want to introduce the podcast audience to Coach Jen Reinhart. Jen is a multisport legend in the Austin, Texas area, and has been coaching athletes for over 40 years. She is often a topranked IRONMAN athlete for her age group, and is a seven-time Kona finisher. She has been coaching with TriDot since 2017.

Jen Reinhart: Hi TriDot athletes, Coach Jen here, with how I make those Zone 2 easy rides more interesting on the trainer. With winter approaching, we’re all doing most of our riding inside now. The first thing is, if you ride a different bike on your indoor trainer than you race on outside, make sure that the setups are as close as possible, so that you’re in the correct position riding inside. On Zone 2 rides, I really like to play with my heart rate zones to see how much cadence and moving around position affect my heart rate. It’s surprising that when I sit up to take a drink, I can see my heart rate go up by as much as five beats. I also like to see how quickly I can recover my heart rate back down to midpoint when it starts to rise up, so taking watts off, taking watts on. On a good day I’ll be able to increase those watts even above my Zone 2 watts and still be great on heart rate, and on bad days I just dial it back, spin out my legs, get a good recovery session in. If you’re moving around a lot on your bike and you’re not able to stay in aero, that’s a lot of wasted watts, so now’s a good time to be making sure that your fit is proper. As I age, I know my flexibility has changed, and I’ve got to change my position with that, lose a little bit of the high-end aero to make it more comfortable, so that I’m moving around less. I hope that helps out some. Enjoy your training, look forward to talking to some of you at some point.

Andrew: Jeff Raines, I know you worked with Jen Reinhart at Austin Aquatics in Austin, Texas for a number of years, and have a close relationship with her. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Jen these last couple of years at different TriDot functions. What’d you think of Coach Jen and her tips on making the indoor Zone 2 rides more interesting?

Jeff: Coach Jen is awesome. I worked with her for a number of years in Austin, side-by-side. She is my coach, I’m her coach currently, so we’re in constant communication. We’re buddies, and when she has something to say, I definitely am at attention and listen up. I love this wisdom, and I use this. We say be intentional during workouts and stuff like that, but I’ve encouraged my athletes to have a workout within the workout. That can be a number of things, and you can look at it a number of ways, but being intentional. Yeah, you can automate Zone 2, download it, do the workout in erg mode, and just don’t stop pedaling for an hour. You get a hundred TrainX score, great. But be intentional and have a workout within the workout, pick one or two things like Jen said. Like the night before, while you’re laying out your gear, getting ready for tomorrow, maybe you’re going to download that workout into Zwift or whatever, but pick two things. Maybe you’re going to play around with, “Maybe I want to go upper Zone 2, and I want to go low cadence, and just see what my heart rate does. Maybe I want to go low Zone 2, almost Zone 1, and go high cadence and see what my heart rate does.” Because even on race day, pushing your goal watts, if your cadence is 20 rpms too high or 20 rpms too low, your heart rate’s going to respond different. There’s a cadence game that you can play. Before just clicking a bunch of gears easier if your heart rate’s high and losing 3 miles per hour or whatever, maybe you click a gear harder, but you drop the cadence by eight and now you're spinning your legs less fast, and maybe the heart rate settles a bit. That’s just an example, and there’s right and wrong ways to do that. But I love Coach Jen’s response. Having a workout or a purpose inside of that workout and being intentional during it makes time go by better, but also makes you a better athlete.

Vanessa: I think Jen is totally amazing. I had the opportunity to meet her.

Andrew: She’s so cool.

Vanessa: I know, she’s just the greatest. Every time she opens her mouth, something amazing comes out, and it always turns into a triathlon conversation, and there’s always these pearls of wisdom that she shares. I had the opportunity to meet her at the Ambassador Camp last year, and I remember sitting near her on one of the buses that we took. She was just feeding me all of this knowledge, and it was just so great. Hearing her say this about the Zone 2 rides, it really resonates with me. I’m not one of those people that listens to music or watches anything while I’m doing any kind of workout, because I like to be present and intentional. It’s funny though, because I often don’t know what to be intentional about, so what she had to say in terms of what to think about when you’re riding, that’s going to be really valuable. Like you said, I’m going to be choosing one of those things every week to focus on during that Zone 2 session. I think it’s important to notice what cadence your body is going to perform best at, because not everyone is going to have that low heart rate at 90 rpms versus 80 rpms versus 78 rpms. I think it’s important to utilize that time to figure that out, and that’s exactly what I’m gonna do this week on my Zone 2 ride. I have one today, so I’m going to actually start thinking about, “Oh, watch your heart rate when you do this with your kids.” It’s like a little game. You can turn it into a game, and then you don’t need to be entertained.

Andrew: The workout within the workout, as Coach Jeff says. Let’s go back-to-back Texas coaches here, from Coach Jen in Austin to Coach Kyle Stone in Houston. Kyle came on the show for Episode .161 after finishing his very first IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, qualifying as a Legacy athlete, and his incredible race-day experience. Kyle has been coaching with TriDot since 2021.

Kyle Stone: One of the tips I like to give my athletes has to do with race day, and it’s along the lines of just eliminating some of the headaches or things that may go wrong to make your day that more stressful. That is, I like to use Ziploc baggies that have the zipper top. I will have either my nutrition or my medicine for my bike in a zipper-top baggie, and that way I can access it really easily. Without even looking I can get the baggie out, feel where the zipper top is, unzip it, look down quickly, grab something out, and have the zipper top back over. There’s no fumbling around, trying to get the baggie back closed. There’s no chance that if I went to go put it back in my pocket behind my tri suit that the baggie would be open and things would fall out. It makes it a lot less stressful than me having to worry about that. In addition I’ll always put another baggie inside of it, in case I get hot during the race. I can always stop at an aid station, put some ice inside that bag, and zip it up real easy. I don’t have to look at it, I don’t have to worry about it, and if I’m on the run, I can put that baggie on top of my head under my hat. Or in my case, I have a bad back, so I would put that baggie where it’s resting right on my back, and as the water melts I can let it out and poor it on my head, because I’ve got it Ziplocked in the baggie, or I can just let it out. That tip right there has helped me out quite a bit, and I hope this helps you out.

Andrew: A real tangible tip on how to store your stuff while training and racing from Coach Kyle Stone here. He’s spent a lot of time out on the race course, and has really learned how to optimize getting in and out of his gear bags and pockets. Vanessa, what’d you think?

Vanessa: I think that is absolutely brilliant! That is just mind-blowing, because I remember in my first half-IRONMAN, I was doing my cooling protocol. It was a really hot day, unusually hot for the weather of the time of year that we were racing in. So I was completing my cooling protocol, but I was just stuffing ice everywhere, so I was getting soaked. My tri shorts were soaked, my socks got soaked, and I had never practiced that aspect, so I ended up with blisters on my feet, and I never get blisters. So having this baggie is just mind-blowingly brilliant, and I really love that tip. I wouldn’t have thought about the zipper-top baggies compared to just Ziploc. That saves you time! Awesome, I love this tip!

Jeff: Absolutely. I’m just going to throw a little twist to this, I’ll keep it short and sweet. I use the Ziploc bag thing also, but another way to use it, especially as I’m a few months out for a big race, is I’ll put all my race-day nutrition in that bag. I close it, I write on it, I label it “Jeff’s Nutrition”, and “My Wife’s Nutrition” for hers. Because we have that big basket or bowl of all of our gels and Gu’s and salt pills and it’s like, “Well, when do I need to buy more? Oh no, it’s a week and a half out from my IRONMAN, I need to buy some more! Oh no, they’re sold out of my favorite flavor!” So I work backwards. “Here’s what I need on race day, here’s what I have left to use in my training,” and now I know when I need to go and buy new stuff. But also I have the race-day stuff right then and there. It’s ready, it’s set aside in the bag, it’s labeled, so I know race day is good. Just another way to use that fun Ziploc bag!

Andrew: Absolutely, good add there. Let’s get out of Texas and head over to South Africa, where TriDot coach Louise Strydom leads an amazing network of coaches and athletes through Infinitude Coaching. Coach Louise is a multi-IRONMAN finisher who has been coaching with TriDot since 2019.

Louise Strydom: Hey everyone, Coach Louise from South Africa. My next-level coaching nugget would be to always remember that training – no matter if it is for a half-marathon, a marathon, full IRONMAN, 70.3 distance, sprint triathlon, 1.5K swim – the training is always much, much harder than the race. Remember that whatever you are suffering through training, it all is going to be so much easier when you eventually get to your race. Remember that when sessions are long, when sessions are hard, when you’re struggling on the trainer for that five or six hours, when everything hurts on that super-long run, or even if you just get off the couch and do your first 2K run. Everything is going to hurt, but always, always remember that training is the hardest part of the whole process. Getting to the race, that’s just the cherry on top.

Andrew: LOVE this from Coach Louise. Jeff, what’d you think?

Jeff: I was immediately thrown to the famous triathlon response, “You’ve got to enjoy the journey.” It’s not always about the destination, you have to enjoy each and every day. But then Louise was saying, training is harder. It’s harder to enjoy every day. It’s hard now, it’s going to be easy later. But basically the way I look at it is you have to take the positives. If you did a race rehearsal let’s say – we do them two and four weeks out – if you’re four weeks out and that rehearsal just didn’t go very well, you have another one. Or it’s super, super windy, but no way is it going to be that windy on the bike ride in my IRONMAN. But you know that you just did it, and you did it in harder conditions than what it’s going to be on race day. So you’ve got to take the positives out there, and for me and especially my athletes, I want 100% peace of mind. If you’re ankle-deep, standing in the sand right before the swim start of your very first IRONMAN, and you’re going to think back, “Oh, I never rode more than 80 miles,” or whatever that is, we’re going to find a way to get that negative birdie out of there. We’re going to find those positives, and we’re going to work together so that you have 100% peace of mind. So when training is hard, I love that mindset of, “We’re putting in the work now so race day is going to be easier.” But inside of that, on those harder days, let’s take the positive out of it, and use that to encourage and motivate us going forward.

Andrew: I just love the way Louise said this. It makes me think of my IRONMAN journey. I’ve said it on the podcast before and in conversations with you guys and athletes, that my mentality with IRONMAN was that I wanted to be one and done. I’m not going to rule out doing another one. Famously, we joked about it earlier on this podcast. I might do another one someday, though I don’t have any hard plans to do so at the moment. But when I tell people that I’m oneand-done with IRONMAN, it’s not because of the race day. I would do the race itself all over again. The race was fun, it was a blast. It was hard, but it was the training, the months with the long sessions – the Saturday bike rides going from 2½ hours to 3 hours, 3½ to 4, 4½ to 5½ – that was the part that I don’t want to do again, and it’s exactly because of what Louise was saying. That’s the hard part. The race, like she said, is the cherry on top. The race is the celebration of the fitness that you’ve earned over the last couple of months. To me, you go and race on race day with the fitness that you have, and whatever happens happens, but that’s the fun part. That’s the culmination of this fitness journey that you’ve been on. So I really liked this.

This is Tip #8 from Heather Dekalb. She is a TriDot coach since 2018 from Terrell, Texas. Formerly she was from the much colder state of Alaska. Heather is a former state champion swimmer and an experienced triathlete. She is now a TriDot Pool School coach on deck at many TriDot Pool Schools. Here is her next-level tip.

Heather Dekalb: Hi, Coach Heather here. My tidbit for the day is stretching. Everybody hates to stretch after a long workout. Our mindsets are, “Welp, I’m done with my workout, so I really don’t feel like stretching.” But stretching is very important. So here’s my tidbit. Every time that you take your shower – get in the shower, wash your hair, wash your body or do all the things that you normally do in the shower – at the end of the shower, stretch for two minutes. Do two or three stretching exercises. There’s three that I recommend highly. One, you place your toe on the edge of the toe or shower wall, and stretch your calf. Stretching your calf will help you prevent plantar fasciitis and keep the blood flowing. Hold onto the walls and do the #4 stretch, also hang at the waist and stretch your glutes. The hot water from your shower will keep the muscles nice and warm, and get you a nice deep stretch. It’s only two minutes of shower stretching, but it will help prevent injuries and keep your muscles loose. If you do it at night before you go to bed, it’ll help you get into REM sleep faster because of all the fresh oxygenated blood that will go to your brain and help you in your recovery time during your sleep. So every day, take your shower and do a couple of stretches for two minutes in your shower, it will really help your training. Have a great training session!

Andrew: It’s really noticeable to me how many of our ten coaches, when given the opportunity to present a next-level tip, have talked in some form about stretching, mobility, recovery. It just really reinforces how important that is. I’m sure it’s things that they are talking to their athletes about constantly, so here they are talking to us about it. Vanessa, what’d you think about Heather’s tip to stretch in the shower?

Vanessa: I love it! I love being in the shower, it’s like this warm, wonderful place where you’re alone. If you have young kids, sometimes you don’t get alone time very often, so being in the shower is really wonderful. What a way to make it even more productive! Yeah, I think it’s a great idea. I like to minimize my use of water, so I will probably try and wash my hair while I’m stretching.

Andrew: Just really stacking the productivity there.

Vanessa: Exactly, yeah. I’m going to make my showers the most productive possible. And I didn’t realize that there’s an impact of stretching before bed and on sleep quality. I’ve been really interested in quality of sleep lately, so knowing that, getting that oxygen flowing before bed is probably a really great thing to implement. Yeah, great tip.

Jeff: I think that if Matt Bach can talk about the potty episode, peeing in a sponge midrace, then we can talk about stretching in the shower, Heather. Yes, you are fine there, I love it. I heard someone talk about flossing, how do you floss every day, how do you make yourself do it? I do two birds with one stone, I floss in the shower. I keep little floss sticks in the shower, so anytime I shower, I floss. And it’s funny because I’ve heard Heather say this before, so when I floss in the shower, I stretch. I bend over and do my hamstrings, whatever. I’ve heard her say that, so I do it. You don’t want to stretch a cold muscle, you don’t just wake up in the morning and start stretching. But your muscles are already heated up, you’re in that sauna-esque, so it’s the perfect time to do it. I love it.

Andrew: Next-Level Tri Coaching Tip #9, this is from Jason Verbracken, a longtime TriDot athlete and a TriDot coach as of 2021. Coach Verbie specializes in long course and ultra-racing, and he has a bike FTP that can make a grown man openly weep. He’s joined the podcast before on Episode .132 talking about Ultraman, and Episode .96 talking about extreme triathlon. Here is Coach Verbie’s Next-Level tip.

Jason Verbracken: Hey Andrew, Coach Verbie here, giving you my tip. Coach Verbie’s tip is, “Do the stuff you suck at.” Do you ever wonder where your weak points come from? They’re born from your strengths overriding the rest of your skills, and you avoiding doing the stuff you hate. We all do it. Why would we want to do something we hate? We’re not getting any pleasure from it, we feel like we’re not good at it, so let’s just concentrate on the things that make us feel good and still get us into good shape. But our weak points are caused by us avoiding that, avoiding all the things that we hate, and that’s the difference between a competitive athlete and athletes that are just working out. The competitive athlete is really going to focus on those things they’re struggling on and get better at it, and become a better athlete. We can always go out and get in better shape by doing the things we like to do, but to excel at the sport we really have to master the things that we hate, whether it be swimming, biking, running, core work, stretching, all those things. There’s something that all of us hate. I’ve heard it a hundred times, “I just do the basics for swimming, because that’s the shortest part of the triathlon.” So they don’t focus on it because they’re not good at it. But spending that little extra time, getting a swim stroke analyzed, going to TriDot Pool School, getting a coach and working on that extra swim is going to make you start enjoying it more, and make you faster. So my main thing is really focusing on the stuff you hate, it’s going to make you an allaround better athlete.

Andrew: Coach Verbie really calling us out here! I’m sure, as he was talking, most of us probably had something in mind that, “Yeah, I really avoid my run warmup drills, or I avoid the swim drills, or I avoid the stretching and mobility work that we’ve talked about on this episode already.” Coach Verbie really reminding us that, “Hey, you need to do that part too. You need to improve in that way as well.” Coach Jeff, what’d you think here?

Jeff: You know, you said everyone’s thinking about that one thing. I was thinking of assessments. I actually sometimes skip what I’m better at, which for me is running. Let’s just say, hypothetically, we were supposed to have nine swims assessments, nine bike, and nine run assessments last year in 2022. So maybe I should have had nine 5K assessments, but I looked back recently, and maybe I only had six or seven, so I skipped a few here and there. Just because you’re good at it, you say, “Okay, it’s probably about the same, I’m not going to test this month.” Or you can look at it like Verbie said. For me, it’s biking. It’s not my weakest discipline, but I would rather do a 5K, or the 200/400 swim assessment than the 20minute bike test. That’s my least favorite. For a lot of triathletes, the weakest is the swim. In the winter right now, the hardest thing to do is get up at 5:00 a.m., get out in the cold, get in your car, drive to the pool, and jump in cold water. But every single time we get up and do those things we don’t like or we’re not good at, on that drive home we are always glad we did it, and we never regret when we do it. So I think there’s an accountability piece that we need. Do the things that you’re not good at, but have the accountability so that you actually do them.

Andrew: Jeff, you said at the top of the main set you wanted to get uncomfortable today, and this tip from Verbie I think does that for all of us. It makes us a little uncomfortable, staring at ourselves in the mirror and saying, “What are those things that I just don’t do like to do because it’s not as fun for me as the things I like to do?” Vanessa, what came to mind for you listening to Verbie?

Vanessa: Yeah, I got uncomfortable. I got uncomfortable because I felt like he was talking to me personally.

Andrew: Sweating a little.

Vanessa: I felt like he was talking to me personally, because I am so guilty of never doing my strides in my run workouts. I hate them with a passion, so obviously it’s something I need to improve on. I’m definitely going to be hearing that little tiny Coach Verbie in my head every time I go for a run, and if I skip my strides he’s just going to be there saying, “You gotta do it because you hate it, and you’re going to be proud of yourself after you finished.” Yeah, I agree. I’ve heard that before, that the things that you struggle with the most are the things that you actually need the most. I even take this out of the sport completely, I struggled bigtime with the idea of meditating. I knew that it was something that I really needed, so I made it a point of implementing it on a regular basis, and it’s made such a huge difference. It’s really, really hard, but it’s made a big difference in my sleep quality, and my HRV status has increased, and it’s been really great. So I agree, hundred percent.

Andrew: Tip #10, this is last but not least. I invited TriDot coach and legendary IRONMAN champion Mark Allen to send us a next-level tip, and Mark was happy to oblige. The Mark Allen Edition of TriDot launched in 2021, where you can have Mark as your coach, walking you through all the TriDot drills and workouts. Plus you’ll hear all sorts of next-level coaching tips from Mark. There’s a fresh video that pops up every single week with Mark giving you a training tip and some sort of motivational quote for the week, it’s a ton of fun. I’m on the Mark Allen Edition of TriDot, and really enjoying connecting with Mark every single week. So we’re going to let Mark close out our main set today, Vanessa and I will see all you cool kids on the cooldown shortly. Here is TriDot coach Mark Allen with his Next-Level Tri Coaching Tip #10.

Mark Allen: One of the things you want to do as an athlete, especially if you’re running, is to develop capillary beds in your legs so that there’s a lot more blood flow, a lot of removal of stuff that you’re metabolizing when you're training and racing. There’s some ways to do it that probably nobody really talks about. One of them is to focus on the length of the longer runs that you do. There’s a lot of research that shows that once you run over about 50 minutes, you start to lay down a lot more capillary beds, which then feeds those muscles and also gets rid of stuff that you don’t want in there when you’re working out, training, or racing. So if you’re thinking, “Should I run 50 minutes, or should I run an hour?” those extra ten minutes can be huge as far as helping lay down new capillary beds in your legs. Another thing that will help you do develop that ability to flush things out and be able to be more efficient as an athlete in your legs is to do some walking. Walking has this impact on our bodies that helps us develop capillary beds. It also develops very small motor control muscles that give you a lot more strength that you don’t activate when you’re actually out there running. So you’re thinking, “Well, do I have to walk all the time?” No. You do your run workout, but then maybe later in the day, after dinner or when you’re relaxing, just go for a 10, 15, 20minute walk a couple times a week. That will really help develop a lot of things that you need to be super-efficient as an athlete, as a runner. There you go, tips from Mark Allen!

Cool down theme: Great set everyone! Let’s cool down.

Andrew: Our regular audience has probably gotten used to hearing Vanessa host the cooldowns already, but today we have Vanessa and I both on the cooldown for somewhat of a TriDot podcast cooldown update. We have loved the main set today, it was such a reminder that the roster of TriDot coaches is deep, their personalities are plentiful, and their triathlon knowledge is sharp. So as we head into 2023 and beyond, Vanessa will still be hosting our cooldowns, and each time she will have a new TriDot coach joining her to close out each show with a tri training tip. Vanessa, you and I had already talked about doing this and featuring some more of our coaches like this before we even recorded today’s podcast. Did today’s main set make you even more excited to hear from more coaches on the cooldowns?

Vanessa: It absolutely did, Andrew! Since I crossed my first triathlon finish line, I have been obsessed with everything trirelated.

Andrew: That happens, yeah.

Vanessa: I know, right? So the books I read, all the books that I have on my nightstand, the podcasts that I listen to, and pretty much every conversation that I have turns into a triathlon-focused one of course. Hearing these tips simply adds to my thirst for more triathlon knowledge in my life. I think that tips like the ones we just heard will provide an even greater depth of knowledge for training and racing, doing all of that with more knowledge and being smarter about it. I can’t wait to implement them. But I do think that I will have to keep a spreadsheet, I don’t think I’ll be able to remember them all without a spreadsheet. I know how much you like to color-code, so if you want to color-code that, go for it.

Andrew: Absolutely, I think in color blocks for sure, you’ve seen my podcast formats, what they look like. So on the cooldowns, Vanessa will always welcome you to the cooldown. She will introduce which TriDot coach we have on the cooldown today, then that coach will give a one, two, three-minute practical triathlon-related tip. That coach and Vanessa will chitchat about it for just a moment, and then we’ll shut the show down. Vanessa, I do want to say, the interviews with TriDot athletes that you’ve been doing have been really, really interesting. In my original vision for this podcast, I always wanted ways to highlight the stories of athletes in the TriDot family, and your cooldown interviews have been so good at doing that. I do want everyone to know that we will still be doing that in some capacity throughout the year. We will have some episodes of the show, both our podcast and our TriDot Triathlon YouTube show, where instead of just hearing me yammer on with our coaches about tri topics, you will hear Vanessa talk with a TriDot athlete about their tri journey. So Vanessa, just from the interviews that you’ve done so far, what has stood out to you from those conversations?

Vanessa: So far, the cooldown experience has been amazing. I have loved every single minute that I have spent with all the athletes that I’ve interviewed. I think what stands out to me the most is that each person is on such a powerful journey in their sport, and their dedication to making their lives better in some way and using triathlon as a vehicle for that really, really resonates with me. I also absolutely love that TriDot has brought all of us together from such different backgrounds from all over the world, and we are really united through this platform to become each other’s cheerleaders. It is really ridiculously special, and I am truly honored to be a part of it all.

Outro: Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today! TriDot – the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.

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