Friday, August 29, 2014

New blog location

Summer has been going full speed and one of the things I have changed is where my blog will be located.  Check it out  Looking forward to a great Labor Day weekend and squeezing out as many awesome fall days before winter gets a firm grip on Colorado.

Train Smart... Race Fast!

Coach Eric

Monday, July 7, 2014

Ironman World Championships Round 2

I was talking on the phone a couple weeks ago with one of my clients that is racing in Kona this October and I posed a simple question to him; Why do you want to do another Kona Ironman?  I liked his response so much, that I thought I would share it.  Possible it may help the rookie Ironman or a gentle reminder for the seasoned veteran on how to keep the balance.

Bill Greentree

The first time you enter an Iron distance triathlon you really have no idea what you're in for. You might not even be sure just how you came to the decision to enter an Ironman race. Our reasons for wanting to complete an Ironman distance event go well beyond our desire for a brief moment in the spotlight. For some it's a natural evolution of their current sport or a lifetime of athletic endeavors. For others it's a fad, they just want to hear the famed “You are an Ironman!” (He doesn't say it every time by the way.) Some are just natural triathletes and want to give the long course a go. A very few are competitive by nature and want to one up someone they know. And then there are the pro's.

I'm not any of those. In fact, I spent most of my adult life avoiding any physical activity that could by any stretch of the imagination be deemed 'exercise'. At age 50 I was tired of being overweight and out of shape so I started a run walk program. I took absolute delight the first time I ran a full mile without stopping. Eventually a combination of factors led to my first triathlon, an Olympic distance race. Six months later in October 2011 at just under 55 years of age I did my third triathlon ever – the Ironman World Championship. I joked with people that the reason I was doing Ironman was because I was a runner in the “Mecca” of the long course triathlon world, Kailua Kona -- it's the only place in the world you have to apologize for being “just a runner.”

Even as an endurance runner with several standalone marathons under my belt, I really wasn't prepared mentally for just what simply completing an Ironman course during the hottest time of the year on Hawaii Island would entail. Your mind focuses on the upcoming race and there are likely as many reactions to that focus as there are people doing the race. A common reaction is paralysis through analysis. You become so intent on the end task (the race) that you can't figure out how to get there. For those of us with real lives it's easy to get overwhelmed with the myriad of details involved in training for three sports when you haven't done this before. 

It's easy to succumb to the idea that training for a full length Ironman distance race isn't for the feint of heart or those with limited time to train. After all, it's Ironman for heavens sake. Unless you're careful, Ironman training can easily become a second job and as  any person with two jobs, you find yourself becoming adept at juggling schedules, disciplined in following a training program and time management or you end up sacrificing other aspects of your life. That's where your coach comes in. A triathlon coach can take an enormous amount of that stress out of your life and allow you to focus on the task at hand, getting trained to compete. It's his (or her) job to keep that path to the finish line in mind for you. How you train for this or any other race is dependent upon your goals. Are you capable of finishing in the top 3% of age group athletes? Do you simply want to comfortably finish the race? Are you working with a disability or chronic injury? Each answer impacts your goals, priorities and just how you approach training.

Another common reaction to the prospect of an Iron distance race in the not too distant future is becoming overly task oriented. That is, focusing so much on the immediate task at hand that you lose sight of the big picture. The old adage that there's training and then there's racing isn't always true. Some of our workouts are designed specifically to apply to race day: flattening out the hills on the bike, training your legs to run properly when they feel like rubber after a 100 mile ride, simulating the fatigue you feel at the end of the bike ride at mile 20 on the run, etc. Task oriented myopia can lead to forgetting some of these lessons and having them painfully brought home during the race. As an airline pilot, I naturally fell into this category for my first Ironman race. My training program for the 2011 Ironman World Championship was more of a journey than a set of individual exercises. But I missed a lot of that journey by focusing on what I was trying to do rather than where I was going, how I was doing and what I was doing. 

I am a runner. I had trained for and finished a December marathon the year before I started triathlons. My training, therefore, concentrated on swimming and building cycling skills and endurance. Running would take care of itself though it was neither ignored nor allowed to languish. What I recall the most are the long bike rides, five plus hours while trying to figure out your nutrition and hydration for those long rides. Anywhere else what we call “nutrition” would be called really bad candy. Oh and the bricks. For someone from a pure running background, bricks are an amazingly humbling experience. Your legs that have served so well on countless runs just don't feel right and you can't make them feel 'normal' anytime soon. But really, no matter how fit you are when you start the journey, you soon find yourself in the best physical condition of your life and you like it.

I hesitated a bit before I pressed the submit button on for this years race. The first time you have no clue what you're in for. I know better now. I pressed the button anyway.  Maybe the answer really is what Frank Shorter said regarding marathons, “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming.” I have four months from the time I found out I had a Kona slot to race day. It's going to be a journey again. This time though, it's not my first rodeo. In fact it really isn't my second  (It is my second time to the Ironman World Championship) rodeo either. For the first time I'm intent on maintaining the balance between the big picture and tunnel vision in the task of the moment. I also want to see just how far that commitment to enjoying the journey will go towards not avoiding the discipline I most dislike. Everyone has a discipline they most like to avoid, mine used to be swimming. It just might be fun to see how I do in October if I actually do all my coaches swimming workouts instead of putting them off.

There's also the complacency factor, been there done that; no big deal. The second time around is harder because you have been there before. Motivation, or rather the lack thereof, becomes a real factor. Plus it's a familiar course for me. That's a double edged sword. We know where the course compounds our personal weaknesses so we can train for it. It also is the proverbial sword of Damocles. We know what's coming. All that matters on race day is how you deal with the inevitable adversity; our winds are famous, it's the hottest time of the year, it's also on the edge of one of our rainy seasons – all on the same day sometimes! Overcoming those factors and finishing better than I did three years ago would be a coupe. But I will have fun again. But honestly there's another reason.

It's the last half mile that sucks you in. The finish line is a mere 800 meters away but seems to be a mere speck of light in an otherwise black hole. The music and voices you could hear so clearly out on the Queen Ka`ahumanu highway now sound startlingly muted and distant. Astonishingly the last bit of energy you've been trying to find for 10 km suddenly appears. Your pace quickens along a surprisingly empty road. Even in prime time it seems it's just you all alone on Ali`i Drive. A few elites are out enjoying a post dinner stroll (They can still walk?) and cheer you on (Dinner? How can they eat? Can it really be that late that they're done with dinner?). A spectator who's imbibed a bit too much staggers out onto the road to congratulate you. You really wish he hadn't done that, you're not done yet, besides changing course even by a step just isn't easy after 140 miles. This is what the four months of training and pain were all about – not the miles beforehand – this moment in time. This is why you want to do this. Suddenly a huge noisy crowd materializes yet ironically you hear your family and friends above the din. After listening to Mike Riley call in people for 2 or 3 miles it's your turn.  And then it's over. Just. Like. That. 

This years race will likely be my last time in the Ironman World Championship. It's rare in life that we get the opportunity to know that we're doing something for the last time. That knowledge is incredibly empowering. We can enjoy the journey, enjoy the sport we most dislike, enjoy the sport we really enjoy the most, enjoy the race and relish the finish. As Bullwinkle Jay Moose used to say, “This time for Sure!”

And I still think it's incredible when I run a full mile without stopping.


With a little over 3 months until Kona, I know that Bill is in a very good place and will do everything I can to help him enjoy the journey to race day.

Train Smart... Race Fast
Coach Eric

Monday, June 9, 2014

Progression workouts for sensible, flexible training!

Training plans are written as a best case scenario, but there is no way for you or your coach to know how your body & mind are going to feel on a particular day.  No way to know how much of a toll all the other stresses of life have put on you.  How much sleep you have been getting, the quality of your nutrition/hydration, any injuries, work, family, etc...  All of these things can factor into your workout for that day.

How fast you progress to in any particular training session will be based on the goals of the session and what your body & mind have available to deliver on that day.  I like to give my clients workouts that are what I call "progression on feel".  This allows them to listen to their body and progress to their limits for the day or if the body is a bit off, then just progress to what is available.  I believe this helps keep injury potential down and continues to teach the athlete to listen to the signals their body is sending so they can keep training or recovering if that is the case.

Progression workouts are really quite simple, you start off at a pace you can handle and increase your intensity as the workout progresses.  They are great for teaching athletes how to pace themselves at the beginning of a training session, so they will have enough energy to finish the session as fast or faster than they started.  It is much better to be dictate the pace you are going to move at rather than have the pace dictated to you because you went out too fast.

For those that train with power or heart rate, you can easily measure whether or not the intensity is increasing.  While going on feel is great, the numbers don't lie and a good tool to use to compliment your training.  Over time your feel will get better as your ability to gauge your perceived effort improves.  This is important because you do not want to be a slave to the numbers and what happens on race day if technology fails you?  You should have a very good idea what a particular effort feels like, and how long you can sustain it.

Remember that consistency in training is one of the keys to improvement.  This coupled with a balance of stress plus recovery will enable an athlete to progress their training throughout the year.  So try implementing a few "progression on feel" workouts during the coming weeks to help maximize the training that you do.

Train Smart... Race Fast!

Coach Eric

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Want to Get Faster... Work on limiters, maintain strengths

Often times as a coach, I hear athletes state "I want to get faster but I don't know what to do".  One of the easiest thing you can do is to identify your strengths and weaknesses (limiters) in the sports you do.
A Romanian sports scientist Tudor Bompa, Ph.D.,  did some of the early work on periodization and has shared his findings in a great book called. "The Theory and Methodology of Training".  Joe Friel, has simplified things for the everyday athlete to easily understand and calls it "The Training Triad".  You can read in more detail about this in one of his books, "Total Heart Rate Training", but here are the basics to get you started.

He states that in any sport, there are six physical abilities related to performance:  Endurance, Force, Speed Skill, Muscular Endurance, Anaerobic Endurance and Power.  He further states that endurance, force and speed skill are the "basic abilities" and muscular endurance, anaerobic endurance and power are the "advanced abilities".  Athletes regardless of sport will need to develop their basic abilities to their full potential before the advanced abilities can be developed fully.  The reason for this is to develop your muscular endurance fully you need both endurance and force.  Anaerobic endurance requires endurance and speed skill while power requires force and speed skill.  Beginner athletes will stand to gain the most by just working on the basic skills while a more seasoned athlete can devote time to the advanced abilities to improve performance as long as the basic abilities are maintained.

Identifying your limiters and subsequently learning how to train for them is a key ingredient to getting faster.  This will make setting up your training plan whether self coached or using a coach a bit easier because you will know exactly what you need to work on.  Make time to do your homework and you will be on your way to getting faster.

Train smart, race fast!

Coach Eric

Monday, May 12, 2014

1/2 Ironman Race Pace Swim Set

A month ago, I posted one of my favorite Ironman swim training sets and had a few people ask me what they could do to prepare for a 1/2 Ironman swim distance.  The 1/2 Ironman distance is a little over 2100 yards or 1900 meters.  Specificity of training is key, so it is important to do broken swims at or near race pace with some rest from time to time.  If you can not swim race speed with rest, it is going to be VERY difficult to swim it with no rest.

The set 
2100 Yards/1900 meters

Strong, but in control:
6 x 50 on short rest interval :05-10 sec.  This helps simulate the beginning chaos of the race.  Arms flailing around you, feet kicking, bodies pressed together.  Best to get a little uncomfortable in practice with these 50's so race day will be less challenging.  Think of swimming these 50's as a strong, broken 300 and that will allow you be consistent and not over achieve too soon.

Settling in:
3 x 300 @ :20 sec rest steady pace.  Not a lot of rest, but enough to keep your swim speed honest.  Try not to slow down too much from the initial swim speed of the 6 x 50's.  So, if your 50's above were :40 seconds then you should aim for 300's around 4:05-4:10

Stay settled or pick it up:
3 x 200 (2 x 200 if Meters) @ :20 sec rest.  Here is where you need to decide, do I stay on these feet I am drafting or possibly make and effort to pass and/or find feet moving slightly faster.  By practicing this in training you will have a pretty good idea in a race at this point what you should do.  So keep the pace the same as the 300's or pick it up 1-2 seconds per 100.

Finish strong:
6 x 50 on short rest interval :05-10 sec Graduay build the legs and hold on to your stroke biomechanics This will help minimize your chances of falling down when it is time to stand up and run to T1 and help the legs prepare for the bike.

A set like this could be done once every 2-3 weeks to help measure if you are improving and also dial in your swimming pace.  Perception and reality are often two different things.  For example if you are good on the 50's but fade on the 300's, chances are you went out too fast.  If you get through the 300's knowing you can swim faster, you are in a good place and should be able to hold pace on the 200's or slightly faster.

Train Smart, Race Fast

Coach Eric

Monday, May 5, 2014

Get FASTER!....Get out of your comfort zone!

How many of you are training by doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result?  It is easy to fall into the same routine with exercise and don't get me wrong, routine is a good thing.  But, if you want to improve, I believe from time to time you will need to get out of your comfort zone and change up the routine a bit.  A client of mine gave me the name  "The Evil Genius" and I think it largely came from the fact that I challenge him to reach beyond what he thinks is possible.

Lets take a simple swimming set of 10 x 100 @ 1:30
There are 3 ways to modify this set to make it more challenging.

1. Intensity - Same number of repeats, same interval but increase speed.
2. Duration - Same speed, same interval but add more repeats 12 x 100 or 15 x 100
3. Rest - Same number of repeats, same speed but on shorter rest interval of 1:25
What you choose to modify should focus on what your limiters are.  You can apply this to your cycling and running when planning workouts.  In addition, the type of training route you choose (flat, rolling, hilly) can help get you out of your comfort zone.

How often should you get out of your comfort zone?  Once a week for beginners would be a good place to start.  A more seasoned athlete may choose twice a week.  Keep in mind there is not only a physical toll on these workouts, but a mental one.  Often times the real gains come from the latter as the physical ability was always there, but the mind was lagging a bit in confidence or preconceived self imposed limits.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable and watch your fitness and performance improve.

Train smart, race fast!

Coach Eric

Monday, April 28, 2014

Triathlon 101 - The Basics Starting off... Keep it Simple

So you want to do a Triathlon but not sure how to go about training for it.  Triathlon is comprised of three sports, swimming, biking and running and the events are typically completed in that order.  A very common race distance that athletes will start with is called a sprint triathlon.  The swim will usually be between 500-750 yards, the bike about 12 miles and the run 3.1miles. 

The Swim – 10-20% of your race depending on ability.  Of the three sports, the swim can be the most intimidating for people, especially when you are learning as an adult.  One of the best things you can do in addition to getting to the pool and practicing is hire a coach to help you with your swimming stroke.   A good set of eyes should quickly be able to determine where improvements can be made in technique to help you, swim faster and hopefully with less effort. 

The Bike – 40-50% of your race depending on ability.  The bike typically is the largest portion of the race in terms of distance and time.  For many first time triathlete’s, I would encourage you to just ride whatever type of bike is available to you.  No need to go out and spend $100’s if not $1,000’s of dollars on a bike before you know that you are going to be doing this sport for a while.  A basic mountain or road bike should do the job.  Plenty of gears to choose from and it may be a more comfortable ride compared to a time trial bike.  They do have clip pedals now where you can clip your shoe right onto the pedal, but your running shoes and a pair of stomp pedals will work just fine and help keep the initial cost of your first race down.

The Run - 30-40% of your race depending on ability.  Now most of us at one time or another either growing up or as adults have run at some point.  While running may not be your favorite of the three events, it is the one event you can pretty much train for anywhere and all you need is a good pair of shoes.  Take the time to get a proper fit for a pair of shoes that are the best for your feet. 

Before you lay out a training plan to prepare for you first triathlon, it is important to identify which sports you’re strong in and which ones need a bit more attention.  That way during the training, you can properly balance training for the three sports, work on improving your weaker ones and maintaining your strengths.

Setting up a training week does require a bit of thought but here are 5 simple to make that a bit easier.

1.     Identify the best days and times of day for you to train.
2.     When appropriate, find a workout buddy, as you are more likely to stick with a scheduled workout if meeting a friend.
3.     Be flexible.  Life does throw changes at us all the time, so having the ability to move things around when needed is a bit help.
4.     Schedule a day off each week, where all you may do is take a leisurely walk for 20-30 minute if you feel antsy.
5.     Brick workouts are very specific training.  They may be challenging at first, but will help better prepare you for transitioning from one sport to another.

Training like a triathlete is a great way to stay fit even if you don't plan on racing.  The variety of training generally helps athletes avoid overuse injuries from just doing a single sport and there are endless ways to structure workouts depending on your strengths and weaknesses.  Lastly, as I have stated before, have fun with your training whether you train alone or with a group.  

Train Smart, Race Fast....

Coach Eric

Monday, April 14, 2014

Little things go a long way

Spring is in full bloom throughout most of the county and more and more people will be ramping up their training for upcoming races. Along with the increase in training, comes the potential for over use injuries if the athlete is not mindful of their bodies signals.  Here are 3 parts to pretty much any workout that if done properly will give you the best chance of success. 

Warm up - Make sure you take time to let your body come online for the workout. A combination of aerobic activity gradually building intensity along with some sport specific, dynamic exercises is a great way to prepare the body for the session.

During workout - This is where you really need to pay attention.  Some days you are going to feel great, so take advantage of that.  Other days you are just not going to have it.  Kind of like Captain Kirk's request for more power and Scotty says "captain I'm given her all she's got". These days are best spent working on technique and basic endurance skills.  So, when the body is feeling good, you have the good biomechanics in place to when you crank things up.

Cool down - As the training session comes to a close, take the time to GRADUALLY cool down.  Some post exercise flexibility in areas of tension would be most beneficial along with some myofacial release work with "The Stick", foam roller, or any combination of tools that will help you loosen up

Two orher big things you can do when not training would be adequate sleep & balanced nutrition.  Lets keep this real simple: We are all different on our own individual sleep needs so find what is best for you and get to bed.  The same goes for the foods you give your body.  Find what works for you and not the latest fad or what a professional athlete may be eating who is training 20+ hours a week.

Exercising and training for a race is a privaledge and such a great way to spend some free time. So, make sure you take the time to do the little things so your training and racing can be at their best. 

Train Smart, Race Fast!

Coach Eric 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Group Training & Racing = Fast and Fun

Canyonlands 1/2 Marathon Crew pre-race. Moab, UT

Training and racing with a group from time to time is is a great way to mix things up.  Last weekend, a group I coach and run with headed for Moab, UT for the Moab 1/2 Marathon.  The trip reminded me once again how much fun can be had when you get a group of people together for some exercise.

Post race hike Arches National Park Moab, UT

Incase you have never had the opportunity to workout with a group, here are a just a few benefits of group training:
  • Training partners
  • Someone to push you and go into the hurt locker with
  • Someone to just cruise when you need it
  • Socializing during workout
  • Coaching
  • Someone to draft in the pool, lake or ocean
  • Accountability knowing you are meeting a friend for a workout
  • Potential cool photo opportunities
  • Someone to draft on the bike when you're dragging ass or rotate through on a paceline
  • Post work social activities... need I say more
  • Carpooling to workout and/or race which leads too...'
  • Roadtrips!
  • Therapy... usually cheaper than retail therapy
  • Laughter, think about it, when is the last group workout you did and there was no laughing?

As you plan out your training in the coming days and weeks, think about ways that you may be able to add a group workout into your schedule.

Lace um up and have a great week,
Coach Eric

Monday, March 10, 2014

Northern Colorado Triathlon Club (NoCo Tri) has launched!!!

There are many small groups of endurance athletes working out in Northern Colorado, and even more people working out by themselves. What if these groups could be brought together for training, racing, educational and social activities?

Two local coaches, Jon Mason & Eric Neilsen had a vision of a triathlon club that would unify the endurance athletes of Northern Colorado.  They also wanted to make a difference in the community they live in.  After some further discussion it was decided to move forward and start taking the necessary steps to forming the club.   Knowing they would need the support of other like-minded individuals in the community, a meeting was held in mid-December to see who might want to be involved in the leadership as the club was being formed.  Fifteen people showed up for the first meeting and from that group they filled roughly 2/3 of the officer and committee chair positions that would lead the club in 2014.  

Next up was planning for the first meeting and filling the remaining leadership positions.  Jon and Eric along with the club officers Brent Phinney, Michelle Alexander, Jennifer Schneider and Diane Schultz worked on the agenda and logistics for the kick-off party to be held on January 15th.  They had a great turnout for the event with 85-90 people showing up.  The evening consisted of socializing, seeing old friends, and meeting new friends along with hearing about the nuts and bolts of why the club was being formed.   The turnout of people for the first meeting exceeded expectations and is a good sign that the people of Northern Colorado are interested in making this happen.

People join clubs for many reasons: social, training groups, education, racing.  We envision the NoCo Tri Club serving all these needs and more as interest continues to build in 2014.   

For more info on the Northern Colorado Triathlon Club please visit or check out the Facebook page

Make it a great week of training where ever you're at and take a few minutes to check out your local triathlon club.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Swimming reference set for Ironman Training

Swim Start Ironman World Championship view from Kona Inn on Ali'i Drive

March is here and if you are preparing for an early season Ironman, this is a great 3500yard/meter
workout you can insert into your training plan.  Also, good for swimmers preparing for open water swims and/or the time crunched athlete.  Continues reinforcing the need to build into swims making early pacing critical to maximizing your performance.  

The workout
1 x 500 Free Warm
2 x 400 Faster pace per 100 than 500 this should be easy since 500 was warm up
3 x 300 Faster pace per 100 than 400's
4 x 200 Faster pace per 100 than 300's
5 x 100 Cool down
Total 3500

500 on :30 sec rest
400's 300's and 200's on your normal base example 1:30/100M
so 400's on 6:00, 300's on 4:30, 200's on 3:00
100's on :10 sec rest mix strokes as you like

You could repeat this set every 3-4 weeks to measure your improvement as the season progresses and it works well before a bike session as the first part of a swim/bike brick.

Make it a great week of training and please email me at eric@coachericneilsen with topics you are interested in learning more about.

Coach Eric

Monday, February 24, 2014

Powerful Glutes... Powerful Athlete!

Recently I was corresponding with a client that will be preparing for some triathlons later this year and we got to talking about strength training, in particular strength exercises for the glutes aka "the butt" and how important it was to have functional strength in this area for multisport athletes.  There are three muscles comprising the glueteal region Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius & Gluteius Minimus and a 4th smaller muscle the Tensor Fasciae Latae.  Click on the links below to read more about each specific muscle. 

Gluteus Maximus
Gluteus Medius 
Gluteus Minimus 
Tensor Fasciae Latae

There are many exercises for the glutes but here are three that she found to be very helpful in her strength program.  All these exercises do not require that much balance, can be done with body weight, then progressed to an unweighted Smith bar.  When doing an exercise for the first time, work on technique and check body position to create body memory before adding weight.

1.  Split lunges with back foot on a bench or ball with bodyweight or weighted on Smith machine.  Narrow stance works quads more, wider stance works glutes/hamstrings, push up through heel.  Knee do not pass toes.
2.  Sumo squats either with bar or on bosu ball.  Key is for thighs to drop below parallel to engage glutes/hamstrings, keep butt out (do not curve lower back or tail bone in).  This can be difficult for people with tight Achilles.  You can use plie squats with a landmine just to vary it up (this is a wider stance with toes pointed out like in plie).
3.  Wide stance leg press brings in more glutes/hamstring, narrow stance quads/vastus lateralis.  Try to bend knees past 90 and push through heels. 

Do the time in the gym NOW, so you can cut loose when its time to go fast later this season.

Make it a great week of training.

Coach Eric

Monday, February 17, 2014

Athlete Education...Never Ending!

Visited in Fall 2011 on my quest for more knowledge!

I have been coaching since 1991 and one thing I have always tried to do is keep and open mind to new ideas in ways to train and continue to educate myself on how the body really works as one unit.

Below are a couple of articles from the folks at Rebound Sports I think you will find helpful as you continue to amass your own knowledge.  They have been helpful reminders as well as some new information to add to my library. One talks about the the imbalances our bodies have and the other is about the feet in terms that you can understand.

Happy reading, make it a great week of training and never stop learning!

Coach Eric

Monday, February 10, 2014

Re-Post, Just Try... One year later

A little over a year ago, I decided to try and create content for a weekly blog.  This was a bit scary on multiple levels, but the pro's out weighed the con's and I gave it a go.  It is now early February and I am still at it. One week at a time in 2013, I chugged along like the little train that could with posts on different topics in the multisport world, general health and wellness and reader suggestions on new topics to explore.  At times it was a challenge to write, but I am glad I stuck with it and look forward to where this writing journey will take me this year.

Now, I would imagine that some of you have set new year's resolutions and may be struggling to maintain your focus and commitment after the first 40 days of 2014.  Maybe some of you were inspired to just start exercising, shed 10 pounds, or just eat a bit healthier.  Regardless of the resolution, you took the most important step, you decided to try.   Come to think of it, life is like a triathlon.  Below is slight revision of my first blog post back on January 21st, 2013 and a good reminder how far I have come in the past year.

By definition triathlon is “an athletic contest comprising three consecutive events, usually swimming, bicycling, and distance running”. What if we looked at it from a slightly different perspective and called it a try-athlon.  Would that help take some of the fear out of it?  What is it that prevents people from getting out of their comfort zone and trying something new?  I believe the answer is very simple.  The fear of failure is what stops most people from not only trying something new, but from leading the life they were meant to live.

This fear of failure paralyzes us from reaching our full potential as athletes, and experiencing some of life’s greatest moments.  We see this in sports all the time, but also in many aspects of daily life: work, school, and relationships to name a few, where fear prevents us from trying. What are we afraid of?   Are we too worried about what others may think or say?  Too vain as to how we might look in spandex? Being the slowest in a training group or last in race?  Look clumsy or awkward when first learning a new skill? I guarantee you, the Olympians we watch during the winter Olympics had plenty of awkward moments when they first started off.

What’s that old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again”.  The Front Range here in Colorado is an athlete’s playground with so many things to choose from. So, find a sport you like and just get out there and do it.  Life is far to short to be spending your free time doing a sport you don’t like. Give it your best shot and jump in with both feet and embrace the new challenge.  The only person you have to answer to at the end of the day is you so, do what makes you thrive.

In closing, the athletes we will have the opportunity to watch during the two weeks have failed on more than one occasion to reach the level excellence they are now at. One of the reasons they are champions, regardless of their final outcome is that they have learned from these failures along this long journey to Sochi.  It’s better to fail trying, than to not try at all.  Failing can be artistically beneficial and when we allow ourselves to become vulnerable by putting fear aside, we often times achieve the greatest growth.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Aquathon... Triathlon without the bike

Aquathon, no bike needed so why not decorate!
 Lago di Garda, Italy
One of the wonderful things about being a multisport athlete is there are endless ways to create workouts and have fun doing so.  One order to combine events is by doing a swim/run or the more common term, aquathon.  Competing in aquathon events is gaining popularity among athletes that are looking for new challenges in the multisport world.  Some people love to swim and run as part of the fitness regime but when it comes to the bike have no desire, do not have a bike or can't afford one.  Let's take a little closer look at some of the basics of aquathon.

Race Format - Typically is either run/swim/run or swim/run.  Of course swimmers would love to see a swim/run/swim event to even things out.  Hmmm.... idea for a future blog.  Some triathlons are now starting to offer an Aquathon as one of the formats to choose from on race day along with biathlons which are run/bike/run events.  For more listings of aquathons that may be in your area, check out

Race Distances - For the run/swim/run format will typically range from
Sprint 1.6 mile run, 1/4 mile swim, 1.6 mile run 
Intermediate 4 mile run .63 mile swim, 4 mile run
Long 8 mile run, 1.25 mile swim, 8 mile run
Ultra where they may run 18.6 miles, swim 2.0 miles, run 18.6 miles
For the swim/format, either a 1/3 - 1/2 mile swim, 3.1 mile run or 2/3 - 1 mile swim, 10K bike seem to be popular.  Really any combination of distances could work predicated on the venue you are using.  The swim part can be challenging because of limited access to water sometimes.

Time - It takes less time to train for an aquathon than a triathlon as the athlete is saving hours by not having to train for the bike portion of a triathlon which is close to 50% of most races.

Training - You can pretty much run anywhere it is just a matter of finding a lake, ocean or pool to swim in.  If you're lucky to live near a fitness center with a Vasa Ergometer or have your own, you can complete your swimming and even stay dry.  No cap, goggles, or bathing suit so you can already be dressed in your running stuff ready to go!

Variety - Along the lines of training, there are endless ways to combine events, based on distance, time or both to get a great workout and work on transitioning from one sport to another.  One thing I used to enjoy doing when I lived in Kona, Hawaii was run to the ocean or pool as warm up, then do my swim workout, then run home either as an easy cool down, or a hard run if I was feeling spry.  Just the opposite of that, some days a swim warm up, followed by a run, followed by a swim cool down was a great training session and swimming I have found over the decades is great way to finish off any run session.

If you ever have the chance to travel to Kona, head down to the pier for a swim, then a run along Ali'i drive.  Great way to start the day.  They have swim/run events from time to time their as well and they are free.  More info, check out

For more questions about Aquathon, how to set up a training plan for it or questions in general about training, please contact me at

Make it a great week,
Coach Eric

Monday, January 27, 2014

Triathletes and training the other strokes

Recently I was asked if triathletes should train the other strokes from time to time and my answer was YES!  Swimming is the most technical of the three sports in triathlon and requires the athlete to learn to be one with the water.  Often times you will hear coaches talking about "the feel" of the water and one way you can enhance this feel is by training the other strokes from time to time.  In case you don't know what those other strokes are they would be butterfly, backstroke and breastroke.  If you do those three strokes in order and then add the freestyle, you would then being doing an Individual Medley or IM for short.

Typically the best all round swimmer is usually the 400 IM champion at Nationals (yearly) World championships (every 2 years) and Olympics (every 4 years). Interesting note 400 IM in swimming is a combination of doing 4 different strokes the fasted and a IM distance triathlon is a combination of doing 3 different sports the fastest.  

Where to start? If you only know freestyle, then I suggest the next stroke you learn would be backstroke.

  • Great for recovery swimming between sets stretching out the chest and shoulder muscles.
  • Helps connect the core to the pull as your body rotates and shoulder shifts similar to freestyle
  • Teaches the swimmer to kick with long legs and loose ankles
  • In the open water sometimes 4-6 strokes on your back in a long swim will give your freestyle muscles just enough of a break to maintain a good solid pace when you roll back on your stomach.  Lastly, if you are swimming an ocean race and have to come thru surf to finish, you can roll on your back for a couple quick strokes to check the waves behind you and possibly catch a free ride into the beach.

If you are feeling good about your backstroke, then next up would be butterfly. 

  • The pull pattern is similar to freestyle except now you are pulling with both arms at the same time and your body is moving through the water in an undulating motion like a dolphin instead of rotating from side to side.
  • Great stroke for helping swimmers develop power when repeats are done in short increments like 4 strokes,  12 1/2 or 25 for advanced athletes that can hold form.
  • Using the undulating motion of butterfly is great for dolphin dives at the beginning of a swim (beach start or shallow water) and exiting the water. 
Breastroke rounds out the other strokes.  A challenging stroke to teach as there are different ways to swim this stroke and swimmers knee, hip and ankle range of motion will determine the best kick.

  • Great for loosening up the hips, knees and ankles.
  • Because of the difference in the kicking motion, be careful when swimming breastroke and make sure you are warmed up before trying any harder kicking. 
  • The arm pull on breastroke outsweep and insweep, is a great way to enhance feel for the water and really give the forearms a good workout.

A simple set you can do to incorporate the other strokes would be 3 rounds of

4 x 25 Stroke
1 x 200 Free

The first round the stroke is butterfly, round two backstroke and round 3 breastroke.  As you progress you can bump up to 6 or 8 x 25's before the 200.

Not only does training the other strokes help feel for the water, it gives the freestyle muscles a break which may help decrease potential injuries from overuse.  Plus, it is a great way to add variety to a work out and keep the heart rate elevated as changing strokes and muscles groups frequently will challenge any athlete.

Have fun with it and don't be afraid to try something new in the pool the next time you go for a swim.

Make it a great week,
Coach Eric

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bike Workout + Time Crunched = Tempo Time

Cruiser bike works good in snow with tires at about 10psi

I decided to stay with the cycling theme after last week as many people are having to ride indoors this time of year.  Multisport athletes are usually time crunched between the training and everything else that occupies there waking day.  So, when time is short, get some bang for your buck with some tempo work.  Tempo pace is what I like to call "comfortably hard".  You are working but it is something you could sustain if needed for close to 60 minutes.

Here is a great workout I like that takes about 60-65 minutes depending on how long you cool down.

Warm up 5 minutes easy spinning focussing on smooth pedal strokes

3 minutes alternating 
20 seconds single leg right
20 seconds single leg left
20 seconds spin up to 100+ Cadence
repeat 2 more times.

Main set
1 x 10 min Tempo (use first 3-4 minutes to build up to that then hold)
2 1/2 minute easy spin
2 x 8 minutes Tempo
2 minute easy spin between each
3 x 4 minutes Tempo
1 minute easy spin between

5-10 min cool

That works out to 38 minutes of tempo pace work during the session.  The goal is not to go harder on the shorter repeats, but just hold a good steady pace.  A progression from this after 3-4 weeks may have you going

Main set
1 x 15 min Tempo (use first 3-4 minutes to build up to that then hold)
3 minute easy spin
2 x 10 minutes Tempo
2 minute easy spin between each
3 x 5 minutes Tempo
1 minute easy spin between

The training benefits from tempo work on the bike as well as running and swimming will continue to teach the athlete how to properly pace themselves.  Learning to measure ones effort for a workout is critical to getting the most out of each session.  For example, some days 6:30 pace running may come at  an easy effort other days, it is a monumental effort.  Or cycling if using power you know some days cycling at or near FTP comes easier than other days.  So, learning to measure your perceived effort for that particular day is critical because that is all your body/mind may have for that particular training session and you have to accept that.  

Make it a great week of training,

Coach Eric

Monday, January 13, 2014

Triathletes and Group rides

As a triathlete, joining a group ride from time to time can have some great training benefits.  But, joining a larger group for the first time or a group you don't know can be a bit scary.  I came across an informative article today by Katya Meyers, professional triathlete and coach.  She points out 5 things that are just good common sense not only for triathletes joining a group, but anyone riding in the group to help keep things safe while getting a good workout.

Check out this link when you have a minute


In the meantime, keep having fun with your training, sticking to any resolutions for 2014 and as always, make it a great week.

Coach Eric

Monday, January 6, 2014

Swimming, keep it the work!

This morning at Masters swim practice, I had the swimmers do one of my favorite freestyle sets:

1 x 400
2 x 300
3 x 200
4 x 100

Quick math tells you that is 2000 and there is no hiding one's aerobic fitness level in a set of that length.  

The goal was to pick a base per 100 for an interval, stick with that and remain steady all the way through the set.  This makes them get realistic about what their aerobic swimming pace is because if you go out too fast at the beginning, there is usually a slow down as the set progresses.  

From a coaches view, a great time to make corrections to stroke biomechanics as the set progresses.  Easy to hold good form when fresh, but good form 1200-1400 into a set is even more important.  I can see who is good at pacing or who goes out too fast and fades.

A set of this length is a great reference set to use from time to time.  Maybe early in the season you can handle the set on a 1:30 per/100 base.  With some training, in 3-4 weeks you may try it again one of two ways: bring that down to a 1:25 base per 100 or keep the base at 1:30 per 100, but try to swim at a faster pace than the first time.  If you can achieve either of these, then chances are, your swimming fitness has improved.

Along with some longer endurance sets this time of the year, consider one workout every week or two that you devote more time to swimming the other strokes.  This will help your feel for the water, provide a great workout using muscles a bit differently and giving your freestyle muscles a little break.

Keep blowing bubbles and have a great week!

Coach Eric