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Molly Ritterbeck

Triathlon Training: 9 Things Triathletes Can Learn From Cyclists

Written on September 11, 2014 at 11:00 am , by

You don’t need to be a pro cyclist to do well in the second leg of your triathlon. That being said, you do need to know the basics and feel comfortable on your bike. Zoot Sports sponsored athlete Jennifer Vogel and I didn’t get into triathlon from a biking background, but before long, cycling quickly became our favorite sport. We teamed up to offer you the tips we wish we knew when we got started on two wheels.

When Buying A Bike…

Know what your max budget is. It’s best to get the most out of the bike that your money can buy because it’s going to have better components, so don’t be afraid to splurge a little up front. You can always upgrade your components later, but buying a good bike to begin with will be a better deal than buying better pieces down the road.

Decide what kind of cyclist you want to be. It’s important to know what you want to do with your bike. You can do a basic noncompetitive triathlon on a road bike, but if you want to be a competitive age grouper, you definitely need a professional triathlon bike. If you want to ride with cyclists on a group or club ride, you cannot use a triathlon bike in a pace line—it’s very dangerous. If you’re not sure where you stand, opt for a road bike, which is much more practical and likely to fulfill a variety of your needs.

Find a good bike shop and make it yours. If you can get a recommendation from a friend, that’ll help a lot. You want a place that will really take a look at your size, the length of your arms and legs, and how flexible you are. Make sure the bike fits you, and not just your budget. It doesn’t matter how cheap or expensive it is, if it doesn’t fit you, you’re going to end up having serious alignment problems, which can lead to injury. Then build a relationship with the staff at the shop. You’ll make plenty of visits for repairs, tune-ups, supplies and gear, and you’ll have a better experience if you’re cool with the people there.

If You Have a Bike…

Graduate to clipping in. This is always the scariest part for beginners, but it’s incredibly important for efficiency and power. If you’ve taken spin classes with clip-in shoes, then you have an idea of what it’s like. Only it’s totally different because the bike is not stationary. For the most part, everyone falls on their first try, so don’t feel bad if it happens to you. To ease yourself in, think about getting an indoor trainer—it’s great for at-home workouts, and you can practice clipping in, grabbing your water bottle and getting in and out of aero position if you have aerobars while the bike is stationary.

Learn how to change a flat. Check in with your local bike shop to see if they offer basic bike maintenance classes. Many have them for free or charge a small fee. This will give you an opportunity for hands-on experience without the panic of sitting on the side of the road with a flat. If that’s not an option, YouTube has a wealth of information. Check out this video on how to fix a flat by Trek Bicycle.

Work on your core. Core strength is incredibly important in cycling and triathlons overall. When you’re in aero position there are no brakes, so you need to be able to get in and out of them quickly without losing control. Walking planks or clapping push ups are great exercises that simulate the same type of movement.

When You’re on the Bike…

Make sure your seat is comfortable. Let’s face it: when riding a bike, your bum is bound to get sore. Of course there’s an initial adjustment period when your sit bones adapt to the saddle, but after that you should never be in pain. Most of the pressure should be on those bones since they can handle it, not on the delicate soft tissues down the center of your lady parts. If you are experiencing pain, the solution could be as simple as adjusting the angle of your saddle or swapping it out for a different option. I personally have a cut-away saddle and find it to be extremely comfortable.

Remember to fuel. Vogel suggests taking in 50-75 calories, in the form of liquids or gel, every 15 minutes during a race. She also finds it easier to have an aero bottle in between your aerobars so it’s right in front of your face and easier to remember to drink. But whether its race day or another training ride, you want to make sure you’re eating and drinking at regular intervals and not waiting until it’s too late. You can do a sprint without taking in anything for a bit, but as you go longer, you don’t want to go an hour without eating anything.

Don’t forget to relax. On race day, it’s easy to feel pressure and get uptight. But one of the best pieces of advice a more experienced cyclist gave me was to just relax.Trust the bike and trust yourself on the bike. When you do, you’re awesome!

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Vogel 

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Triathlon Training: Mastering the Swim at Any Level 
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Triathlon Training: Mastering the Swim at Any Level

Written on September 4, 2014 at 9:00 am , by

If you’re lucky enough to come into triathlon from a swimming background, congratulations—you’re already one step ahead of most people! But if you’re just getting into it, don’t stress. You just have to brush up on the basics and dive right in. In fact, whether you’re a newbie Nemo or a seasoned shark, there are plenty of ways to improve your swimming skills and ace the first leg of your race. Jennifer Vogel, a triathlon coach and Zoot Sports sponsored athlete gearing up for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, shares some of her best tips for upping your underwater game at any level.

If you’re a beginner….

Remember to breathe.  This may sound like a no-brainer, but even the most fit people might not be able to swim the length of the pool at first. It’s not because they’re not fit enough, but it’s usually because they aren’t breathing properly. Practice bilateral breathing—turning your head to both the right and left sides—from the start to avoid forming bad habits.

Take it slow. It’s a natural instinct to hit the water at turbo speed because you don’t want to drown. But you’ll get winded and exhausted in no time, so start out slow and steady and build from there.

If you’re intermediate….

Meet with a coach. If you really want to take your sport to the next level, having someone analyze your stroke is important. It might set you back $60-$80 for a one-hour session, but that’s money well spent because you’ll get an expert eye and opinion. Ideally, they will take a video of you underwater, as well as above, so you can actually see what you’re doing wrong, rather than them just telling you. Swimming is mostly about technique, rather than strength, so nailing proper form will make you faster, require less energy and keep injury at bay.

Invest in a wetsuit. Depending on which races you sign up for and the water temperatures, a wet suit isn’t essential in the beginning. But once you know you want to continue competing in triathlons, it’s a smart investment. Not only will it make you more hydrodynamic (translation: traveling easily through water), it increases buoyancy and keeps you warm in colder water temps. Vogel uses a full sleeve option, but I opt for this sleeveless version so my arms and shoulders wouldn’t feel restricted. Check out more selections here.

Gain more open water experience. Training in the pool is easy and effective, but unless you’re racing in one, it’s best to get as much open water experience as possible. Pools don’t have a ton of waves, murky water and, well, potential fishies and seaweed lurking around. The more comfortable you are in that setting, the less pre-race anxiety you’ll have and the more energy you can put into kicking butt and taking names.

If you’re experienced…

Join a masters group. These are adult swim groups for ages 18 and over, typically comprised of triathletes or former swimmers. A masters team will provide structured workouts and drills, as well as a group setting to help  hold you accountable. It’s sometimes mentally easier when you can swim in a group setting like this as opposed to repeating laps in a pool on your own.

For everyone…

Focus on posture and core work on dry land. Swimming engages your entire core and that’s where most of your power comes from, so you need to hold it tight while keeping your extremities very fluid. It’s about maintaining this balance between effort and ease. Planks are one of the best ways to strengthen your core outside of the pool—we recommend busting out a 30- to 60-second forearm version daily or try this workout.

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Triathlon Training: Beauty Essentials

Written on August 28, 2014 at 10:18 am , by

Being a beauty editor at FITNESS magazine is, in my humble opinion, the best job in the world because I get to combine two of my greatest passions: beauty and fitness. Not surprisingly, these two worlds collide quite often, but it goes to a whole other level when I’m training for a triathlon. I recently spent weeks preparing for and completing the New York City Triathlon and take it from me: training across three different disciplines does wonders for your body, but it can wreak havoc on your hair and skin. As one of the more equipment-heavy sports out there (think: goggles, swim cap, bike, cycling shoes, helmet, sunglasses, running sneakers, etc.), it only seems fitting that triathlon would also require a bundle of beauty products that are essential to prepping for race day. Here are my tried-and-true training must-haves:

Lady Anti Monkey Butt Powder ($6, drugstore.com)
Despite the cheeky name and packaging, this powder protects your bum and thighs from chafing on the bike and during the run by absorbing moisture.

Blistex Medicated Lip Balm SPF 15 ($2, dugstore.com)
My favorite balm is a lip-saver during long training rides, stashes easily in my jersey pocket and offers sun protection, too.

Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Gels ($30, skyniceland.com)
I’ve been obsessed with these hydrating, soothing pads for years. They’re my secret weapons for fading goggle marks around my eye area after countless laps in the pool.

Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen with CRT SPF 30 ($19, supergoop.com)
Even when I’m dripping with sweat (which is always), the super lightweight and water-resistant formula of this sunscreen protects my face without stinging my eyes.

Coola Unscented Sunscreen Spray SPF 30 ($32, coolasuncare.com)
The spray-on application is quick and easy before rides and runs and won’t leave behind a greasy residue.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($6, drugstore.com)
Use this on your chamois to prevent saddle sores or apply it to the back of your heels to ward off blisters. Since it’s oil-based, you don’t want to use this with your wetsuit because the heavy oils will start to degrade the neoprene. Instead, I use a water-based product like Body Glide for Her ($8, drugstore.com) to prevent chafing.

Swim Spray ($15, swimspray.com)
As mentioned here, this 100% natural, vitamin C spray neutralizes the odor of chlorine on your skin, hair and suit so you don’t have to walk around all day smelling like a walking pool.

Venus Embrace Sensitive Razor ($13, drugstore.com)
A fresh shave is key for both swimming (so you don’t have any embarrassing stubble and your wet suit slides on and off easily) and biking (some think silky smooth skin makes you more aerodynamic which is why even many male cyclists shave their legs). This keeps my skin soft and stubble-free without any irritation.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Crème Intense Hydration ($27, kiehls.com) and Avène After-Sun Care Lotion ($21, dermstore.com)
Needless to say, pool time and multiple showers dry out your skin. These two moisturizers (Kiehl’s for face; Avène for body) help relieve that tight, dehydrated feeling instantly.

Pantene Pro-V Damage Detox Weekly Rehab Crème ($7, pantene.com)
Even with a swim cap, the chlorine still manages to dry out your hair. This once-a-week treatment saves my strands from feeling like straw.

First Aid Beauty Eye Duty Triple Remedy ($36, sephora.com)
I use this eye treatment to de-puff and brighten my under eye area after early morning training sessions.

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Triathlon Training: 4 Tips for Transitioning into the Sport

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Gear Up for Your Triathlon 

Triathlon Training: 4 Tips for Transitioning into the Sport

Written on August 21, 2014 at 9:00 am , by

Maybe you swam on your college swim team, you’re a runner looking for a bigger challenge or you’re addicted to spin class and want to take your cycling skills to the next level. Whatever your reason for being interested in triathlon, getting into the sport can be a little tricky and sometimes intimidating. Zoot-sponsored athlete Jennifer Vogel and I put our heads together to come up with the best advice for breaking into the sport.

Study up and train hard. 
One of the most valuable things I did before my first triathlon was research the sport like crazy. I wanted to know everything I could to be as prepared as possible. Once you’re armed with some basic information, like a starter training plan and transitioning tips, you can use your workouts and experience to figure out the rest. There’s a lot of info out there, so take advantage of reputable sources and then put what you know into action during your workouts.

Don’t overestimate yourself in one sport. 
Vogel points out that many tri-newbies are runners first. But just because you can run a sub-2:00 half-marathon doesn’t mean you should skimp on training for those final miles. The same goes for naturally gifted swimmers and bikers. Everyone has their favorite and strongest leg, but you still need to practice pacing yourself through three different sports and mastering the bricks (transitioning from one sport to the next).

Ease into the equipment.
Triathlon is a sport that requires a lot of gear. Gear costs money. But don’t let the initial investment scare you away; instead, start small. Vogel suggests easing in with short sprint races that you can do without expensive items like a wet suit or tri-specific bike. True story: I did my first tri in a sport bikini and borrowed my brother’s old bike! Once you get a better idea of how serious you’ll become and what kind of goals you have, you can invest in better equipment little by little along the way. Not sure of the essentials? Check out our go-to list here.

Join a tri group. 
It’s the easiest way to make new friends with a common interest and you’ll have an instant network of triathletes to train with and ask questions. Vogel notes that a group helps keep you accountable and makes it fun, too. I’ve done all my training and races solo and quite honestly, I wish I joined a group early on. Trust me, during those long training days, you’ll be happy to have the company and fellow finishers give you more reasons to celebrate during your post-race party.

Photo by Kevin Steele

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Triathlon Training: Meet Zoot Sports Athlete Jennifer Vogel

Written on August 14, 2014 at 10:36 am , by

After hitting a brick wall of boredom with my fitness routine a while back, I decided to dive head first into the world of triathlon. Two years and four races later, I’m still a tri-newbie, but I’m learning more with each finish line I cross and gaining ground on becoming a triple-threat athlete. I’ve spent countless hours swimming, biking and running, but even more time surfing the web for expert insight, tips and advice on acing every race. Luckily for me (and all triathletes-in-training), we’ve teamed up with Zoot Sports to tap their sponsored athlete, Jennifer Vogel, an Ironman World Championship qualifier, for straight-from-the-source info on triathlon training.

Vogel is not your typical Ironwoman. She didn’t do sports growing up; she didn’t even start running until she was 21. The self-described “procrastinator” signed up for her first marathon in an attempt to “pull her shit together.” A few years later when her husband decided to do a triathlon with a friend, she didn’t want to be left out. So she signed up, too. “I pretty much knew right away I wanted to do an Ironman,” she says. About a year later, she did just that. Now at 33, Vogel has over 12 years of experience in endurance sports and personal training. Thanks to her first sub-10 hour finish at Ironman Florida, she is headed straight to the IWC for the second time.

For the next ten weeks, as we countdown the days to Kona, this blog series will be your one-stop-shop for everything triathlon-related. So whether you’ve just signed up for your first sprint or you’re as experienced as Vogel, there’s something in it for everyone—from the physical aspects to the mental challenges. Because it’s not really about a medal, your time or even a PR, it’s about who you become while training across three different disciplines. As Jenn says, “The subtle changes that occur from the day in and day out relentless pursuit of a goal that nobody understands but you. That is where the magic lies”—if you dare to tri.

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A 10-Week Sprint Triathlon Training Guide

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5 Things I Learned from Doing the New York City Triathlon

Written on August 6, 2014 at 11:13 am , by

Last year, my colleague Samantha and I participated in the New York City Triathlon relay-style. (You can read about our experience here.) But getting just a little taste of the inspiring event wasn’t enough for me. After that day, I made a promise to myself to do all three legs the following year and immediately marked my calendar to solidify the goal. This past Sunday, I competed in this iconic New York race—swimming in the Hudson river, biking along the Henry Hudson Parkway and running through Central Park—and got so much more out of it than just a super cool medal. Here are my top takeaways from race day:

1. Make Friends.
I have always trained for and competed in triathlons by myself, and quite frankly, it gets lonely. In the past, I’ve been too reserved and nervous to get chummy with other people, but this time I was feeling unusually calm and ended up meeting a bunch of awesome triathletes. Chatting with them kept me feeling relaxed and made my race experience much more enjoyable. So don’t be shy—even though it’s an individual sport, you’re really all in it together.

2. Stay Calm. 
As mentioned above, I was surprisingly chill on race morning. I can only attribute this to a ton of pre-race visualization and feeling properly prepared. I put in all the hard work in the weeks leading up to the big day and if you train right, there’s really nothing to worry about except having fun! The worst thing you can do is spike your heart rate before you jump in the water, so even if there are a few worries in the back of your mind, push them out and repeat positive thoughts to stay relaxed. It actually works and makes a huge difference.

3. The Bike Matters. 
Personally, my strongest leg is on the bike, but even if it’s not yours, it’s still important to care about what wheels you’re on. This year, I rode my Specialized Alias (prices vary, specialized.com). It’s like the Jekyll and Hyde of bikes: two personalities—a road bike for training and a tri bike for racing—all wrapped into one slick, aerodynamic package. The geometry is designed specifically to allow you to swap between road position and triathlon position with ease. This explains it in more detail, but it was the perfect bike for my training. I just popped off the clip-on aerobars for the long group rides I incorporated into my schedule and then snapped them back on for when I was practicing race pace on solo jaunts. On the Alias, I was able to shave five minutes off my previous year’s time despite slick road conditions. True story: I actually saw a girl riding a rent-a-bike from Central Park complete with pannier on the course (!). Needless to say, her struggle was real and I smoked her. So seriously, it’s worth it to invest in a solid set of wheels.

4. Pace Yourself.
I tend to be a zero to 60, all or nothing, give it 100 percent type of person, especially when it comes to working out. And hey, that’s not always a bad thing. But in triathlon, you’ve got to get through three events before you can taste the sweetness of that finish line. The smartest thing I did was start every leg slow and steady. If I had extra gas in the tank, then I kicked it into high gear near the end. With this strategy, I had the smoothest race and strongest finish yet.

5. Remember to Smile! 
I get laser focused during races and unfortunately suffer from “resting b*tchface, so this one is important for me. If you want some cool in-action race photos, you better cheese when you spot a camera lens. Plus, anytime I fake smiled I mean, real smiled at the crowd, they went nuts and their enthusiasm gave me the shot of energy I needed, which in turn made it really fun and led to lots of genuine grins. Yay!

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Your 10-Week Triathlon Training Guide

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We Tried It: Trek’s Silque Bike

Written on July 28, 2014 at 10:39 am , by

I recently got the chance to hit the road with Trek Bikes and Trek Travel to tour miles of Vermont countryside on two wheels. (Check out some of their luxury cycling vacations here.) I’ve been road biking for a few years now but never really had the opportunity to completely immerse myself in the sport—until now. For our adventure, we hopped on the Trek Silque (prices vary, trekbikes.com), one of the women’s-specific road bikes nicknamed the “Smooth Operator” for its unique ability to smooth out even the roughest of roads. After riding nearly 90 miles (including one killer climb to Smuggler’s Notch in Stowe) on the bike, I got a good sense of everything this whip has to offer. Some of the highlights include:

  • The “IsoSpeed decoupler,” which isolates the movement of the seat tube from the rest of the frame, so the seat tube is free to absorb more forces from the road. Basically, your bike soaks up road shock so your body doesn’t have to. (Take it from me, you can immediately tell the difference compared to other bikes out there.)
  • A women’s–specific design (WSD) geometry that’s made for your body and is tuned at every size, regardless of frame size, to fit a female rider to the best possible level. This will put you in a position of power for a faster, more stable ride.
  • An electronic gear-shifting system, which offers elite shifting performance so you don’t have to be a pro to adjust to the terrain. (It’s very user-friendly, perfect for beginners.)
  • The trendy colors and designs—As soon as I saw this bike, I was swooning over the white, lime and aloe green color combo and chevron accents. I mean, just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I want to ride a pink bike. And wear pink everything (just saying). But if you’re into pink, that’s cool too. They’ve got tons of options. In fact, you can even customize your own bike design here. Trek’s graphic designer hits up Fashion Week in Berlin every year to be one of the first on the scene of the hottest color and design trends. So no matter what you pick, you’re always going to get something that’s stylish and cool.

All in all, the Silque was an incredible ride and it really struck me how important it is to saddle up and try out some bikes before you buy one. If you want to test-ride one yourself, click here to find a demo coming to a location near you or check in with your local Trek retailer to see if you can take one for a spin.

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