How to Train for a Triathlon In NYC Panel Recap

Finish Line Physical Therapy partnered with Tailwind Endurance to host the “How to Train for a Triathlon in NYC” panel on Monday, January 4. I’m going to be training for my two Olympic triathlons on my own this year and completing my first ocean race swim, so this seemed like the perfect (and free) opportunity to soak in some knowledge. The panelists were Andy Fenack (a physical therapist at Finish Line Physical Therapy, Ironman, marathoner and self proclaimed geek of the group), Brian Hammond (founder of the WorkLiveTri club and a tri coach for 17 years) and Earl Walton (founder of Tailwind Endurance and tri coach for 15 years with a love of swimming).


Andy, Bryan and Earl


The panelists discussed a number of topics for the room that consisted of people considering their first sprint to one man who’s training himself to complete his first Ironman this year.

Step One: The first step to triathlon training is an analysis of where you are: strengths, weaknesses, training opportunities. Some questions to ask yourself: how many hours can you train? Are you a  member of a gym with a pool? Do you have an indoor trainer? Is there travel that’s planned that will keep you from training for a week? A wedding coming up? Be honest with yourself so you can plan your training properly. This should be done every year before your training begins. The most important thing is to remember that life comes first.

Step Two: set your calendar. Go through your schedule and find the training hours and the days on a week basis. BE REALISTIC. You should also note where your diet and nutrition should be improved. When to eat and what to eat so you get the most out of your workouts.

Step three: pick a race! Do you have a distance in mind? Is it a realistic one based on how many hours you can allot to training? Will your family be there and is it in a location where they’ll enjoy their time?

Now that your calendar and race is selected, you must start training. Address your weaknesses now in the winter and focus on getting your base: running can be done in the winter, biking should be short and intense to get the fitness in while you’re indoors due to the winter weather. As long as you’re focusing on your heart rates, you’ll be building on your foundation. Your heart doesn’t know the difference between swimming, biking and running, it just knows it’s getting a work out.

Key points that were helpful:

Biggest runner mistake when prepping for a triathlon: doing a running race to prep the race. They over-train and they get injured (sound familiar?). Increase duration or intensity (these are also technique work outs because you run better techniquely during them), but not at the same time. Also, no more than 10% of your running mileage should be done at speed work, hill repeats, etc.

The best way to improve your swim/enjoy swimming more if you don’t have access to a master class or a coach: Find a swim clinic or a three day swim. Understand your swim paces: 100s, swim workouts and repeat. Create goals that make it fun and achievable. Once you start paying attention to time and/or distances you can start to see them improve. This will only make you more excited to get into the pool.

Don’t think because you’re not running you’re not being a better runner. You’re working the systems and it’s all benefiting you.

Adjust how you look at your schedule of it’s becoming overwhelming. You can think of it as a two week or 10 day chunk of time so it all makes sense for you, your schedule and your time.

Do you need a coach? Earl stressed that the best approach to coaching is the one that works for you. If you have one, make sure they understands your season, goals and your time. Teams are hard because they go to the lowest or highest denominator and you don’t get the individual attention you may need or want. An online or virtual coach is a great option if they can video chat and one on one coaching is great. One of my favorite quotes is from Brian: “Coaches are chefs and work outs are ingredients. They have to talk to each other.”

YOU MUST REST AND RECOVER: Make sure you add in rest and recovery time and plan that in. You can’t push your heart too much. You’ll push yourself into a fight or flight response. Your hard effort work outs will be more productive.
HR and sleep monitors will be great to check your status: if you’re over trained and need to recover. There’s no such thing as a throw away workout.

What to do when you’re an injured runner: strength training: do it after the bike and you get used to being strong off the bike. To get hot base back, do longer, easy runs then increase one interval at a time. Increase speed first before volume.

Final thoughts: Aim to complete your workout happy. It’ll create a habit and you’ll keep going and remain positive.

This panel gave me some things to consider in my upcoming training season. Stay strong and positive athletes!

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