Category Archives: Workout Tips

11 Things We Can Learn From Olympic Triathletes

During my days of high school athletics, my coaches—field-hockey, basketball, softball, track and field—always encouraged our team to watch more experienced athletes play our sport.  Whether it was going to a Syracuse University women’s basketball game or viewing the WNBA finals on TV, we could learn a lot about the game by studying what others do.  I’ve always been a sports junkie—most likely the cause of my unrelenting Olympic fever—so it wasn’t too out of character when I watched both the women’s and men’s Olympic triathlons live. (Why yes, I did wake up at 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. to see both in real-time.) By observing the pros and listening to the NBC commentators, I learned a lot about the swim-bike-run endurance test.  A lot of these takeaways are little things that might seem like no-brainers to veterans, but it’s good to review the basics.

Swim

1.  If at all possible, draft off other swimmers.  Staying in their wake serves two purposes:  First, you don’t have to exert as much energy because you experience less drag and coast in their wake; two, if you’re following another swimmer, you don’t need to sight—you just follow them and the bubbles they make—which helps you conserve energy.

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2.  Roll onto your back when circling buoys.  Switching to the backstroke gives you a quick breather, and it also lets you survey the field; you can easily see your lead and how many triathletes remain behind you.  Based on this information, you can adjust your pace.

3.  As you near the swim exit, begin to kick harder.  This breaks up lactic acid and preps your legs for the jog to transition.

Transitions

4.  It’s important to spend as little time in transition as possible, but don’t sacrifice efficiency for quickness.  During the men’s triathlon, Great Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee was slammed with a 15 second penalty for an illegal transition.  Sure, he went on to take the bronze medal, but he might’ve had a shot at first or second place if he waited to mount his bike.  Likewise, Team USA’s Hunter Kemper had a good swim and bike, but he stumbled through T2, which he said affected his run.

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Bike

5.  Although we non-Olympians aren’t allowed to draft while riding, you do want to stay close to other cyclists.  Having another rider nearby helps in terms of pacing; at the very least, you can play a continuous cat-and-mouse game where you take turns passing one another.

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6.  If it’s raining, avoid the painted lines on roads.  There were a ton of crashes during the women’s triathlon, most of which occurred because of slippery road conditions.

7.  Make sure you hydrate and take nutrition (if necessary).  Not only is it easier to do so on the bike, but it also gives your body time to absorb the calories, so they’ll kick in during the run.

8.  If you’re pacing off other cyclists, make your final move to the front as you near transition.  This ensures you’ll have a clear path to your area and won’t have to maneuver around others.  Also, increase your cadence, which gets your legs ready to run.  If you can, stretch out a bit, too.

Run

9.  Just like drafting while swimming, try running with a pack.  Maintaining contact with other triathletes will make this final leg easier; the last thing you want to do is complete the run in “no-man’s” land.

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10.  Keep your composure.  Loops/out-and-back runs constitute most courses, which gives you an opportunity to see the competition.  Look at it this way:  If you maintain a straight face, other triathletes can’t guess your emotions or assess your pain threshold.  However, if a competitor sees you grimacing, they’ll know you’re on the ropes and might surge to catch you; likewise, if you see someone who’s looking worn out, you should push yourself to pass them.

11.  Leave it all on the course.  Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and Lisa Norden of Sweden sprinted to the end in a dramatic photo finish.

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What have you learned from watching triathletes compete?

5 Smart Tips to Stay Cool During Your Workout

Today marks the second official day of summer, and the heat shows no sign of relenting.  Between yesterday’s 100-degree heat index and today’s project high temperature (which is expected to notch 93 degrees, FYI), Central New York athletes face scorching conditions.  Sure, Syracuse usually averages 10 feet of snow each winter, but our scorching hot summers don’t cause the same sizzle.

However, between running timed miles at noon, attending two-a-day preseason practices, and biking 15 miles in 93-degree heat (blog post coming soon!), I’ve learned how to cope, survive, and kick some athletic bootay when the playing field feels like the Sahara Desert.  Here are five of my tips to deal with the heat.

Tip #1:  Exercise early to beat the heat

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The early bird beats the sun.  The morning is usually the coolest part of the day, so it makes sense to get in an outdoor sweat session—think running, biking, or open-water swimming—before the sun comes out.  Luckily, I’m a morning person, so I usually workout first thing anyway.  Plus, starting the day with a run or spin class leaves me feeling accomplished, energized, and ready to take on the day. (Or just sloth around when it gets hot!)

Tip #2:  Hydrate adequately before, during, and after your workout

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It’s easy to tell when you’re thirsty, but you should sip water well before you feel parched.  Before my morning runs, I drink at least 32 oz. of water (about two glasses); if I’m driving to a spinning class at the YMCA, I will hydrate even more.  Being dehydrated before your workout begins will hinder your overall performance.  During your workout, experts suggest drinking at least 8 oz. of water every hour.  If you’re outside or sweat bullets (like me!), you should drink even more.  Not only will you feel better, but you’ll also run faster and bike harder with the appropriate fluid intake.  Not to mention staying adequately hydrated helps regulate your body’s cooling mechanisms.  And don’t forget to keep hydrating after you’re done sweating.  Here’s a nifty way to ensure you’re getting enough water:

(I heart Pinterest.) I’m the girl who cares her water bottle everywhere, and I’ll take a few sips every 30 minutes or so.

Tip #3:  Wear light, loose-fitting clothing

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The only nugget of knowledge I remember from 6th grade science class is that light colors reflect the sun’s rays while dark hues absorb them.  Likewise, smooth textures act as better reflectors than highly textured surfaces.  So what does this mean for us fitness fiends?  Wear smooth, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing.  Yes, you’ll look like a super BAMF wearing all black, but you’ll also be sweating like there’s no tomorrow.  Also, if your workout budget can afford it, I’d recommend getting gear with sports-specific synthetics; they stay drier and wick moisture better than cotton.  Here’s a roundup of Fitness magazine’s top picks.

Tip #4:  Befriend sunscreen

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Thanks to my fair complexion, sunscreen and I have a long friendship. (There’s even SPF 15 in my daily moisturizer.) Applying this stuff often and liberally—even when it’s cloudy—will help protect you from skin cancer and other types of skin damage.  Active.com even says sunscreen can decrease your skin and body temperatures, so you’ll stay cooler during exercise.

Tip #5:  Be smart

Whether you’re an Ironman finisher or weekend warrior, you need to pay attention to your body, fitness levels, and weather conditions.  Although I really wanted to go to the CNY Triathlon Club training series last night, I knew it would not be a good choice given the heat index and my body’s current “triathlon fitness level” (i.e. just completed my first one seven days ago/not experienced).

What are your tips for working out in hot weather?