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!

Periodization Basics: Base Training

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.

Periodization is generally broken into 4-5 phases or mesocycles: base building (general preparatory), strength, speed, racing & maintenance (competition phase) and recovery (off-season).

Base building is one of the most important phases of an athlete’s annual training plan because the base phase sets the stage for the year. The major goals of this phase are:

  • Build cardiovascular and muscular endurance
  • Improve VO2max
  • Build base mileage and distance of long workouts

Joe Friel once said “As much as 80% of race-day fitness comes from the base period.” (Ch 25; Triathlon Science)

The amount of time spent in the base phase can vary depending on the athlete’s goals and fitness, but generally lasts between 12 to 16 weeks in duration. The base phase is mainly about training for time and mileage to build cardiovascular fitness, but not for speed.

The first and most important step for any athlete in the base phase is to assess their “limiting factors,” i.e. their weaknesses within the sport. Perhaps the triathlete is a weak swimmer or lacks power on the bike. What ever the athlete’s weakness may be, the base phase is the perfect time to focus on those weaknesses.

Once weaknesses are determined and goals are set, the coach and/or triathlete must determine how much time in the athlete’s life can reasonably be devoted to training.


Most triathletes tend to be weakest at swimming because swimming is very technical. For athletes looking to improve in swimming, frequency of swimming becomes arguably the most important aspect of training. Usually a minimum of three 60-minute sessions per week is recommended for skilled swimmers. Novice swimmers might need shorter and more frequent sessions to see improvements.

The energy systems that the coach and/athlete choose to focus on during the base phase are unique to the individual needs of the athlete. However, they generally include improving the aerobic capacity, developing anaerobic power, maintaining aerobic and anaerobic endurance, and improving stroke technique and mechanics.


The intensity and duration for a large majority of base phase training can be described as relatively low intensity with increasing duration. It is important early in the base training phase to determine proper intensity through field or laboratory-based testing. Field testing is most often utilized for the everyday athlete. Athletes who train with a power meter should undergo a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test to determine proper power zones while athletes training with a Heart Rate (HR) monitor should undergo a HR test to determine proper HR zones.

During the base training phase, triathletes should spend about 50% of their total weekly training volume (hours) on the bike. This normally translates to about 3-5 workouts per week. One to two workouts will be steady-state endurance, one workout will address power and/or neuromuscular development, and then one or two workouts will focus on race-specific demands.

Steady-State Training – Generally longer rides performed nearly exclusively at the aerobic base intensity that is defined as 55-75% of FTP (power-based training) or 60-70% of maximum HR (HR-based training)

Neuromuscular Development – This type of development is generally achieved through either sprinting or big-gear work. Neuromuscular training in cycling is all about recruiting the maximum number of muscle fibers to produce peak force and power.

Race-Specific Demands – Each race an athlete competes in has certain features that make it unique, such as big hills, long windy flats, etc. Athletes should focus on training for these conditions. Also, distance is important, such as Ironman vs. sprint distance.


The classic base training protocol for running is to perform low intensity, high mileage; however, exercise physiology research is still debating if this method is best for athletic performance. Some newer research has suggested that athletes should spend 80% of their training at or below aerobic threshold and 20% of their training at higher intensity. Most triathletes train using HR for running. A widely accepted training concept for run base training is designed around running in the aerobic endurance zone, which is generally defined as 60-70% of maximum HR. Phil Maffetone, a legendary endurance sport coach, suggests subtracting your age from 180 and using that number as your maximum HR during base training. For example, if you are 40, your maximum aerobic HR would be 140bpm. Over time, your running speed will increase at the same HR because your cardiovascular fitness has improved. Another age old training protocol is increasing training load (volume – either time or mileage) by no more than 10% each week. Science has yet to support this concept, but incorporating rest or recovery weeks is key to a good periodized training plan to reduce injury potential.


  • Builds cardiovascular and endurance fitness
  • Improves VO2max
  • Intensity is generally performed at low intensity (55-75% of FTP and/or 60-70% of  Max HR)
  • A good time to focus on weaknesses in each or one particular sport

~ Happy Training!

Launch Party Specials!

In honor of the official launch of Big Sky Multisport Coaching & Personal Training I am offering a few discounts to new clients! The offers are good through the end of the month! So check them out and contact me through the “Contact Form” below. I hope to hear from some of you! 🙂


~ 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!

Periodization Basics

If you have a coach or are following a solid, structured training plan then you may be familiar with the term periodization. Not only is (and should) periodization be part of endurance training, but also strength training programs as well.

Periodization can be defined as training for specific physiological benefits, such as cardiovascular endurance, strength, speed, and power. Periodization began its roots with Hans Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) model, which describes the body’s biological response to stress. Leo Metveyev and Tudor Bompa are considered the modern-day fathers of periodization.

Periodization is divided into three cycles:

  1. Macrocycle – The overall phase of your training plan. This generally tends to be a 12-month time frame, but could be 3-5 years depending on an athlete’s goals, i.e. competing at the Olympics.
  2. Mesocycle – The mesocycle is the number of continuous weeks of specific training that emphasizes a type of physical adaptation, i.e. strength or speed.
  3. Microcycle – The microcycle is typically a one or two-week cycle that includes daily variations in your training plan.

In order to fully understand the concept of periodization, one must understand the six basic principles of exercise physiology:

  1. Stress – In order to build endurance, strength, speed, and/or power, you must stress each of these physiological systems in order to grow and adapt in these areas.
  2. Adaptation – Your body will adapt to physiological stress over time. This is how the body becomes fitter, stronger, and faster. Adaptation in a nutshell is the body’s response to physical stress.
  3. Progression – Over time the body will adapt to its current training and thus in order for your body to continue to improve, you must increase and change stresses.
  4. Specificity – Training should be specific. If you want to build more power on the bike, then you must train for power on the bike!
  5. Individualization – Every person is unique and responses differently to training stress. Training plans should be specific to an individual to maximize the outcome.
  6. Reversibility – Rest is critical, especially a few weeks of unstructured training at the end of the season. Training gains will reverse when extended breaks are taken, so try to be active throughout the year so you don’t lose too much fitness over time.

The body has several physiological  energy systems that it utilizes to produce energy for movement. Here is a brief overview of each:

  • ATP-PC system (phosphagen system) – This system is utilized first by the body because it requires no oxygen. However, it can only provide energy for about 8-10 seconds. This system is used most during short sprints and strength training.
  • Glycolysis – This system starts after the ATP-PC system ends. No oxygen is required to break down glucose or glycogen to pyruvic acid. It generally lasts for a couple minutes at most. Glycosis is often referred to as the anaerobic system.
  • Aerobic System – The aerobic system begins after about 2 minutes and requires oxygen to produce ATP (fuel source of the body). As long as your body has oxygen then the aerobic system will produce energy.

When a coach builds an athlete’s Annual Training Plan (ATP) or macrocycle training plan, they will break down the plan into mesocycles or blocks. An ATP usually breaks down into the following training blocks:

  • Base Building – A majority of athletes will spend most of their training cycle time in base building. Base building generally lasts between 12-16 weeks, depending on race schedule and goals. This block is focused on developing aerobic endurance and building mileage.
  • Strength Building – The focus of this block is building muscular strength. This block generally lasts between 6-8 weeks.
  • Speed Building – The focus of this block is on developing neuromuscular movement and building speed. This block generally lasts between 6-8 weeks.
  • Racing & Maintenance – This period focuses on racing and resting between races. This time period varies depending on the athlete’s season and goals.
  • Recovery – The focus of this block is to recover and rest from a long season. Training is generally unstructured and easy. This block lasts usually between 2-4 weeks.

The above information is just a basic introduction to periodization and training plans. As a coach I love creating training plans based on the periodization concept and the individual athlete. As an athlete, I am a strong believer that the concept works. Over the next few months I plan to provide a more in-depth overview of each training block or mesocycle to help you understand your own training plans. Stay tuned! 🙂

~ Happy Training!

A Year in Review: 2013 – Part I

Since today is the last day of 2013 I should probably start my Year in Review posts. Hmm… I’ll keep this one to more of the highlights and photos. But, 2013 was a good year. It started off a bit rough, but ended with many good things happening. I can’t complain.



January was a month of ups and downs. I just finished my MPH degree in December and began my job search. Some decisions made by my boss at work made me extremely stressed since I wasn’t sure I was going to have a job. This caused me become sick often, which hindered a lot of my tri training, which began on the 1st of the year. Things at the gym were also unusually slow so professionally and financially I was stressed. However, I got my degree in the mail so it made things more real!


Picking the pace up!

Picking the pace up!

I ran the annual Mid-Winter Classic 10-Miler again. It went way better than my disaster of 2012 race where I ran sick and came really close to DNFing. However, I still treated the day more of a training run than anything because I was learning I lost all my running aerobic fitness over my Fall running hiatus due to plantar fasciitis. I also learned important lessons in time management. Working three jobs and training for an Ironman is not fun or easy to do.


My mother, my sister and I (1989)

My mother, my sister and I (1989)

Azul and I celebrated our One Year anniversary. I love that bike! I also celebrated the 4 year anniversary of my mother passing, which is never easy to do. I miss her everyday.




I started April off with a bang! I ran the Race the Runways Half-Marathon again, this time as a training run. It was insanely cold and windy, but I had great company throughout the race. The next day I developed a 102 fever and was out for a couple of days. Go figure! Towards the end of the month I began to develop a bit of a twinge in my right knee. I also went to the USAT Level One Coaching clinic and became a certified coach!


Tammy, Myself, Marisa, and Beth - all taking home hardware after a great race!

Tammy, Myself, Marisa, and Beth – all taking home hardware after a great race!

That twinge in my right knee developed into full-fledge IT-Band issues that plagued me for the rest of the summer. I managed to race the PolarBear Tri… barely. Miraculously, I placed 3rd in my age group.


Okay, not from my rides this week... but from the Patriot Hald Aquabike

Patriot Half Aquabike

My run training was extremely limited. I saw my chiropractor at least once a week to help heal my IT-Band issues. I dropped down from the Half-Ironman to the Half Aqua Bike at the Patriot Half. I had a good day, pacing myself like I would at Lake Placid. However, I almost ran over both turkeys and geese on the bike.



I became an Ironman! I celebrated yet another epic 4th of July with my favorite family and began my final build to the big day. My Ironman day went as planned. My knee held out to mile 18ish of the run before I was forced to walk the rest of the way, but I finished my goal, and that was to become an Ironman.


Enjoying a day at the beach

Enjoying a day at the beach

August was a recovery month. I spent a lot of time with friends and family. Towards the end of the month I began running again slowly just to rebuild my horrible running fitness. I had several promising job interviews. I also left my job at the gym I was working at to go off on my own to start my own business.


An example of pubis symphysis seperation - clearly an extreme case (Source)

An example of pubis symphysis separation – clearly an extreme case (Source)

I finally got offered a job! A great deal of stress was lifted off of me. I continued running easily until my pelvis decided to twist itself again. Awesome. I then began another running hiatus and began my yoga addiction.



Hot Yoga Time!

I became addicted to hot yoga and it was fabulous. I saw my chiropractor at least once a week to convince my pelvis not to split into two. I was happy as a clam at my new job and I joined the Junior League of Portland, Maine.


One of my favorite quotes of the year!

One of my favorite quotes of the year!

I continued with my yoga binge, loving every minute of it. I was slowly cleared to return to “normal” training. I mostly rode my bike, but ran a few times. It hurt.


Skiing at Shawnee Peak

Skiing at Shawnee Peak

I skied for the first time since my mother died almost five years ago with a friend. More to come of this in the next week or so. I’ve slowly been building my aerobic base again, mostly through cycling.

~ Happy Training and Happy 2014!!

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!

2013 Triathlete Gift Giving Guide


Perhaps you’re a last minute shopper like me? Yes, I generally wait until December 24th to do my holiday shopping. Nothing like a little procrastination, right? I think grad school taught me that…

Triathletes are usually pretty easy to shop for since we typically like the latest and greatest technology that will make us fitter, stronger, and faster. Many triathletes have no problem shelling out $10,000 for the top of the line tri bike. I wish I had that problem…

However, sometimes it may be hard to shop for a triathlete because we tend to buy the newest technology as it comes out. If a triathlete has been in the sport for several years they may also have just about all the core equipment and some of the bells and whistles already, so what do you buy them?

Here is a list of items of various price tags to meet anyone’s budget and the needs of the triathlete in your life:

  1. Coaching – Perhaps your triathlete already has a coach or is thinking about hiring a coach in the New Year to help them meet their triathlon goals. Hint, hint – I’m still accepting athletes for 2014! Coaching is a great investment that any triathlete will see huge rewards from. Consider paying their coaching fees for a month or two or even the whole year!
  2. Race Entry Fee – Race entries can be expensive for any triathlete, especially if they are racing multiple events in a season. Ironman races can cost up to $700, while even the smaller local races can still cost about $100. Paying a race entry fee for your athlete will sure make them happier and more driven to do well in that race, just for you of course!
  3. Gift Certificate for a Bike Tune-up – Regular bike cleaning and tune ups are part of every bike owner’s yearly maintenance. Unfortunately, many of us tend to skip these very important things in favor of buying gear. A bike tune up several weeks before a big race can ensure that the triathlete’s bike is in working order and can make them faster! Who doesn’t love free speed!?
  4. New Tires – Bike tires are like car tires – they need to be changed when they become too worn out. If you live in an area where in snows a lot then chances are the triathlete in your life has to spend countless hours on the trainer riding to nowhere. Some triathletes buy special trainer tires (which are a great holiday gift idea too!) or just use their regular tire, which will be completely worn by the beginning of spring. They would love a new set of tires for race season! Make sure you check their current tires on their bike to ensure you buy the correct ones.
  5. Swim Pass or Swim Lessons – Little known fact… swimming is expensive! Living in Maine, I personally don’t have a lot of options for indoor swimming pools. I would estimate that we have about 15 pools across the entire state. For those of you living in Boston or New York, you probably have 15 pools in one block! Lap swimming adds up quickly! Most pools in the Greater Portland area average $3-$5 a pop and if you swim 3 times a week that’s about $60 a month! Consider buying your triathlete a swim pass at their local swimming hole and/or swimming lessons. Even the most advanced swimmers can gain something from a swim coach.
  6. Gift Certificate to a Running Store – Support your local running store by getting your triathlete a gift certificate! That way your athlete can pick out their favorite running shoes, winter running clothes, or even stock up on sports nutrition. Win, win for everyone!
  7. Race Wheels – Every triathlete dreams of having fancy race wheels, myself included! Race wheels are expensive, hence why I don’t have any. If you don’t have $2000 to purchase your favorite triathlete some new wheels then consider paying their race wheel rental fee at their big race this season. TriBike Transport, Rev3, and many bike shops offer race wheel rentals on the big day for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a set.
  8. Body Glide – Every triathlete needs some Body Glide! It’s a tough job squeezing into your wetsuit on race day. Body Glide makes the perfect stocking stuffer!
  9. IronWar – Matt Fitzgerald’s book on the 1989 Ironman World Championships tells the grueling story of the battle between the world’s two best athletes – Mark Allen and Dave Scott. This book is an epic page-turner and your favorite triathlete won’t want to put it down until it’s done!
  10. Massage – Triathletes often spend too much money on buying the best gear and technology and not enough on the stuff that matters the most – proper recovery! Massage is a great and proven effective recovery tool. Consider buying your triathlete a gift certificate to their favorite sports massage therapist. Your triathlete will thank you later!

~ Happy Training & Happy Holidays!