Triathletes at the Gym: Best Practices for Incorporating Cardio Equipment and Classes
February 19, 2024

As a triathlete, you understand the importance of cardiovascular training. But when you are at the gym - whether by personal preference, joining some friends, rehabbing an injury, or forced inside by Mother Nature - how can you make the most of these sessions? On this episode, Vanessa Ronksley interviews TriDot Coaches Jeff Raines and Matt Sommer about the best ways to utilize gym cardio equipment and classes. Jeff and Matt share their best practices for incorporating various pieces of cardio equipment into their training regimen, especially in relation to swim, bike, and run sessions. They also recommend certain machines for athletes who may have injuries. Then, Jeff and Matt discuss which group classes and programs are beneficial for triathlon training, and which ones should be avoided. So, if you have questions about conquering your next gym session to improve your triathlon performance - look no further than this episode.

Time is running out to participate in this year's triathlon research! The Preseason Project® is a triathlon research initiative that helps us quantify and enhance the performance gains that TriDot’s Optimized Training™ delivers over training alternatives. Qualified participants receive 2 free months of triathlon training. Learn more and apply here.


TriDot Podcast .230

Triathletes at the Gym: Best Practices for IncorporatingCardio Equipment and Classes

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


Vanessa Ronksley: Welcome to the TriDot podcast everybody! I amreally looking forward to hearing what our two experts have to say today onindoor cardio training. There are so many options out there, and sometimes ustriathletes want to change it up or maybe have some fun. Or is it possible touse these tools to improve our performance? Let's find out! Joining us for thisconversation is certified TriDot Coach Matt Sommer. Matt has a Master’s ofScience in Exercise Physiology. He is the Fitness Director at the AlamanceCountry Club in Burlington, North Carolina, and he has over 12 differentcertifications, including USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach and Ironman U CertifiedCoach. Matt joined TriDot as an athlete and certified coach in 2018, and guideshis athletes with his philosophy of “passion, purpose, progress”. Thanks forjoining us, Matt! Welcome back to the show.


Matt Sommer: Thanks, Vanessa! It's always a privilege to be asked back on thepodcast. You know what, this is such a fun topic we're going to talk abouttoday, and I'm really looking forward to sharing some thoughts and knowledgewith the TriDot Nation.


Vanessa:We are super happy to have you here! We also have with us today TriDot MasterCoach, Jeff Raines. Jeff is a certified TriDot Coach, a USA Triathlon Level 2and Ironman U Certified Coach, who has a Master of Science in ExercisePhysiology and was a D1 collegiate runner. He has over 60 Ironman eventfinishes to his credit, including the World Championships in Nice, and hascoached hundreds of athletes to the Ironman finish line. Jeff has been trainingand coaching with TriDot since 2015.


Jeff Raines: Thanks, Vanessa, excited to be here! And like always, I'm ready to talkshop!


Vanessa:Excellent. I am Vanessa, the Average Triathlete with Elite-Level Enthusiasm! Asalways, we'll roll through our warmup question, settle in for our main settopic, and then wind things down with our cooldown.


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


Vanessa:There are a ton of music lovers on the I AM TriDot Facebook page, so I amdedicating this warmup question to them. What word would you add to a songtitle to make it about triathlon? Jeff, let's start with you.


Jeff:Man, this is a tough one. And like all of yours and Andrew's warmup questions,I spend so much more time head-scratching on these warmup questions than mostof them on the main set. But I actually have one here. It's a Maroon 5 song,and it's that “Sugar” song. You know, “Sugar, yes, please!” And I guess youcould add that to anything. “Sugar…on the Bike Course!”, “Sugar…on the RunCourse!” “Sugar, yes, please…in the middle of my Ironman!” I don't know, that'sall I got.


Vanessa:That's great. I love it. How about “sugar…right before the podcast” too? Thatwill do it. What about you, Matt? What did you come up with?


Matt:You know, honestly, similar to Jeff, this question made me just laugh out loudwhen I first read it. I mean, there's so many great pump-up songs out there,and so many genres to choose from. But I really thought about this one. Ilooked at my playlist, and one song jumped out at me, hands down. Eminem – weall know him, we all love him. Great tunes, a lot of FTP play songs. But weknow the song “Till I Collapse…At the Finish Line”. That was the one for me.All the way to the end.




Jeff:Yeah. Hey, are you going to sing it? Like, I think that was the first time I'veever sang on the podcast. Just saying.


Matt:No, I’m going to do everybody a favor and not try to sing. I'm going to stickto coaching, and we'll leave the singing and the dancing to Vanessa.


Vanessa:Oh my gosh. You don't know, or maybe you do know, I used to be in musicaltheater. So I belt out the tunes in the car with my kids. And for this questionI had multiple options, but I had to go with this one because my daughter iscurrently on a Little Mermaid kick, so we listen to this song on repeat. It is“Poor, Unfortunate Souls”. So I've changed this song title to “Poor UnfortunateSouls…Behind Me”.


Matt:I love it.




Vanessa:Now, I'm not capable of doing these things on the bike at this present momentin time, but I'm sure that lots of people will be able to sing this song on thebike – and maybe even the run, I don't know – but it can get messy out there,so we'll just leave it right there for that one. The answers to the warmupquestion on the I AM TriDot Facebook page are always so amazing, and I can't wait to hearthem. So look for the post, and tell us what you come up with in the comments.


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


Vanessa:Hey everyone! TriDot is currently running the 2024 edition of our annualresearch project that we call the Preseason Project. We are looking fornon-TriDot athletes who want to jump into the research project this year.Qualifying athletes get two free months of TriDot training. It is literally twomonths of the best training available in exchange for TriDot getting to analyzethe training data that comes in from those sessions. I started training withTriDot during the 2020 Preseason Project, and fell in love with the structuredtraining schedule, and I started seeing massive improvements in my swim, bike,and run. Even once the two-month research project was over, I committed fullyto TriDot training, and have used it for everything from local sprints to myvery first Ironman. I'm fitter and faster than I've ever been before, and moreimportantly, I'm enjoying my races, the sport, and the community plays a bigpart in my life. If you are already training with TriDot, now is the best timeto invite your tri friends to participate in the Preseason Project. And if youare a podcast listener and have never given our training a try, use the link inthe description for today's show to see if you qualify.


Whohere loves cardio? I started cardio workouts as an awkward tween in my basementwith the likes of Cindy Crawford and Billy Blanks, getting my sweat on andthinking that I was 100% hard core. But compared to tri training, it waspractically child's play, but you gotta start somewhere! So fast-forward totoday, and there are so many indoor cardio options, from machines, to epicclasses, that can enhance or even give us a break from regular training. Solet's dive in with question #1. At the gym, what cardio machines do you usepersonally? Matt, let's go with you first.


Matt:Oh, that one's pretty easy for me. I'm fortunate enough that I do work at afitness center. I'm the fitness director at a private country club, so I've gotequipment at my beck and call. And fortunately, my schedule allows me to get onit if I have a cancellation, so I'm kind of lucky in that fact. But the twopieces that I personally utilize the most would, most definitely, hands-down,be obviously the treadmill and the elliptical trainer. The treadmill is an easypiece for me to get on. I can really dial in my paces, it's a controlledsetting, I can focus on form. I don't have to worry about the weather, I don'thave to worry about animals, cars, cyclists, other runners. It's just supereasy. And occasionally, depending on circumstances, if the body's whispering –you know me and my quotes, “when the body whispers, you’d better listen so itdoesn't yell” – that elliptical is a crucial tool. I'm sure we'll dive intothat a little later on some other questions about how to utilize and blend thatinto our training.


Vanessa:That's great. Something that I like to do on the treadmill is I like to put mymetronome on and just practice my cadence. It’s definitely something that's notvery fun to do, but it makes a huge difference. So I hear you about thetreadmill in the gym. What do you think, Jeff?


Jeff:I'm going to come with a little bit of a different approach. Sometimes when I'min a race-prep stamina phase, and we have the Zone 2 hour bike, sometimes Iwill go to the gym and just do what I call “fun cardio” days. Keep it all inZone 2, still keep the integrity of my plan, but instead of hopping on the bike– or actually, right now I'm training for a marathon, and I put my bike volumeat low so I don't have that third bike session per week. So anyways, what I'vebeen doing for that “Zone 2 hour spin” is I will go to the gym and I'll do like15 minutes of recumbent bike, 15-minute StairMaster, 15-minute elliptical, and15-minute rowing, still keeping my heart rate in check, and keeping it assteady as I can in Zone 2, then I'll manually complete that session. I like todo things like that every now and then to spice things up, change it up. Butyeah, I’ve got a treadmill and elliptical in my garage, and I have a gymmembership, I use those just like Matt. Those are probably the easiest two, orthe ones that I use the most when I'm at the gym. But I kind of like to do thatfun cross-training day here and there


Vanessa:That sounds like so much fun, actually. The recumbent bike, the StairMaster toget the legs pumping, and the rowing – that's really awesome to get all thoseback muscles firing. I'm definitely going to work that into my regime, comesome point during that stamina phase. Question #2, when a triathlete heads tothe gym, what are all the main cardio machines that are available to atriathlete? Jeff, let's hit you up first.


Jeff:Oh man, there's tons of options and ways to approach it. Like if you're justneeding motivation – if you’re actually getting bored of all of that swimming,biking, running, and strength training – you can kind of take what is going tomotivate you the most, what you like the most. There's just tons and tons ofoptions. Some gyms have arm ergometers, so you could essentially do cardio thatway. There's just so many different options, but those four that I mentionedabove are the ones that I kind of hop around to the most. I sometimes like todo my warmup before my strength sessions on that recumbent bike, just to getsome blood going. I can answer some emails, just kind of get going in the gymthere. I personally like the elliptical, a lot of people don't. I have theselittle kind of “games” that I play when I'm on the elliptical, like calorieversus pace versus incline, and it kind of keeps my mind busy while I'm onthere, things like that. Whatever you choose, make it fun, but also beintentional with staying on your plan as best you can.


Vanessa:Okay, now I have to ask a question about the elliptical, because I find Icannot get my heart rate up high enough on the elliptical. Do you have anylittle tips for elliptical sessions?


Jeff:Yeah, first of all, I don't like to hang on to the arm poles. I like to pickthe ones that don't have that, or if they do have it I rarely touch them. It'sa lot harder to balance, you’ve got to use your core, you’ve got to use yourmidfoot to balance and stabilize. And if you pump it, you can sort of givealmost like a Zone 3 or Zone 4 effort, but your heart rate can stay in Zone 2sometimes on an elliptical or cross-training entity. And if you're pumping iton that elliptical and you're not hanging on to those arm poles, man it is akiller workout, and it's a lot harder than you think. Just try to go twominutes without falling or balancing. That is actually a way to cross-train,but actually make you a stronger and more efficient athlete, believe it or not.But you can also mess with the incline there a little bit too, Vanessa.


Vanessa:That's a wonderful tip. Now I'm curious to see if I'll even be able to stay onan elliptical while not holding on to the arm things.


Jeff:I like to keep the intensity the same the whole session, so if you have like alevel 1 through 10 on intensity or resistance of the elliptical, I usually pickone and keep it there. But I adjust the incline almost every minute, I go up ordown, and that's a good way to keep you engaged but also how you get thatbetter workout on there.


Vanessa:Yeah, cool. Matt, what do you think?


Matt:Well, not to reiterate everything Jeff said, but at most gyms you're going tohave the big ones – you're going to have the treadmill, you're going to havethe elliptical, stationary bike, recumbent bike, rowing machines, you'll evenhave spin bikes. And to add on to that, ellipticals come in many differenttypes. You have ones that have lateral leg motion, so you can actually get hipabduction and actually push out to the sides, almost like a speed skater.You're going to have all different types of machines, depending on where yougo. Jeff alluded to upper-body ergometers, that's a whole new ball game. Ifyou've never done one of those, that will get your heart rate elevated. And Ithink Jeff brought up a great point – no matter what you choose to use – again,“passion, purpose, progress” – think about the purpose and the intention of whyyou're doing it, and where it fits into your training program. Purpose is themost important part of that – why are we using it? What are we looking toaccomplish, what are we looking to get out of it? And are we sticking to theintegrity of the TriDot training program? For heart rate, maybe power – some ofthese spin bikes, some of these stationary bikes, they have power, it is ametric. So I always encourage my athletes – gyms are great, hotel gyms not somuch. A whole different segment of this is traveling. If you're traveling andyou're in a hotel, they might have a gym. I always tell my athletes, “Callahead of time, see what they have available, so we can better structure yourtraining program while you're away with what's available to you. If you're notgoing to have a pool, if you're not going to have a spin bike, let's makeadjustments so we can get done purposeful training while traveling with what wehave available.” It's always important to do some research on that front end aswell, especially with travel and gyms.


Vanessa:So do you think that there's any pros and cons for relying on these machinesinstead of doing a traditional swim-bike-run session? What do you think, Matt?


Matt:Oh one hundred percent. I mean, every piece of equipment is going to have prosand cons, and you've really got to outweigh the positives versus the negatives.For me, some of the pros of using indoor gym equipment, kind of mentioned themearlier. Weather – we don't have to worry about it. Childcare could potentiallybe one when you're looking at family situations, a lot of gyms offer childcare.If you're fortunate enough to have a treadmill or elliptical in your house, andyou have a baby, you can put the crib right next to it, so your eyes are stillon what's important. I really, really like ergometers – treadmills, smarttrainers, and bikes – for controlled pacing and precision in execution. You canreally dial it in. Other positives are you don't have to worry about daylight,you don't have to worry about it being dark. You don't have to worry aboutsafety, other cars, animals, all types of variables like that, those are a lotof the pros. Now cons – some of the pros could be cons as well. The pacingaspect, when you're on a treadmill – are you thinking about form, or are youthinking about pacing? I always like to say Zone 2 and Zone 3 efforts caneasily be executed outside. It's going slow enough that we can worry aboutpacing, and we can make cognitive decisions such as worrying about curbs,worrying about the sidewalk, worrying about stop lights, cars, other cyclists,other runners, strollers, animals, whatever's out there. But when we get intoZone 4 and Zone 5, and you're putting some effort down and you're working hard,cognitive choices become harder to make. We are thinking about executing andtrying to do what's being asked of us, and we are less in tune withenvironmental things going around. All of a sudden you didn't see that cyclist,you didn't see that car, you missed the stoplight, your music's on. Cognitionbecomes a little bit harder, so there are pros and cons of both.


Vanessa:Jeff, do you have anything to add to that?


Jeff:Holy cow, that was awesome. You know, our races are swim, bike, and run. So weneed to swim, bike, and run obviously. But cross-training can be amazingmodalities for all the pros and cons that Matt just said. Knowing the purposeand why you're doing the cross-training is one. You just need to get out of thenormal regimen and go do something unique, it's a morale thing. So go do the“fun” Zone 2 cross-training type of thing like I mentioned earlier. Orwhat if you're injured, and you can't swim, bike or run? You have to usecross-training to maintain fitness while you heal, that's kind of a big one. Sois it just a random here-and-there you do it? Or are you stuck doing it forlong periods of time while you're healing or something like that? There's apurpose there, just like Matt said. But one more thing I'll add, is the cons ofdoing too much cross-training, or things that aren’t our traditional sportsstuff, is that they’re lower impact. So when you're doing all of thesemodalities indoors – rowing, elliptical – we can do that while we're injuredessentially, because there's not a ground-and-pound aspect, they’re low-impact.But what happens if you do too much of this over too long and then you get backout into running again? You kind of have to train the body for what I call that“ground-and-pound tolerance” Like right now, I'm training for a marathon. I'vedone a ton of runs indoors on a treadmill because it's too cold, or I need torun early or whatever. Then I actually did kind of my last and longest long runrecently, and that Mile 16, 17, I was really hurting. Just pounding the ground– my knees, my joints, my fitness was there, but my body was almost likesaying, “Hey, maybe I can't really handle this as good as I thought.” So maybeI did too much cross-training to build my cardio, but not that“ground-and-pound tolerance” of being on the concrete for 26 miles? There'sthat aspect.


Vanessa:I experienced the same thing, just because we had a massive cold snap, wasinside on the treadmill like the past month. And then my first run outside, Iwas like, “My ankle hurts, my toe hurts, my heel hurts!” I was like, whining tomy coach about all these things that were hurting, and it's probably just thatI've been on the treadmill too much and it's way softer. Yeah, that makes ahuge difference. So, we had just briefly touched on this earlier a few secondsago – Jeff, what machines do you recommend for an injured athlete to use sothat they can continue to train safely even if they have an injury and want tokeep up their cardiovascular fitness?


Jeff:Most injuries in the triathlon world are usually or probably lower-body-typeinjuries. So if it's a lower-body-type injury, there's an “it depends” factor.Can you still swim? Or maybe it's a lower body open wound, so you still can'teven swim. So in that aspect, maybe it's tubing instead of swimming, orsomething like that. A lot of it depends on that type of injury. But if it's alower-body injury – and with the approval of a doctor and talking with yourcoach – if you're still able to do certain cross-training modalities. Like, “Isthe elliptical okay? Is a recumbent bike okay? My doctor doesn't want me ridingoutside because of that injury or something like that, safety or falling orwhatever, so can I ride my bike indoors?” But the biggest thing for lower-bodyinjuries and cross-training – with a lot of lower-body injuries, youpotentially can’t run on a treadmill, even though it is a little bit softer,lower impact. Cross-training is not quite the same as running outdoors. Butelliptical, you can get a lot of the cardiovascular aspects pumping it on thatelliptical. So I'd say elliptical is the next best thing if you're not allowedto run. And then for biking, if the injury is severe enough to where you're notallowed to set foot on a bike at all, “Is an elliptical okay?” Are we going todo other ways of just keeping a higher heart rate? Is it an upper bodyPilates-type class or something where you're able to hold a higher heart ratefor longer durations and will that suffice? So of all the options out there, Iwould just say get as close to that sport-specific and discipline-specificgoal. If you're supposed to go do a hard interval run session that day, whatare you allowed to do, and then what do you have available in the gym tofulfill the integrity of that original design?


Vanessa:Great. Matt, do you have anything to add there? Or did Jeff cover everything?


Matt:No, Jeff really hit the nail on the head, but I do have a couple things thatI’ll drop in on that. Anytime we're dealing with injuries, I think one of thebiggest things we’ve got to always go back to is, “What are we cleared to do?”The physician who's diagnosed this injury, are we working in collaboration withthe medical team, and are we staying within the guidelines laid out in theirrecovery protocol? A lot of times we self-diagnose – I always say, “Don'tconfuse my medical degree with a Google search.” I love that, but it's like,“Don't self-diagnose.” If we've got something going on – if you're in a boot,if you're in a shoulder splint – you're in it for a reason. Even as a coach, Iwill never ever suggest or insinuate that my athletes should take that boot offand do something without the supervision or outside the guidelines of theirdoc. Jeff's exactly right, the elliptical is a great tool to utilize. I alwaystell my athletes, “Hey, if you have a boot, ask if you can do the elliptical.”It is possible. You could potentially get on a recumbent bike as well. Ifyou’ve got a low back, if you’ve got a hip, if you’ve got a foot, if you got anankle, you've really got to work under the guidelines from the doc. But theelliptical and the stationary bike would be two big ones, and I'm going tothrow one more in there. We all go there, we swim – deep water walking andrunning. I cannot stress that enough. Deep water running, deep water aerobics.There's a reason I avoid it, it’s hard! I am very quick to say to my athletes,“Listen, go jump in the deep water, put a flotation belt on, you're going towork core muscles you've never worked. You can get the little water dumbbells.”And I don't want to offend anybody, but this is not a “little old lady” exercise.Get in the water. You can do water walking, you can do all types of things tomaintain that running, and also work different muscles you never knew you hadwhen you get in the water. So deep water aerobics and deep water walking wouldbe great ones.


Vanessa:Speaking from experience, from a highly injured past, you meet a lot of reallycool people in those deep water workouts and the deep water running. Becauseoftentimes you'll find other injured athletes doing those workouts as well. Soyou can always connect with someone and have a great conversation when you'renot trying to hit your Zone 4 paces, of course. That's awesome. Now, some ofthese tools are very different than swim, bike, and run. We had talked aboutearlier hopping on a rowing machine, for example. But some, like the treadmillor a spin bike, are quite similar. So for the cardio machines that simulate swimming,biking, and running, do they work our muscles pretty close to the same way? Oris the input to our muscles totally different from actual swimming, biking, orrunning? Matt, let's go with you first.


Matt:Yes and no. That's the short answer there.


Vanessa:Of course! “It depends.”


Matt:You know, the hard thing to answer there is – and Jeff alluded to this already–you’ve got to remember, when you're running inside on the treadmill, you'renot having to deal with the ground force impact of the concrete of the ground.We're losing a little bit of that musculoskeletal impact, because we have thatsoft cushioning of the treadmill. So again, are you getting as much out of it?You're missing that piece. Same with cycling. When we're on a smart trainer andwe're sitting there on a bike or on a stationary bike, power is power. I willnot argue that. But if you're doing a hilly course, we know that power ispower, and we do know that if you're going up a hill and you're pushing 300watts versus on the flats, the hill is going to elicit a higher power output.But yes, there's a musculoskeletal aspect of shifting in your saddle, having tobalance laterally, having to take turns, having to reach for hydration, havingto reach for nutrition, shifting in the saddle, all of those things you can'tmimic or practice indoors. We have rocker plates, people are now putting tennisballs under their trainer, we have all types of things going on. But again, Ithink ultimately it's a blend of the two. I think whatever it is, beingintentional, being purposeful – Jeff and I have used those words multiple timestoday. They're probably two of the most used words I have with all my athletes,“intention and purpose”. You've got to swim, you’ve got to bike, you’ve got torun. You can't just use trainers all the time. I always tell my athletes, “Doyou want to be good at training, or at racing?” There's a difference betweenthe two. You can be really good at training if you sit in ERG mode all the timeand nail your zones. You can be really good at training if you get on thetreadmill, set it, and just run, and don't have the mental and cognitiveconnection. You can be really good at training if you just get in the water andswim laps back and forth. How do we translate that into racing? There areskill-specific pieces that have to be practiced, that have to be executed, andyou can't do all of that indoors. You can develop a great engine, but to putthat engine and race it, you’ve got to get outside. You’ve got to actually geton the bike and move around. You’ve got to get in open water. You’ve got to geton the road and run. Pacing is an important thing, you’ve got to learn thosethings.


Vanessa:Yeah, that is well said. Jeff, do you want to add anything on top of that, ordid he cover it all?


Jeff:You can come out of an injury stronger and faster and fitter than before youwent in. Or, worst case, hopefully you can maintain the fitness that you hadbefore that injury. You're going to have to be strategic, you're going to haveto be intentional. But then when you do have the green light to get back intoit, you need to be careful. You need to ease back in. You need to actually getback on the bike and ride outside, you need to run outside. You need to buildthe tolerance of the ground-and-pound, yes. But we saw it in our dry-landtubing during COVID – we had 900 people in kind of a research thing here, andwe were doing tubing for six to nine months. Not one person was allowed in apool during COVID. Well, when they came back, the consensus of the study wasthat out of 900 people, everyone was within about one second of their fastest200 swim before the pandemic, and they didn't set foot in a pool once for sixto nine months or whatever it was. That kind of proves that through dry-landtubing, in the technical aspects and your form and all the strength buildingthat it does – now obviously, we lost swim stamina, but we were able to comeback and be just as strong in the water as before. So there are ways to do itif you do it correctly.


Vanessa:We're going to totally switch gears, because another aspect of training that issuper important for a lot of people is being part of a community, especiallyfor them to stay committed to it. That social aspect is really, reallyimportant. So I'm wondering, if we have a community that someone has been apart of in terms of group classes, are there any kind of group classes that yourecommend for triathletes? And also, are there any that athletes, triathletesshould avoid? Jeff, what's your take on this one?


Jeff:I would just say this, kind of know where you're at. Ones to avoid – let's sayyou're in this race-prep stamina phase, the race is coming up, it's a longcourse race – I probably wouldn't go do an hour, hour and a half crazyfunctional strength-type class, or a random CrossFit-type class or somethinglike that. Now if you're in developmental, it's kind of preseason, the focus ison developing strength and power, maybe you want to incorporate a couple ofthose more highly intensive strength-building classes. So like I said earlier,just be intentional. If it's something new, something different, and it's kindof “random”, at least steer it towards the original design of that day'sworkout, but also what phase of the training you are in and your main focus.


Vanessa:Matt, I have a feeling that you're going to jump in here with something alongthose same lines.


Matt:Yeah, Jeff had a home run on that one, I think he nailed it. It is 100%athlete-specific. Like Jeff already mentioned, where in your season are you?Where in your build are you? Are we in the off season? The off-season, orpreseason as a lot of us like to refer to it as, that's a great time just tomaybe take a month, relax, have fun. Do those classes you've been wanting tocheck out. If there's a class at the gym that you want to check out that youhaven't been able to do, go do it if it brings you joy, if it brings youenergy, and it's variety. But the one that I will reiterate that Jeff broughtup, and I know it's a huge one, is yoga and Pilates. I think the biggest thingwe’ve got to think about there is mobility and stability. Those are two of thegreatest things we can do to reduce our likelihood of injury. As triathletes,we are sagittal-plane monsters. We're going back and forth, forward andbackwards, and we do not train enough for injury prevention. Mobility andstability are paramount for reducing the likelihood of injuries. All of us getthe “itises” – patellar tendonitis, Achilles tendonitis, the bursitises – a lotof that can be alleviated and reduced if we improve mobility and stability. Iwould also say we’ve got to be very cautious – and Jeff talked about this – I'mnot saying they're bad, but we’ve got to be cautious about where we implementthe HIT classes and the CrossFit-style classes. They serve a purpose, they aregood at the right time for the right person. One thing I'm always leery aboutas a fitness director – and I think Jeff will agree with this – is you’ve gotto have a good instructor. If it is not a good instructor that's leading theclass, you really could be more likely to injure yourself, and you’ve got tomake sure whoever's leading the class understands progression and regression,and is able to customize things to your personal level. Because if they'reteaching to the most advanced person’s level in that class, and you're tryingto keep up with them, you could walk away injured. You could walk away injuredand behind the eight ball. So you need to make sure you advocate for yourself,talk to the instructor beforehand. Walk up, introduce yourself, let them knowif you got any aches or pains going on, and just ask them if they can give youany type of regressions or progressions necessary for you. A good instructorwill do that, and they will be happy that you came to them and talked to themabout what limiting factors you're dealing with.


Vanessa:Those are really great tips. Thank you so much for sharing that. That'shigh-quality knowledge right there. I do have to say, about the Pilates – I'm ahuge Pilates advocate. I remember talking to the wonderful Miss Cindy Reevesone day, and she suggested to me, she's like, “You've got to get on thatReformer Pilates.” And man, has that made a difference in my entire training.It's been a miracle. So I highly, highly vouch for that form of class, that'sfor sure. Now, if someone does want to go to one of these classes that we'vementioned, how would you adjust their program to incorporate this class intotheir training? Is there something that you would get rid of or replace? Howwould you go about doing that?


Matt:Look at your lowest priority sessions for the week. Look at your easy run, lookat your easy bike. If we see the word “easy” in front of a session – remember,those sessions are meant to assist in recovery, enhance recovery, not commandmore recovery. I use a “red light, yellow light, green light” mentality.Remember, all of those are heart-rate based sessions. So if your heart rate capfor Zone 2 is 142, that's your red light. I always tell my athletes, “Red light142, the yellow light is 140. What's going to happen when you see the yellowlight? That red light’s coming. Green light is anything 137 or less in thatexample. Nothing says you’ve got to go up to 142. You can stay low, as long asyou're in Zone 2. So remember that with these sessions. But that's a greatopportunity if you want to go do one of these other classes, if you want to godo a step aerobics class, let's say, and it's an easy run day. Certainly do it,but just try to be mindful of the heart rate still. If you want to go do a groupcycling class instead of doing your easy Zone 2 bike ride, you probably could.You’ve just got to be mindful of how much resistance you actually put on thespin bike. A lot of different varieties out there, but it all goes back topurpose and intention again. And I’m quick, if an athlete says to me, “HeyCoach, there's this great class I want to do.” First of all, if they're willingto express that interest and it means that much to them, I want to find a wayto make it work, because that's personal enjoyment for them. So I try to bendover backwards and try to make a way for it to fit into their program, becauseit is a social piece, and it is something that sounds like it matters to them.So let's make it work. I think that's the important thing.


Jeff:Jeff, do you have anything to add for that one?


Jeff:I'll take it from the approach of group training. Like, “Hey, I want to go ridewith my local group this weekend.” Or, “I want to go to the track or go on arun on the trail with my buddies.” So how do you keep the intent or integrityof the original workout, but also get the social and fun, there's just so manyways to do it. You could go, “Hey, I’ve got 3 x 8 minutes. Let's go run an hourand a half all together,” but just let the group know, your few buddies, “Hey,I might just push it for 5 or 8 minutes, but let's regroup after that.” You canfind ways to make that work. Sometimes you just need to clear your mind, a“no-data ride” so to speak, and just go ride out with buddies. There are waysto kind of have your cake and eat it too, or have that win-win. I am always anadvocate of trying to make those fun group sessions happen. There are ways. Iused to hold track workouts at the multi-sport facility that I used to manage.We would warm up and cool down together, but those who had structured trainingwould do their work out in the outside lane, and the others in the group woulddo their workouts on the inside lanes, so everyone was still together. There'sways to make it work, you’ve just got to get a little creative.


Vanessa:That is a really creative idea.


Matt:One other thing to throw in there, and Jeff just said this but I’ve got to puta plug in for it, is we have these great Saturday morning TriDot group rides onZwift. What a great opportunity to. You log in, everybody stays rubber-bandedtogether. I might have 2 x 16 threshold and 2 x 10 Zone 3, somebody else mighthave step-ups, somebody else might be on a stamina bike ride. But there's thatcommunity aspect, there's the chat going on. To Jeff's point, what a great wayto have that social piece, have your cake and eat it too as he said.


Vanessa:Yeah, I hundred percent agree with you on the Saturday group rides. That is oneof the things that drew me to the TriDot community right from the get-go asthey started up, and I was 100% in there and loving every second of it. It wasa really wonderful way to spend your training session, that's for sure. We'regoing to jump back into one other last question here. Now, I was in a boot foreight months straight with a high ankle sprain and occult fracture, and I cantell you that it got really old really fast. Some of my friends from my runninggroup, they were so kind, and they decided to hire a personal trainer to run aboot-camp-type class. And I was able to actually participate with somemodification in my boot, I was wearing it. But I didn't feel disconnected fromthe group, and it was a really wonderful way to stay present with my friends.Now, the instructor, as you had mentioned earlier, was a really goodinstructor, and modified the exercises that I could participate, and it wasgreat, great fun. So I'm wondering if there are any other types of classes thatyou would suggest to help an injured athlete stay connected to the community,so they don't feel sad all the time. Matt, do you think?


Matt:Not to reiterate what we've already said, but from a group class perspective, Ithink some of the best ones would definitely be deep-water aerobics,shallow-water aerobics, Pilates, and yoga. I think those four in particularwill really allow an injured athlete – somebody that's dealing with something,that could be in a boot, could potentially be on crutches, could possibly havesomething going on that needs some special considerations. Modifications couldbe made in yoga, Pilates, and obviously I think in the water as long as it'ssafe. But not every pool has wheelchair access, where it's a zero-entry pool.So if they don't have a lift chair, and you can’t get down a ladder, that maynot be an option. You’ve got to take those things into consideration as well.Definitely check with the aquatic facility you're going to. A lot have a lift,if you need it to get in and out because you have a lower-body injury. Somehave zero-entry access, which means you can just walk on in just fine. But ifyou can't use the ladder, you can't get in the pool. I don't think you want tocannonball off, and I know they don't want you jumping off the diving board. Itmight be fun to do, might be fun to see, but I don't think that's going to helpthe injury, if you know what I mean.


Jeff:I’ll jump in here and just say, Vanessa, and to anyone that is dealing withinjury, it takes a special person to stay motivated. Yes, there's like theseven levels of getting through an event or a trauma –depression and anger andall these things – but it takes a special person to stay motivated, to reallyreach out, branch out, find those other modalities, do it, and do it right. Sokudos to you, Vanessa, and anyone that's going through this – doing the bestthey can to just stay motivated, to stay fit, to stay excited, and not sitaround and sulk and waste that time while you're healing. Kudos to you and goodjob. And I’ll throw in, you could do little things at home, like little 15,20-minute Peloton strength workouts, or bike, or other fun modalities. Findingthese ways to think outside the box, and doing them at home. There's tons ofresources out there, YouTube videos. You don't just have to indoor train byjoining a gym and going to one of their classes, you can get creative at homein finding those videos and things like that. So buying tubing bands or a setof dumbbells, or something that's going to help you stay active, keep moving.You could do it at home indoors, not just at other facilities.


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


Vanessa:All right, everyone, it's Coach Cooldown Tip Time, and I'm Vanessa, YourAverage Triathlete with Elite-Level Enthusiasm! Joining me today is a veteranTriDot coach from way back in the day, when athlete information was collectedand tracked on Excel sheets. It's crazy how the platform has evolved over thelast 15 plus years. John Mayfield has been triathloning since 2010. He is aten-time Ironman finisher, and an Alcatraz finisher, which may just classify asone of his all-time favorite race experiences. These days, he is a full-timetriathlon coach, and specializes in long-course athletes who are busy parentsand/or professionals longing to be competitive, even if it's simply withthemselves. He currently lives in Friendswood, Texas with his wife, three kids,three dogs, and three chickens. Welcome to the show, John!


John Mayfield: Thanks for having me!


Vanessa:So I hear that you are a true crime buff, and I have one question for you. Didyou ever watch “Unsolved Mysteries” as a kid?


John:I loved “Unsolved Mysteries” as a kid. Yeah, constantly. Even in streaming,it's still on. But man, I am equally as massive a fan of the reboots that, Iguess it's Netflix, has done. When I see there's a new season of that, I get“Elite-Level Vanessa” excited for those. Yeah, they're good. The one thing thatis a little bit frustrating about Unsolved Mysteries is it doesn't wrap up.That's the point, like it wouldn't be unsolved mysteries if it was solved. Butnow every once in a while they will have those updates, and those are reallygood. That little update music comes on and you’re like, “Oh, they solved it!”So yeah, big fan of Unsolved Mysteries. Fun little story, Coach Jo and I, we doa lot of our training rides together, and of course we go ride out in theseremote places where traffic is pretty minimal. She’s a crime buff too, andwe're always talking –like the other day we were out riding on these backroads, and we saw this car that was kind of driving through a field. And we'relike, “There's definitely a body in that trunk.” It’s not like a truck drivingdown that road. This is like a sedan right in the middle of nowhere, drivingdown this dirt road, “They're definitely ditching a body.” That's what goesthrough our minds when we're out there on those long rides. We’re alwayskeeping an eye out for potential crime scenes and taking notes like, “It's ared ‘97 Buick,” just in case we need that information later on.


Vanessa:But you didn't stop.


John:No, no. Because one thing we've learned is never leave witnesses. So I don'twant to end up in the trunk.


Vanessa:Well, let's transfer to triathlon tips. What triathlon tip do you have for ustoday?


John:Yeah. So this one that I've not really learned, but really embraced over thelast couple of years, which is what can we do to really maximize ourperformance? How do we go out and beat that PR that we had previously set on areally good day? How do we continue to improve? How do we beat the field andqualify for those championship races? I think so many times we focus onfitness. “I need to get as fit as possible.” And yes, that's absolutely true.But what I've really come to see and realize, is that fitness and racereadiness is really only half the battle. It's what you do on race day, how youexecute your race, that's really going to determine how much of that fitnesspotential that you realize. It's going to be based on your execution. So youcan go out there with an extremely high level of fitness, but if you don'texecute that race properly or well, you're never going to realize the potentialthat you could have had on that day. And that's just a travesty, to go and tobuild all that fitness but not get to cash it in. And really, the keys toexecution are things that are done prior to the race. Things like yourrecovery, your injury prevention, injury management – if you feel somethingcoming on, what are you doing to make sure that it doesn’t kind of spiral intosomething bigger? Are you tapering properly? A lot of times, athletes just liketo shut down and rest up. That's a component to tapering, but you also need toremain active in that taper. Then things like logistics, especially for a bigrace – taking into consideration things like travel, where you stay, what youeat, how your meals are prepared. All these things are really going to bemanifest on race day. Then actually during the race, the pacing is obviouslycritical – if you go out too hard, if you go out too easy, both of those haveimplications. I have almost like this – I guess it's not a trinity, but kind oflike it – it's nutrition, hydration, electrolytes, and then the fourth thatmakes it not a trinity would be cooling. Those four components are massivelycritical during the race, so that's something I've really focused on for myselfas well as the athletes that I work with. It’s having a well-vetted hydrationplan – knowing how many ounces of fluid you need per hour, especially given theenvironment that you're going to be racing in. One thing I've really come intoin the last couple of years – and a lot of it has to do with our partnershipwith Precision Fuel & Hydration – is just how important having adequateelectrolytes is, and realizing that so many products don't have enough. That’ssomething that is largely unique and really special about those Precisionproducts. For me, I have a very high rate of loss of electrolytes, so they'rereally the only product on the market that I can easily get the amount ofelectrolytes that I need, and we've seen that with a lot of other athletes aswell. Then your nutrition, obviously you have to dial in that nutritionprotocol, knowing what works for you. Everyone has a little bit differenttolerance for different types of calories. Some have sensitivities, and somelike different products, so it's finding what works for you. What works for memay not work for you, it's finding the actual product And even that can coverthe gamut – is it some type of sports drink, is it gels, is it some kind ofsolid, is it solid foods? Whatever it is that's going to work best for you togive you the energy that you need, and make sure that you don't have those GIissues. Because again, all these things can really sabotage all this level offitness. Then the other one that is really key, and I think oftentimesoverlooked, is a cooling protocol. We race usually in the summer, a lot ofthese races tend to get warm. And I don't even use the word “hot”, because itdoesn't necessarily have to be a hot day for that temperature to impact yourperformance. It only takes a warm day to where you are going to have tomitigate that. Once your core temperature begins to rise, your body is going tolimit how much it's going to put out, so you have to keep your core temperaturecool. It's not just about staying comfortable. I think that's what some peoplethink cooling is about, “Yeah, I'm getting hot, so I want to cool off.” That’skind of our normal routine just day-to-day – if we're hot, we want to get cool.But understand that bad things happen when your core temperature gets too high.It's like having a fever, your body is going to begin to shut down and limityour output. If that core temperature is going up, your performance is coming down,so what is your cooling protocol? It’s twofold. First, it's controlling thatcore temperature from the inside, taking in things like cool fluids and evenchewing on ice. Then same thing from the outside, managing your temperaturefrom the outside, like covering skin, keeping your body wet, putting ice downyour kit, under your cap, things like that to cool from the inside as well asoutside. Obviously, the higher the temperature, the more critical this is goingto be, this is why we see such an impact on those really hot races. But I thinkit's important to understand that it doesn't necessarily have to be a hot day.When you're out there running and cycling, and especially the harder you'recycling and running, the lower that temperature threshold is going to be. And Iwould say the vast majority of triathlons – unless it’s a very early-season orlate-season race – most of the races that we have are going to be in a warmenough environment where that really, really becomes critical.


Vanessa:This is a fabulous tip. I just have one small thing to add about this coolingprotocol, because I know it's something that I have not done previously. BeforeI implemented a cooling protocol, I didn't practice the cooling protocol. I hadnever run in a really wet kit before, so during the race when I was taking allthe ice, and shoving it in all the places and cooling myself off, it was a veryinteresting feeling to run in that really wet kit. My socks got all wet, and myshoes got all wet. I think that's an important thing to practice.


John:Yeah, even managing those kinds of things. Say your race shoes, you've only runin them dry and they don't cause blisters. Well, what if they get wet and theydo? It's kind of managing that too. You try to keep your feet dry as long aspossible, but depending on the day, you might just be drenching yourself justto fight it off, and at that point, yeah, you're going to be sloshing around.So it's important to know – maybe it's some band aids, maybe it's some Vaselineor something like that, because your feet are going to get wet. And if yourfeet get wet, there's a higher risk of blisters.


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


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