Training and Nutrition

As individuals are now deep into base-building phases, moving on to race-specific training, or in some cases are already beginning their racing season, nutrition is a topic that shouldn't be overlooked in regards to successful triathlon training. Not just race-day nutrition, but your overall nutritional plan.

I'm talking about properly fueling your body to train, recover, and race.  Triathlon training is not a diet. In order to perform at your highest possible level, and reduce the risk of injury, proper nutrition is key.

I hear far too many athletes talk about losing weight, cutting carbs and calories, in an attempt to get to their "race weight". Spoiler alert: I used to be one of them. My worst race of my career was when I weighed the least.  My best race? About 7-8 pounds heavier than what I thought I needed to be. Ah, what a little education can do.

Chances are, as a triathlete (or swimmer, or cyclist) you need more calories than you think each day. A balanced and well thought-out diet includes proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Yes, fats and carbs - don't be afraid of eating healthy fats and good quality whole grain carbohydrates. The percentages of each macro-nutrient will of course change throughout the year as you progress from off-season, to pre-season, and through your race season, but you need all of these macro-nutrients to ensure that you're maximizing the impact of your training and staying healthy.

My education as a triathlon coach, as well as my education in sports and performance nutrition, has really opened my eyes to what a proper pre-season, race-season, and off-season, diet can and should look like. Incorporating a well balanced, whole-food based, nutritionally sound diet during your training is critical. You'll train and recover better, and you'll race better as well.

Questions? I'm happy to help. Jump down to the comments and ask away.

On Writing Workouts

During all of my various coaching certification clinics the discussion around the creation of workouts was covered in detail. The main points of interest?

  • Specificity
  • Energy systems
  • Athlete understanding of goals of workout

Of course the importance of a good warm up, cool down, and dynamic stretching, was covered as well.

Let me clarify: Did we cover 'everything' in granular detail? No. You can't cover everything in a weekend-long clinic. You need to continue your education beyond the initial course. But, all that said, the three points above have been resonating with me lately. Why?

I'm seeing too many triathlon coaches prescribe workouts that have no specifics around energy systems, and no way for the athlete to know what the goal of the workout is. In some cases guaranteeing that the athlete do nothing but train their body to run long and slow on race day. A couple of examples that I've seen (posted online) lately:

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Summer Training Camp Highlights

It was just over a week ago that we were in Connecticut for our summer training camp. What a great three days of training! We kept this camp small - purposely - to ensure that the athletes in attendance got the one on one attention they deserved, and everyone could get to know the other athletes.

Friday evening was our meet and greet, and education session. We covered swim mechanics, form, and technique for open water swimming. Sponsor / Partner products were handed out.

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Becoming a Coach

Is it really Ironman vs USAT ?

I received an email from an athlete / coach that I know. They're USAT Level 1 certified, and they're currently going through the Ironman University offering. The individual in question was quite emphatic about how USAT failed them in their coach certification, and how the Ironman program was superior. 

As our email chain went back and forth, I was told that the Ironman program was more in-depth. That the USAT program only allowed them to learn small portions of periodization. That there aren't enough people racing ITU for USAT to spend time focusing on it. Stating that the testing process for USAT certification was lacking.

Now, I'm not saying that USA Triathlon, or any other national governing body, is better than another in regards to coach certification and education. I'm also not saying that any one singular coaching clinic, once attended and the test passed, makes you a good coach.

That's right. Just going to a clinic, and passing the test, doesn't make you a good coach. It's what you do with that information moving forward that matters. It's how you continue your education that makes a difference. It's seeking out information and working with other coaches with more experience to help you grow professionally.

I'm a coach instructor for US Masters Swimming. I've had USAT level 1 coaches come up after a clinic and state how the session on writing workouts for differing energy systems was really helpful - that it wasn't covered enough in their Level 1 coaching clinic. That might be true, but the truth is you can't cover everything in granular detail in any one coaching clinic. I've had another individual tell me that the Masters coaching clinic was too easy and didn't cover everything in enough detail. Again, what are you doing with the information you learned? Are you taking the details of writing a workout for the anaerobic system and applying it to your athletes? Are you expanding upon the base premise of how those workouts are created, and making your own? Or better yet, are you taking that base level of information and seeking out more data to help you grow your knowledge base?

I've been a professional coach for 6 years. Do I know everything I need to know because I'm USA Triathlon, USA Cycling, USA Swimming / ASCA, and US Masters certified? Not even close. I am constantly learning. It never stops. Heck, most NGB's require that you continue to learn, and enhance your coaching education, to maintain your certification.

It's not all about what you learn in a clinic. It's what you do with the information that you learn.