Weekly Training Recap: Feb. 24 – March 2

Now that my training has begun to pick up in both volume and intensity as my race season gets closer, I’ve decided to do a weekly recap of my training. As I have mentioned a few times before, I made the decision this year to coach myself for two main reasons: a) to save money, and b) to try new training techniques and workouts on myself before having my athletes utilize them in their own training plans. I get several questions a week on what I do during my workouts so this will act as a platform to share some of my favorite workouts.

This past week was a rest week and thus my training hours were lower than normal.

Monday – 2/24

Monday was a 45 minute recovery spin and 15 minutes of hip/core focused exercises. Because of my chronic hip issues I have made it a priority to complete core/hip focused exercises several times a week to hopefully prevent any relapses of my IT-band/knee issues that plagued me last year during Ironman training.

Tuesday – 2/25

Tuesday was a 4 mile run during lunch and I taught my spin & core class at Zone 3 Fitness. My run was initially supposed to be an easy 35-minute run, but I felt good and just wanted to keep running. Thus, my run turned into a 4-mile negative split run. I completed my first sub-10 min/mile since pre-hip injury Fall running! I’ve been very frustrated lately with my running fitness, or lack thereof, but I know with more time on the pavement my fitness and speed will return. It has already begun too, just slowly.

Wednesday – 2/26

On Wednesday I completed my dreaded FTP test. Yuck! However, the results weren’t half bad. I first conducted a FTP in 2012 during Sustainable Athlete’s Friday Night Fights, a series of computrainer races. I was on my road bike at the time and averaged about 180-185watts, which my coach used as my FTP for the 2012 season. We never retested during the season, but I know my threshold increased towards August because I was able to hold a higher HIM race pace than earlier in the season. Last year I conducted my FTP on my tri bike on my trainer in my living room. I had taken the entire previous Fall off with plantar fasciitis and thus had a horrible FTP number. I clocked in at a measly 143watts. Of course, training for an Ironman didn’t help with increasing my FTP over my race season. This year I clocked in at 163watts. It’s still not good, but an improvement over this year. I think if I had done a computrainer race this year, I probably would have checked in at a higher FTP, but I’m going to use this value as my starting point. I’m just happy that I am trending in the right direction – up!

The Y Pool

The Y Pool

Thursday – 2/27

Thursday was a 3000 yard swim at the YMCA. February was a good month for swimming and my swimming volume is picking up in the coming weeks. I swam once in November since my Ironman in July and that swim was a complete disaster. I really thought I was going to drown at the time. However, my return to swimming this past month has been nothing but awesome. The workout was focused on muscular endurance and I exceed my t-pace by close to 10seconds. I’ve also finally decided to flipturn my swim workouts. More on that in my monthly recap…

Muscle Endurance Swim Workout:

W/U: 100sw, 300 (100K, 100drill, 100sw), 6×50 build (:15RI)

MS: 8×100 @ T-pace (:15RI)

300 pull

4×100 @ T-pace (:10RI)

300 pull

4×100 @ T-pace (:15RI)

C/D: 100

Friday – 2/28

Friday was an easy 3.5 mile run during lunch and an after-work hot yoga class. My average run pace is slowly returning back towards my normal long run pace, but my heart rate continues to be slightly higher than normal, i.e. fitness isn’t quite there yet. I haven’t been to yoga in a few weeks and this class was just want I needed. A perfect balance of twisting and hip openers.

Saturday – 3/1

On Saturday I taught another spin class at Zone 3 Fitness. I was supposed to hit up the pool for my second swim of the week but due to running errands I missed the open lap swim times. I have since printed off the pool schedule to carry around in my purse for future reference.

Zone 3 Fitness circuit training area

Zone 3 Fitness circuit training area

Sunday – 3/2

Sunday was a relaxing rest day.

The first two weeks of my March training plan begins the pickup of more volume, especially with running. I was originally planning on running the Race the Runways Half-marathon in April, but I think I’m going to skip it this year and continue to work on building my base. My first registered race is the PolarBear Sprint Tri in early May.

Hours Completed

Total: 7:07

Swim: 1:00

Bike: 3:19

Run: 1:21

Strength/Core/Yoga: 1:35

~ Happy Training!

Common Triathlon Training Metrics



Over the past two weeks I have outlined how to conduct a heart rate test and a functional threshold power test; but, I realized that I should have started from the beginning. What are the various training metrics that a triathlete should use?

Coaches, athletes, and endurance sport authors love to talk training metrics and terminology. Lactate threshold. VO2max. Cardiac output. Heart rate. Power. Rate of perceived effort. The list can go on and on…

Let’s look at a few key metrics that any triathlete or endurance sport athlete should understand, or at least a basic understanding.

  • Heart Rate – The very basic definition of a heart rate is the number of heartbeats per unit of time. Heartbeats are created when blood flows through the heart and the values open and close creating an audible sound. The normal human heart beats at 60-100 beats per minute (bpm). This, of course, depends on various factors such as fitness, age, stress, etc. Heart rate in fitness is an important metric because it can measure an athlete’s fitness. Through regular endurance training, the heart becomes stronger and thus can pump more blood with each beat. As a result, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard, and the athlete’s heart rate at rest and during exercise will be lower. Measuring an athlete’s heart rate over time is a good way to measure improvement in an athlete’s endurance fitness. See how to conduct a heart rate test for more information on heart rate-based training.
  • Cardiac Output – Cardiac output is measured as the amount of blood that the heart pumps through the body at a single minute. An increase in cardiac output is important because more blood is delivered to the important organs, such as the brain and liver. Cardiac output increases with regular endurance training. During endurance sports, cardiac output is an important metric because it means that more blood is delivered to the working skeletal muscles during a workout. As a result, more oxygen is transported to the muscle cells to produce energy and other metabolic waste by-products are removed from the working muscles more rapidly.
  • VO2max – Endurance training not only improves cardiovascular fitness, but also improves lung capacity during exercise. Endurance training generally improves an athlete’s respiratory rate (breathes per minute) and tidal volume (amount of air per breath). Improvements in respiratory rate and tidal volume can contribute to an increase in maximal oxygen uptake, also known as VO2max. VO2max is defined as the highest volume of oxygen that a person’s body is capable of taking in and using during aerobic energy production. An improvement in VO2max is important for endurance athletes because it means more oxygen is available to working muscles for energy production during exercise.
  • Lactate Threshold – Lactate threshold represents the point at which the athlete’s body requires a greater contribution from the glycolysis energy system (anaerobic system) and a smaller contribution from the oxidative phosphorylation energy system (aerobic system). At this point, lactate production exceeds the lactate removal rate and blood lactate levels increase. One of the primary goals of endurance training should be to increase an athlete’s lactate threshold.
  • Power – Power is primarily a cycling metric. It is simply defined as the rate of doing work, where work is equal to force times distance. Power is measured via a power meter on a bike. See How to Conduct a Functional Threshold Power test for more information on power-based training.
  • Rate of Perceived Effort – Rate of Perceived Effort, or RPE, is a psychophysiological scale, meaning that it calls on the mind and body to rate one’s perception of effort. The traditional scale called the Borg Scale is based on a scale of 6-20, where a score of 6 is equivalent of no exertion and a score of 20 is equivalent of maximum exertion. Many coaches and trainers, myself included, will use a scale of 1-10 for easier understanding by the athlete/client.

Above are several common exercise physiology and training metrics terminology that are often thrown around by athletes, coaches, and endurance sport authors. Of course, there are many more that we could discuss.

~ Happy Training! 

How to Conduct a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) Test

Power meters are becoming the new standard on bicycles today, especially for competitive athletes. They are certainly an expensive investment, but a worthwhile one if you’re serious about training with data.

Powermeter = LOVE!

Powermeter = LOVE (somedays)!

I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions that I have a love/hate relationship with my power meter. Heart rate-based training on the bike is a great training metric, but it can only do so much. I always liken my power meter to a truth-meter because it does not lie about my current bike fitness and riding abilities.

Power meters are extremely effective tools for training and racing. For long-course triathletes, like myself, I find my power meter acts as a governor for my bike leg because I know if I go out too hard, it will only be time until I blow up.

Most triathletes love spending money on new gear, whether we truly need it or not. A lot of triathletes want fancy race wheels because they make our bikes look fast and cool. Race wheels can easily set you back a couple of grand and the same with a power meter. Now if you had to choose between a power meter or race wheels, what do you choose? A power meter should probably be the correct answer and here’s why:

  • A power meter can help you build your engine. Sure, race wheels can shave a few seconds to a few minutes off your time, but an effective and strong engine (aka YOU) can shave even more time off your bike leg!
  • A power meter can help you monitor your efforts over time and keep you working within your correct zone. For example, if it is extremely windy out you will work harder (i.e. push more watts) than if there was no wind. If you have a power meter, you know you are working harder and thus not fight the headwind by pushing a faster pace (i.e. speed) like your competitors sans power meter.
  • A power meter can give you a highly accurate measurement of your bike fitness over a season. A power meter can be used for benchmark testing unlike a lot of heart rate testing that can have multiple variables with results.

There are various metrics that you can measure over a season with a power meter. I won’t get into that today because the terms can be confusing. If you work with a coach or train with a power meter regularly you are probably familiar with the terms such as normalized power, functional threshold power, critical power, etc.

Today I want to discuss Functional Threshold Power (FTP) because it is often used as the main benchmark testing for bike fitness.

Functional Threshold Power can simply be defined as the wattage an athlete can produce and maintain over a 1 hour time period without fatigue. FTP is relative to nearly all cyclists. It is important for an athlete to test their FTP at the beginning of their base training cycle to determine the correct training intensity zones and also to determine the benchmark for the season. Athletes should periodically re-test their FTP to compare against the benchmark test to observe fitness.


You might want a Puke Bucket!

You might want a Puke Bucket!


FTP Test Protocol:

  1. Warm-up: 20 minutes at endurance pace/easy to moderate pace; 3 x 1 minute fast pedaling (100+rpm) with 1 minute rest between; 5 minutes easy pedaling
  2. Main Set: 5 minutes all-out effort; 10 minutes easy pedaling; 20 minute time-trial
  3. Cool Down: 10-15 minute easy pedaling


  • Keep cadence normal (i.e. 90-95rpm) throughout the test
  • Pace yourself during the 20 minute time trial – it helps to break the time into small sections
  • If you are conducting this test outside, try riding up a steady climb or into a headwind

How to Calculate Your FTP:

  1. Download your data. TrainingPeaks is my preferred software program.
  2. Figure out your average power for the 20 minute time trial. In TrainingPeaks you can highlight the 20 minute interval and it will show average power for that time period.
  3. Take your average power number and multiple it by 0.95 for your FTP number.

Note: The reason you multiple your average power number by 0.95 is because you are subtracting 5% from it. A true FTP test would involve an athlete holding their highest average watts for 1 hour, but since most of us cannot focus that long, we shorten the test to 20 minutes. The 20 minutes is a shorter time period, and thus the athlete generally uses more of their anaerobic capacity and this skews the wattage data by about 5% over a 60-minute effort.

Now what? You know your FTP number and now you can use it to calculate your power-based training zones. The zones are below:

  • Active Recovery – Less than 55% of FTP
  • Endurance – 56-75% of FTP
  • Tempo – 76-90% of FTP
  • Lactate Threshold – 91-105% of FTP
  • VO2max – 106-120% of FTP
  • Anaerobic Capacity – 121-150% of FTP
  • Neuromuscular Power – N/A (maximal number of watts you can push for less than 30secs)

Most triathletes will train predominantly in the endurance and tempo zones, but it is important to include the other training zones in your training plan as well. A coach can help you better plan this type of work with your training plan.

It is important to periodically re-test your FTP to see improvements. If you don’t see improvement over time, it’s probably time to change-up your training routine!

~ Happy Training!

Monthly Training Recap: January

Hello bike trainer!

Hello bike trainer!

The first month of 2014 is already done! Whew… time does fly. January 1at marked the official beginning on my Annual Training Plan (ATP), although I really began base training in December. As I mentioned in a few of my posts, I decided to coach myself this year. I decided this for two main reasons: 1) I want to save some money, and 2) I wanted to try new training methods on myself before I “prescribe” them for my athletes. One of the biggest rules of personal training… never have a client do an exercise that you have not tried yourself.

So far things are going well. I had a decent start, but have missed some workouts due to weather and making changes to my schedule because of my teaching schedule. Let’s recap each sport:


I only swam once in January. Not a good start in this department! I get a corporate discount to my local YMCA through work and thus decided to wait to begin swimming until my membership at the Y began. My application got held up a bit in the office and thus my membership began two weeks later than I had hoped for. Yes, I could have swum at other pools but I didn’t want to pay the $3-$5 pool fee each time I went. My first swim went well though! I swam once in November since IMLP and that swim was a complete disaster. I really thought I was going to drown; it was that bad. However, I was completely fine and was hitting about 5 seconds slower than my normal 100 yard pace.


I spent A LOT of time on my bike and also a spin bike. I taught four spin classes in January and will be teaching at least 7 in February. I include these workouts in my training plan because I am participating in class on a bike. However, I do prioritize my own bike workouts outside of spin class. I generally aim for 3 rides a week, but sometimes only get 2 in depending on Junior League meeting schedules. My main triathlon goal this year is to rebuild my power on the bike and I believe that I am on the right path to do so. I was supposed to complete my first Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test this past Wednesday, but I wasn’t feeling well and thus have decided to postpone it until next week. I have been training on the bike based on HR and feel for the past two months while I regained some cardiovascular fitness and now I plan to transition to power-based training.


This winter has plain sucked for running! I’ve discussed this numerous times with my Chiropractor as she is training for the Boston Marathon in April. Since I am recovering from yet another hip issue, I decided to be smart about my run training. If the roads are icy and it’s super cold out, then I hit my bike trainer instead. I have gotten in a few quality short runs. I haven’t been cleared for running more than 5 miles at a time, so I’ve been focusing on taking it easy and just running in my endurance zone. My pace is extremely slow! Like 11-12 minute miles! Back in my peak running shape in 2012, I was running in my endurance zone at a 8:45-9:20/mile pace. Urgh! Patience my dear!


I’ve been strength training like a boss! This is the area that I have really excelled in lately, which is good for me because I miss strength training and my hip needs the strength gains. Since I began teaching at Zone 3 Fitness, I have access to all their classes, which are awesome! If you live in the Greater Portland (Maine) region then I highly recommend you check them out. There is a free Seven Day pass on their website HERE!

The Base Training phase is a perfect time to focus on one's weaknesses within the sport of triathlon.

The Base Training phase is a perfect time to focus on one’s weaknesses within the sport of triathlon.

Goals for February:

  • Swim 2-3x a week – My goal is to swim at least once or twice a week during my lunch break if my schedule allows and once or twice a week in the evenings or the weekend. If I can swim a 4th day that would be awesome. My focus is mainly to get comfortable again in the water.
  • Run at least 3x a week and build up my mileage – My main goal here is to do it injury free and thus I need to be careful with building my miles up slowly. My body has already built some leg strength again running, so I know it will come with time. I want to build a solid base here and thus must embrace the idea of slow and steady!
  • Continue with strength training – My body adapts quickly and well to strength training. I find that my body loses weight more quickly when I strength train on a regular schedule and therefore I will include it in my schedule at least twice a week with added specific hip and core focused work as well.
  • Train with power on the bike – After my FTP test I will train using my power zones on the bike to increase my FTP and my bike fitness.
Here is a butt-kicking full body workout for you!

Here is a butt-kicking full body workout for you!

 ~ Happy Training!

How to Conduct a Heart Rate Test


Why do a majority of endurance sport coaches want/require you to train with a Heart Rate (HR) monitor?

It’s a great question! I know a lot of athletes who have fancy Garmin watches who don’t wear their straps. Personally, I think they are making a big mistake here. Now, HR isn’t a 100% accurate and there is certainly some day-to-day variability (i.e., heat, stress, time of day, etc.); but, overall, HR training is effectivearv

Why should you wear that annoying little strap that is probably chafing your skin? Here are some good reasons:

  • Wearing a HR strap ensures that your easy days are easy and your hard days are hard. Most athletes (myself included) have a tendency to work too hard on easy days and not hard enough on hard days. By knowing your HR zones you can ensure that you are working at the correct intensity levels to ensure the best physiological adaptations in your body.
  • Wearing a HR strap will aid you in determining what level of intensity you should be working at during exercise. We’ll discuss HR zones later below, but each HR zone specializes and trains different physiological adaptations and metabolic pathways in the body. For example, if you want to improve aerobic or endurance fitness then you should train primarily in Zone 2 (at or below aerobic threshold).
  • Wearing a HR strap can help you lose weight and “teach” your body to utilize fat for fuel. Now, we should emphasize the word “can.” Everyone’s metabolism is slightly different and not everyone will have the same results. While working at a lower intensity, HR between 55-65% of maximal HR, the body will utilize more fat molecules to fuel the body instead of glycogen. This is important for long-course triathletes. Staying in lower intensities will allow the body to use more fat vs glycogen (carbs) since fat is essentially an infinite fuel source vs. glycogen, which is a finite fuel source. Note: If you are not an endurance athlete and looking to lose weight, then you want to utilize a different method. We’ll discuss that another time.

As I mentioned above, there are HR zones. Depending who you ask, there may be slightly different versions of the HR Zones. Below is what I use with my athletes:

  • Zone 1 – Active Recovery (aerobic) or 50-60% of Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
  • Zone 2 – Aerobic Endurance or 60-70% of MHR
  • Zone 3 – Aerobic Stamina/Tempo Pace or 70-80% of MHR
  • Zone 4 – Economy (anaerobic) or 80-90% of MHR
  • Zone 5 – Speed (anaerobic) or 90-100% of MHR

You might also see zones broken down by lactate threshold. Lactate threshold is the point in training intensity where lactic acid (or commonly called lactate) starts to accumulate in the bloodstream. In a nutshell, lactic acid is a by-product of metabolism at certain exercise intensities.

In order to determine an athlete’s HR zones, an athlete must undergo a Maximal Heart Rate Test. These, of course, can be done in the laboratory setting, but most athletes don’t have the time or money to do so. A field test works for most people.

You’ve probably read in a billion books and magazines that you can calculate your HR using a simple mathematical formula. You can, but, it’s not the most accurate, because the results can vary due to genetic differences between individuals and also between different activities. However, if you’re interested you can calculate your MHR using Karvonen’s Formula:

MHR = 220 – age or

The newer gender specific calculation:

Male = 214 – (0.8xage)

Female = 209 – (0.9xage)

For a more accurate test, I suggest conducting a Maximal Heart Rate Test for each running and cycling. Generally, your MHR will be about 5 beats per minute (bpm) higher during running than cycling.

Disclaimer: Heart rate tests are very stressful on the body. PLEASE get cleared by your medical provider before attempting any HR testing. This is especially important if you have any known heart conditions. Attempt at your own risk.

Here is the below protocol I generally use with my athletes for both cycling and running.

  • 5 minutes – warm up slowly to a pace where at the end you breathe a little hard, but are able to complete a full sentence without grasping for air
  • 5 minutes – maintain pace, but increase a bit during the less 60-90 seconds
  • 5 minutes – increase pace to labored breathing
  • 5 minutes – on a gradual incline, increase your pace from breathing hard to breathing very hard
  • 2 minutes – all out sprint on incline to maximum pace you can hold for 2 minutes
  • 1 minute – push absolute maximum speed (this should feel like hell)
  • 10-15 minutes – cool down at an easy pace to bring HR down and breathing should return to normal

This could be done on a flat surface or a treadmill, but I find that a gradual hill works best because my own personal HR increases higher when running on a hill.

The same protocol above can also be utilized on the bike. I recommend using an indoor trainer, but certainly it can be completed outside as well. It is important to maintain a consistent cadence, usually between 85-95rpm (aiming for 90rpm), throughout the test. As you progress through the test protocol, increase your gearing to a harder gear.

Once you have completed your test, download your data. If you have a coach, give the data file to your coach for analysis. If you use TrainingPeaks then you can easily figure out your HR zones through their software. If not, you can do it the manual way. Take your MHR value and multiple it by each zones’ percentage. For example:

MHR = 190


Minimum   Zone

Maximum   Zone

Zone 1 (50-60%) 190*0.5 = 95bpm 190*0.6 = 114bpm
Zone 2 (60-70%) 190*0.6 = 114bpm 190*0.7 = 133bpm
Zone 3 (70-80%) 190*0.7 = 133bpm 190*0.8 = 152bpm
Zone 4 (80-90%) 190*0.8 = 152bpm 190*0.9 = 171bpm
Zone 5 (90-100%) 190*0.9 = 171bpm 190*1.0 = 190bpm

Your zones may vary slightly depending on what HR zone calculations are used. Some zone calculations will break Zone 5 into Zone 5a, 5b, and 5c. If you work with a coach, your coach will help you with this. The above is just one method you can use. Once you know your HR zones, you can begin training. Now, if you have a power meter on your bike, then you will probably train using power metrics and thus you must complete a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test. More on that later this week!

~ Happy Training!

Big Sky Multisport Coaching: The Official Launch!

As you have probably seen and I have mentioned a few times before, my blog/website has grown and changed over the past few months and I’m finally excited to say…

I am officially launching my personal training and endurance sport coaching business!


I’ve been working behind the scenes to dot my “I’s” and cross my “T’s” to get everything in order to make this little dream of mine into reality.

First, I would like to give a big shout-out to my very talented cousin, Chris, at Blue Planet Graphics for designing my awesome logo for me! If you’re in the market for a logo, graphic design, or car wrapping then check out his business at Blue Planet Graphics.

Currently I am offering the following services:

  • Triathlon Coaching
    • Monthly Coaching at two different levels to meet your athletic goals while being wallet friendly
    • Pre-built plans for various distance races
  • Single-Sport Coaching (monthly or pre-built)
    • Cycling
    • Running
  • Personal Training
    • At home, your gym, or anywhere you like
    • At Zone 3 Fitness
    • Online structured monthly programs
  • Fitness Class Instruction
    • I currently teach a Spin & Core class Tuesday nights at 5:45 at Zone 3 Fitness
    • Small group training and/or boot-camp classes
  • Writing
    • Freelance writing in fitness, health, and/or science

As always, I will continue to write weekly in my blog on topics ranging from my own personal training stories to exercise physiology and fitness to travel and everything in between. If you ever have any blog post suggestions please feel free to contact me using the “Contact Me” tab in the above Main Menu.

You can connect with me through the following social media platforms:





So please check out what I offer and share with your friends, families and co-workers! Fitness and endurance sports are my passion and I love helping others achieve their goals. So let me help you reach your goals in 2014! 🙂

Thank you all for the wonderful support!

~ Happy Training!

How to Find a Triathlon Coach

So, you’re thinking about hiring a coach to help you reach your endurance sport goals. But, where do you start? Finding and hiring a coach can be a difficult or easy process depending on who you know and what you need and want in a coach. I like to think that searching for the right coach for you is like dating. There are a lot of good coaches out there, but you need to find the one that works for you. Below is a guide to help you along your journey to finding the right coach for you.

  1. Determine your goals – Do you want to race an Ironman or a sprint tri? Do you need swim-focused training? Are you trying to qualify for Kona or the USA team? Figuring out your short-term and long-term athletic goals is important in identifying the right coach for you. Plus, every coach will ask you what your goals are so it’s best to be prepared anyway. Some coaches specialize in long-course athletes, while others work with short-course athletes. Some love working with beginner athletes and developing their potential from the start, while others prefer to work with athletes that are a bit more experienced. Some coaches have strong backgrounds in one particular sport and thus maybe you need their expertise in that one sport to turn your weakness into your strength. Determining your goals not only helps you figure out what you need and want in a coach, but will help your future coach determine your training plan.
  2. Determine location and communication needs – Do you need to work with a coach in-person? Or can you work with a “virtual” coach through TrainingPeaks and email? Working with a coach in-person is probably relatively rare in the triathlon world, but it can definitely happen depending where you live and what the availability and what services are offered by the coach. This option is most likely more expensive than a “virtual” coach. A large majority of coaches use training software, such as TrainingPeaks, to deliver training plans to their athletes. It allows athletes to upload their training technology devices and provide feedback on each training session to the coach. At this point it is important to consider what level of communication you need from your coach. Are you the type of person that needs to talk to your coach on a daily basis? Do you want access to your coach via email, phone, text, smoke signal, etc.? Every coach will let you know how much access you will be able to have from them. It is important to remember that each coach has a life too and may not be at your becking call 24/7.
  3. Determine the type of personality you can work with best – This is the part that I equate with dating. You need to find a coach that you get along with well. At this point I would suggest creating a pros and cons list of traits that you want and need in a coach. Are you the type of person that needs to be praised after every workout? Do need extra guidance for certain workouts? Do you prefer a coach that will tell you like it is even if it’s bad? Every coach has a unique personality. You might find that you want the same coach your friend is using because of his or hers reputation, but then you may realize you two don’t get along well. Once you figure out your pros and cons list, go through and star the traits that you need in a coach. The rest are the wants that you can live without if you have to, but still try and find someone that meets at least some of those traits. Reach out and have a conversation with a few coaches and see how well you hit it off with each of them. Remember that most coaches will want to keep your relationship professional. There are a few coaches that do become friends with their clients, so keep this in the back of your head when looking for a coach.
  4. Determine cost and affordability – Cost is probably the biggest factor in people choosing to hire a coach or not. Personally, I believe it’s the best investment I have made in my triathlon career. I first hired a coach in 2012 and it was by far the best decision I made because she truly formed me into the athlete I am today and also inspired me to become a coach myself to give back to other athletes looking to reach the next level in their triathlon careers. Determine what you can afford each month for a coach and then search around for coaches that are within your budget. Most coaches are in the range of $150-250 a month depending on their education and athletic and coaching background. It doesn’t hurt to ask a coach too if perhaps you could work out a deal if they are really out of your price range. However, they may not agree so don’t get your hopes up too much.

Now that you have determined what you need and want in a coach, where do you find a coach? A great way is through word-of-mouth. Ask your tri buddies who they use and what they like and dislike about their coach. And, as a reminder, just because your bestie loves their coach, doesn’t mean their coach is the best fit for you. Also you can use the coach finder tool through TrainingPeaks or google triathlon coaches to find other coaches.

Here are some other thoughts that you should consider:

  • Does education matter to you? Most coaches are USAT certified coaches. There are varying levels ranging from Level I (entry level) to Level III. A coach that is USAT certified must pass a test to be certified after attending a two-day seminar and complete CEU courses to remain certified. They also have coaching insurance. Some coaches may have additional certifications in cycling, swimming, personal training, etc. Few coaches also may have degrees in exercise science. Chances are the more educated the coach, the more expensive they will be.
  • Is your coach a top competitive athlete? Many people seem to pick their coach based on the coach’s athletic achievements. Oh, they qualified for Kona? They must be a rockstar coach! Just because your coach is a rockstar athlete does not mean they are a rockstar coach. Chances are they have their own coach that has helped them reach their achievements. Is it important that your coach be active in racing? Are they racing at a high level? If they are, they may not have a lot of time to devote to you and your training needs. Of course, you probably do want a coach that has or is currently competing in the sport (I know I would). There are numerous awesome coaches out there that may not be competing at the upper levels of the sport that are amazing coaches. Look at Chrissie Wellington’s old coach, Brett Sutton. Sutton was not a strong swimmer, but was an amazing coach (he coached the 2000 Australian Olympic swim team with a great deal of controversy though) and has coached many world champion triathletes. (Side note: Sutton is a controversial coach, but he does know how to produce champions)
  • What is their roster size? Some coaches run their businesses as their full-time gig, others do it part-time. What is their athlete roster size? Do they coach 5 athletes or do they coach 25 athletes? How much time will they devote to you? Is this important to you? This question ties in with some of the other factors mentioned above, such as communication needs.
  • Do you want extra benefits like a tri kit and/or clothing? Some coaches have “race teams” and thus have tri kits for their athletes. Do you want to wear a tri kit from your coach? Some people want to feel like they are part of a team and want to represent their coach’s brand. There is nothing wrong with this because I have seen some pretty sweet team kits out there, but is this important to you? Do you want extra benefits?

Don’t be afraid to approach perspective coaches to pick their brains to determine if they are right for you. Most athletes tend to work with a coach for about two years and then will switch to a different coach to try something new. Coaching may be an expensive investment, but I find it has the best return on investment in helping you reach your goals!

Now, for a shameless plug for myself, since I can, I am still accepting athletes for 2014 so contact me above through the “contact me” tab and we can see if we are a good fit for each other.

~ Happy Training!

My 2014 Race Schedule


I'm a member of Team Water.org (plus I thought this was funny) :-)

I’m a member of Team Water.org (plus I thought this was funny) 🙂

As much as I have been enjoying my extended off-season, I’m getting physically and mentally restless. Luckily I have been able to stay active through yoga and my bike on the trainer. And thankfully I just got cleared to run and also to return to strength training so my activity levels can soon “normal” swim, bike, run.

For the past couple of weeks I have been putting together my “Yearly Training Plan” or YTP (also known as an annual training plan or ATP). For the past couple of years I have been guided by an excellent coach who transformed me into the athlete I am today (well, not quite the broken down athlete at the moment, but the one that set PR after PR over the past couple of seasons). This year I have decided to coach myself, which could end up being the best decision or the worst decision on the planet. Only time will tell…

Speadsheets galore!

Speadsheets galore!

In order to construct my YTP I needed to decide what races I planned on racing in 2014. It was a tough decision to make. A lot of races have been opening up for registration and I see on Facebook and Twitter what races people are signing up for in 2014. I’m an impulse race register. If I see a friend doing a race then I automatically want to do the race too. It’s kind of a problem, especially since I pledged to myself to only race the small, local races this season in order to focus on healing my body, getting faster and stronger, and growing my own coaching business.


I was debating on signing up for a Half-Ironman this coming summer. It’s my favorite distance and when Ironman was advertising the price of $199 for Timberman 70.3 in New Hampshire I got suckered in. I opened up my wallet and took out my darn credit card. So much for self-control…

So without further ado, here is my tentative 2014 race season:

4/5/14 – Race the Runways Half-Marathon

5/3/14 – PolarBear Sprint Tri

6/8/14 – Pirate Sprint Tri

7/??/14 – Norway Sprint Tri

8/17/14 – Timberman 70.3

10/19/14 – BayState Marathon (maybe)

Those are the major races that I plan on racing in 2014 with Timberman being my big “A” race. I would absolutely love to qualify for Worlds (most likely a roll-down slot), but my chances are extremely slim. I checked last year’s results and there was over 100 women in the 25-29AG with the winner going close to 5:00. Speedy, speedy women!

I will probably register for Beach to Beacon again this year and sprinkle in some 5ks here and there. I may or may not run BayState in October. It will depend how my run fitness is going (and if it comes back)! I want to focus on quality versus quantity in 2014. Of course, everything is always subject to change.

What races are you signing up or have signed up for in 2014?

~ Happy Training!

Lessons From Yoga: Just Breathe…

I sound like a broken record. Over and over again I have said that I’m not patient. It’s true. Patience is not my virtue, especially when I’m injured. I went from training anywhere from 10-20+ hours a week for an Ironman to a dead stop. I’m a busy body. I’m an active and physical person. Stillness is not in my vocabulary. For crying out loud, my legs twitch as I sit at my desk at work.

But, with my recent pelvic alignment issues, I have learned that I have to accept the stillness and be patient. Many people have told me to just relax and breathe. How the hell do I do that? I’m the type of person who uses physical exercise to release my stress and anxiety. I often train alone, because it’s my “me” time. I can decompress and let go the stresses of everyday living.

Breath is essential to life. From a science and physiology perspective I understand the importance of breath and its subsequent effect on the body and mind during movement. For the past couple of years I have dappled a bit in yoga periodically, but never really enjoyed it. I always viewed it more of an off-season filler, a change of pace if you will. The various instructors always talk about breath and moving to your own breath throughout your practice. I’ve always just laughed it off a bit and focused more on the actual movements; after all, I’m a more physical person, not some kumbaya hippie (yes, I judged, sue me).

But, there is something to it. I can find stillness in breath, even during movement. I can let go…

A deep breath in, a deep breath out… I can feel the tension and stress of the day leaving my body. My muscles relax and it’s just me and my thoughts. However, my brain still runs at Mach 10 with thoughts. It always does. That will probably never change. But I can slowly release and begin to live in the moment. Just breathe…

Some people are really good at living in the moment. I am not. My brain is always 10 steps ahead of me. I’m a strategic planner, always thinking about the next step and where I’m going from here. What do I need at the grocery store? What is on my to-do list at work tomorrow? When are my student loans due? The list goes on. Since my Mom died almost five years ago my thoughts and attitudes have evolved and grown. Sometimes it takes a life-changing event to change your thought process. Life is short. Cherish the moments.


Source: The Clymb Facebook Page

For the past few weeks I have reflected a bit on moments in my life where I have truly lived in the moment. I think we all have moments in life that we truly feel alive, whether it’s seeing a beautiful sunrise on the beach in Costa Rica, achieving a life goal, or the birth of your child. Each moment is unique to us and our core being.

My expectations going into Ironman Lake Placid were low, but my hopes were high. The night before the race I received some incredible advice from a friend who has raced several Ironmans – you only get one first Ironman, enjoy the moment. 

Yes, completing an Ironman is daunting to most people. Who in their right mind would want to swim, bike, run 140.6 miles for up to 17 hours? Throughout my 14:13:33 hour day I experienced pain, frustration, and negative thoughts, but I kept reminding myself to keep moving forward and breathe. Pedaling up the long, slow incline of the Gorge while fighting a headwind under threatening skies, I would look around and see the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains. My body, even though it was broken and fatigued from the day’s effort, was a machine. My breath feeding the fire that burned in my muscles. Just breathe….

Entering the Olympic Circle at Lake Placid is an indescribable feeling. An overwhelming wave of emotion; it hits you like a ton of bricks. At this point I had tears running down my cheek from the excruciating pain in my right knee from when it gave out seven miles before. Every fiber of my body was willing me to run the final half mile. The cheers from the crowd were quieting the pain in my body and pushing me forward. This was the moment. This was MY moment. The tears quickly turned from pain to every emotion imaginable. Happiness. Pain. Fatigue. 

THIS was the moment that I had been training for over seven months. I put in countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears. It all culminated in this moment. I thought about my mom and how I carried her photo in my sports bra. I hoped that she was looking down on me with pride. Suddenly, my feet across under the arch and I heard Mike Reilly tell me “I am an Ironman.” The moment was surreal. Almost like an out-of-body experience. Just breathe…

There are days I wish I could rewind time and relive moments that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time. But, atlas, we cannot. We can only live in the present and learn to appreciate what we have. Nothing lasts forever.

Source: UpWorthy Facebook Page

Source: UpWorthy Facebook Page

So next time you’re hiking a mountain, running on the beach, or relaxing on your mat at the end of yoga class, live in the moment. Sometimes it’s the little things that are the most profound in life. Sometimes you have to be patient, try something new, and learn to breathe… and finally, cherish the moment.

Just breathe… 


~ Happy Training!

Muscle Imbalances – What You Need to Know!


In order to fully understand muscle imbalances, let’s first look at normal muscle function. There are three types of muscles in the body: smooth, cardiac, and skeletal. We, of course, are investigating skeletal muscles – or the muscles that move our bodies through the swim, bike, run movement patterns. Normal muscle activation is a combination of contraction and relaxation of muscle fibers. The technical terms are called facilitation (contraction) and inhibition (relaxation). When muscles contract, they get tighter and do more work. When muscles relax, they do less work and allow their opposite muscles to contract better. Muscles in the body generally work in pairs.

Let’s use the examples of your biceps and triceps. Let’s imagine that you are sitting on a bench with a dumbbell in your right hand about to do a set of biceps curls. What happens when you move your right hand towards your shoulder? Place your left hand over your right bicep. In the rest position your biceps is pretty relaxed. The same with your triceps. Neither should feel tight or loose. Just relaxed. Now move that dumbbell up towards your shoulder and do a biceps curl. Now feel that biceps in the top hand position. Feels pretty tight now doesn’t it? The biceps muscle is contracting to pull the dumbbell towards your shoulder. Now feel the triceps. The triceps muscle should feel loose because it must relax in order for the biceps to contract. Now lower the dumbbell to the start position. The biceps muscle should be relaxed (loose) and the triceps contracted (tight). The same thing happens as you are running. As you lift your leg to propel yourself forward, your quadriceps (front of tight muscles) must contract to lift your knee forward and the hamstrings (back of thigh muscles) must relax. When the muscles are balanced in the body, they have the right combination of inhibition and facilitation during movement.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

If muscles lack the right combination of inhibition and facilitation during movement muscle imbalances can occur. Muscle imbalances may lead to injuries, biomechanical inefficiencies, and wasted efforts. Muscle imbalances can also occur due to poor static posture, joint dysfunction, and myofascial adhesions (think “knot” in muscle). These altered length-tension relationships between muscles may lead to altered muscle recruitment patterns (altered force-couple relationships). This is caused by altered reciprocal inhibition. Altered reciprocal inhibition, defined by NASM, is the process by which a tight muscle (short, overactive, myofascial adhesions) causes decreased neural drive, and therefore optimal recruitment of its functional antagonist.

Let’s look at an example of this. A majority of people work 9-5 desk jobs in front of a computer. Thus they tend to have tight hip flexors, or iliopsoas muscles. Tight psoas muscles decrease the neural drive and therefore the optimal recruitment of gluteus maximus (your butt muscles). The gluteus maximus muscles are the prime movers for hip extension and an important muscle in running. According to a 2006 study in The Journal of Experimental Biology, the gluteus maximus works primarily to keep the torso upright during movement and it is involved in decelerating the swing leg as it hits the pavement. Since the glute is a hip extender muscle, it also functions to extend your hip-joint as your foot pushes off the ground to propel your body forward. Weaknesses in the gluteus maximus can lead to compensation and substitution by the synergists (hamstrings) and stabilizers (erector spinae). This can ultimately lead to potential hamstring strains and lower back pain.

According to one study, over the course of any given year approximately two-thirds of runners will have at least had one injury that has caused an interruption to their training. For those training for marathons, the rate as been recorded up to 90% of runners. The most common running injury involves the knee. The most common running related knee problems are patellofemoral pain syndrome, Iliotibial band (IT-Band) sydrome, tibal stress syndrome (spin splits), and plantar fasciitis. Guess what? These common running injuries are overuse injuries generally caused by muscle imbalances!

Some researchers and sports medicine professionals have argued that triathlon, as a multisport event, causes less overuse injuries than single sports, because of the more even distribution of loads over the body’s muscluar system. However, triathletes still suffer from a high degree of overuse injuries. One of the most common is actually lower back pain. Triathletes tend to be over-developed in larger muscle groups, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and shoulders. Triathletes tend to be weak in the smaller stability muscles, such as the lower back, core, adductors, and abductors. Again, these muscle imbalances are caused by movements that we do in each sport. For example, many triathletes, especially if they come from a cycling background, will be overdeveloped in the quadriceps region, but have these tiny, underactive hamstrings. This is a muscle imbalance caused by cycling. Runners are very weak in the hip stability muscles, such as the gluteus medius, tensor fascia latae (TFL), and adductor complex, which leads to weak lumbo-pelvic stability and the potential development of common running injuries. The sport of triathlon is conducted in one plane of motion – the sagittal plane. We rarely move in the frontal and transverse planes. Many of the hip stability muscles are targeted by movements conducted in the frontal and/or transverse planes.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Muscles can be divided into two types: postural and phasic. Postural muscles are used for standing and walking; whereas, phasic muscles are used for running. During the gait cycling of running, there is a double-float phase during which both legs are suspended in the air – one at the beginning and one at the end of the swing phase. Running biomechanics requires efficient firing patterns from the postural muscles while the phasic muscles do the actual work of propelling the body forward. Since the postural muscles are constantly be activated in the body to fight the forces of gravity, these muscles have a tendency to shorten and become tight. The postural muscles that tend to become chronically tight in runners are: gastroc-soleus, rectus femoris, ilipsoas, tensor fascia lata, hamstrings, adductors, quadratus lumborum, piriformis, and satorius. Phasic muscles typically may remain in an elongated or weak state. Common phasic muscle that have a tendency to be weak or become inhibited in runners are: the tibialis anterior, vastus medialis, long thigh adductors, and the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus.

So, key points from this post:

  • Muscle imbalances are caused by the lack of the right combination of contraction and relaxation of paired muscles
  • Common triathlon and running injuries are generally caused by muscle imbalances, mainly in the lumbo-pelvic region
  • Postural muscles tend to become short and tight; whereas phasic muscles tend to become weak and inhibited
  • Stretch your psoas muscles! 🙂

Now, how do you identify muscle imbalances? Well, I did a post a while ago on why functional movement screens are important. Go read that! Or go see a sports medicine professional, such as a chiropractor or physical therapist. This is especially important if you are dealing with a common running-related injury. Then find yourself a good personal trainer to help set you up on a good strengthening routine to correct those imbalances. Remember, I am certified to help you correct muscle imbalances. Of course, you should always seek permission from your doctor before starting any new exercise routines. Stay tuned next week on some good hip stretching and strengthening exercises to help you prevent those pesky running injuries.

~ Happy Training!

PS – Feel free to contact me with any questions at katelyn@bigskymultisportcoaching.com


1. Maffetone P. The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing. 2010.

2. Clark MA, Lucett SC. NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training. New York, NY: Wolters Kluwer Health. 2011.

3. Liebermna DE et al. The human gluteus maximus and its role in running. J Exp Biol. 2006; 209: 2143-55.

4. Manninen JSO, Kallinen M. Low back pain and other overuse injuries in a group of Japanese triathletes. BR J Sports Med. 1996;30: 134-139.

5. Fredericson M, Moore T. Muscular balance, core stability, and injury prevention for middle – and long-distance runners. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2005;16: 669-689.