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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

Triathlon Training: Meet Zoot Sports Athlete Jennifer Vogel 

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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Conquering a Triathlon, Relay-Style

Written on July 15, 2013 at 3:52 pm , by

Molly and I all smiles post-race. Bring on the full next year!

Swim, bike, run…they’re all amazing workouts when you do them alone. But putting them all together? Now that’s a good time. If you’re a triathlete, you know that already. But if you’re not, putting all three sports together for one epic day of racing can be quite intimidating. Add in over 3,000 athletes, the Hudson River and a bunch of mileage—one mile of swimming, 25 miles of biking and 6.2 miles of running—and you’ve got the Aquaphor New York City Triathlon, which looks downright terrifying.

Luckily, Aquaphor allowed me to dip my toes into the world of triathlon without diving in head first. Instead of tackling all three sports myself, I rounded up two more FITNESS friends—both with more swimming and biking experience than I—and signed up to tri, relay-style!

Despite an obnoxiously-early wakeup call (hello, 3:00am), Emily, Molly and I had the time of our lives out on the course. For Emily, she was courageous enough to swim in the scary waters of the Hudson River. The girl sliced through the water with ease, and before we knew it, she was handing off the timing chip to Molly, our hard-core biker! Here’s what she has to say about riding on the West Side Highway:

After a few anxious hours of waiting for the race to start, the excited buzz in transition was contagious! I grabbed my bike and started jogging toward the exit with a million worries on my mind (Will I get a flat? Do I have enough hydration? What if I crash? Will I make all the hairpin turns?). But as soon as I crossed the mounting line and clipped in, every thought disappeared. It was just me and my bike, like any other day, and I was ready to race! The course was bumpier than I expected—Despite tight cages, I lost my first water bottle at mile 4 and the second at mile 19—and the hills were tough, so I took my time climbing. Since my legs were fresh and I didn’t have to save up energy for the run, I tried to cheer on others along the course. Prepping my tush and upper thighs with Aquaphor seriously saved me from painful saddle sores post-race. Before I knew it, I was already making the last turn back into transition to pass the chip (and my biker’s-high encouragement) to Samantha for the last leg.

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“Age of Champions” Documentary Proves You’re Never Too Old to Be Fit

Written on July 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm , by

Prepare yourself for a major dose of inspiration. (Photo courtesy of Documentary Foundation)

Written by Chloe Metzger, editorial intern

If you’ve ever felt that you’re too out of shape for a certain sport, too frail, too uncoordinated, or too any-other-excuse-you-can-think-of, it’s time to meet Roger Gentilhomme. Not only is Gentilhomme an avid athlete and tennis champion, he’s also—get ready for it—100-years-old. “I’m now 100 years old, I have no medication, and I look forward to the next match,” he boasts proudly (heck, we would too!). Gentilhomme’s inspirational story appears in Age of Champions, the new PBS documentary that follows five competitors as they swim, sprint, and dribble their way to the National Senior Olympics.

Among the athletes is an 86-year-old pole vaulter, 88 and 90-year-old swimmers (and brothers!), and a five-time gold medalist basketball team of grandmothers. Yes, we’re in awe, too. Each of them is driven and focused in only ways a true athlete could be, persevering through the loss of a spouse and the diagnosis of cancer, all to go for the gold. The stories are incredibly inspirational, making this film a must-see for anyone who has ever uttered the phrase, “I can’t do it.”

Check your local listings to see when Age of Champions airs in your area on PBS, and be motivated to move just in time for the 2013 Senior Olympics on July 19th to August 1st. For a sneak peek, watch the trailer below; let us know what you think!

Now Tell Us: How has your age empowered you?

Fit Blogger We Love: with a Side of Sneakers

Written on November 1, 2012 at 4:11 pm , by

Heather knows how to fight through the pain and come out stronger on the other side.

When we first discovered Heather over at with a Side of Sneakers, one word popped into our mind: perseverance. Seriously, this girl is tough. Even though she’s been battling chronic foot and hand pain that doctors still haven’t been able to properly diagnose, she found the strength and determination to finish a triathlon, along with other various races. And mind you, this was no ordinary pain – it reached a point of barely being able to walk, sign notes or hold a pen. Yet Heather never let it become an excuse, saying “somebody else has it worse.”

We took some lessons from this athlete, and want you to as well. Keep reading to find out which sport she loves to practice, and what other goals she’s getting ready to tackle.

My favorite way to work out: Swimming. It’s not always easy to get to the pool, but I love the full body workout and cardio it provides. There’s nothing like feeling totally exhausted in a matter of minutes!

5 things I can’t live without:

  • My family. Cliche, but oh so completely true.
  • My camera. I love capturing all of my 9-month-old’s first moments on “film.”
  • My foam roller. I’m so injury prone and this helps keep them at bay.
  • My porch. I love being outside and my porch lets me be out in the sunshine even when I’m doing boring things like working or folding laundry.
  • Coffee. Enough said.

On my fit life list: Finish an Ironman. Run a marathon. Climb Mt. Everest. I’m not too sure about that last one, but it sounds good, right?

Most embarrassing song I’ll admit I work out to: “White Houses,” by Vanessa Carlton. I have no idea how it ended up on my iPod, but it’s there and I definitely kick it up a notch and rock out when it comes on. Lucky for the people on the treadmills next to me, I sing to myself…mostly.

My fitness mantra: Persistence is far more important than perfection.

My “I Did It” moment: A couple of years ago I came down with a mysterious condition that causes severe chronic pain in my hands and feet. I was devastated that I could no longer run. After a couple months of throwing the world’s biggest pity party, I dusted off my running shoes and signed up for a triathlon. I needed the motivation of the other two sports to fight through the pain and hit the pavement again. Crossing the finish line was one of my proudest moments because it’s something I fought so hard for. That day I vowed to never let another obstacle stand in the way of my dreams, no matter how big or small.

Do you have a favorite fit blogger you want us to highlight? Leave a comment below or email blog@fitnessmagazine.com

Gold Medalist Cullen Jones On The London Games and His Quest to Create a Country of Swimmers

Written on May 25, 2012 at 11:48 am , by

Yes, our hearts just melted too. (Photo courtesy of Richard Carson/USA Swimming Foundation)

After nearly drowning at age five, you have to give Cullen Jones credit for being willing to enter a pool again. But he’s done much more than stick a toe in. He now dives off the blocks and races the likes of Michael Phelps, Jason Lezak and the other top swimmers from across the globe. In fact, he won Olympic gold as part of the 4 x 100 meter team in Beijing!

Now, Jones is on a quest to help kids of all backgrounds feel comfortable near and in the water as part of USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash program, which is sponsored by Phillips 66. So how did he get the guts to jump back in and how does he feel about the London Games (just 63 days away!)? We asked, he spilled.

What do you think made you confident enough to hop back in the pool?

Definitely my mom’s conviction. I was very nervous to go back, but she made me go to lessons because she didn’t want me to be afraid of water. Twenty years later, I became an Olympic medalist. At age 8, I swam in my first swim meet, and at age 10, I told my dad that it was my passion. That crushed him, though, since he was such a big fan of basketball!

Why do you think there is such a disparity between the swimming abilities of kids with different backgrounds? [Editor's note: Seventy percent of African American kids, 60 percent of Hispanic kids and 42 percent of Caucasian kids don't know how to swim, according to the USA Swimming Foundation.]

Fear, parental backing, physical appearance…Or the kids had a bad experience in the water, or parents did and project that on their kids.

What will kids learn by participating in Make a Splash?

They’ll learn a life skill—how to be safe around the water. Kids really gravitate to the water, and we want to give them the tools to be safe.

For inside scoop about the Olympics and who inspires this role model, click below.

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Fashion Diaries: Talking Shop With Olympic Swimmer Amanda Beard

Written on May 14, 2012 at 9:22 am , by

Amanda Beard, spokesmodel for Aqua Sphere. (Photo courtesy of Aqua Sphere Swimwear and Swimming Gear)

With the 2012 Olympics headed our way, we thought that Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard would be a great girl to catch up with. On top of being a star in the pool (did you know that she won her first Olympic medal when she was only 14?!), she’s a mom, a model and a philanthropist. Talk about someone who does it all!

Here’s what Amanda had to say:

What is one food that you absolutely can’t live without?

I love Mexican food. It’s my guilty pleasure!

What food do you eat right before a big meet, that you feel gives you the most energy?

Since Mexican food is not ideal before getting in the pool so before a meet or workout, I like to snack on PB&H (honey) sandwiches or smoothies. They’re both delicious, easy to make and help keep me energized.

Swimming requires a lot of body strength. What is your go-to workout move to help keep you strong?

The 18 x 100 breaststroke is one of my favorite strength-building workouts. I always walk away feeling energized, despite the fact that the minimal intervals between each repetition makes it a tough workout! [Editor's note: Sure sounds tough to us!]

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Debbie Phelps, Michael’s Mom, on the Olympics, Heart Health and Challenging Her Son in the Pool

Written on February 10, 2012 at 9:41 am , by

Debbie and her medal-winning son, Michael. (Photo courtesy of The Heart Truth's Red Dress Collection Fashion Show 2012, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

There is one strong mom cheering from the stands when 16-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps dives into the pool. Debbie Phelps was an athlete in her own right in high school and still enjoys keeping fit. And as a Subway Famous Fan, alongside her son, Debbie enjoys supplementing all that action with a healthy diet. “I love my milk, veggies and protein, but have to have a little bit of ice cream! It’s all about moderation,” Phelps says, with a laugh.

We caught up with the mom of three on Wednesday right before she walked in The Heart Truth’s Red Dress Collection Fashion Show in New York City to learn more about her first trip down the runway and whether she’d ever challenge her son to a lap race.

How does it feel to be a model?

Walking in a fashion show has been an item on my bucket list, but I never thought I’d have the opportunity. I feel elegant and sophisticated in the beautifully-beaded Adrianna Papell dress.

Do you ever exercise with Michael?

No way! As Michael’s mom, I feel that the safest place for me is not in the pool. I gravitate to the treadmill and StairMaster upstairs! I’m not afraid of the water but when I was growing up, the pool was a place for fun, not competition.

How are you and Michael feeling about the upcoming Olympic Games in London this summer?

It feels like we were just in Beijing! We’re so excited. It is bittersweet and emotional, though, that his goggles and Speedo will be hung up after the London Games. Michael has brought awareness to the sport and has shown such drive and dedication. We hope to take our grandchildren with us to watch.

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Swimmer Dara Torres On a Quest to Join Her Sixth Olympic Team!

Written on December 19, 2011 at 1:04 pm , by

Dara Torres hits the pool five times weekly to prepare for the London Games. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Mead Cross/Bengay)

Dara Torres has been one of our heroes here at FITNESS for years. She even appeared on the cover a couple times in the ’90s! But this 44-year-old fit mom is out to prove that age is just a number and is training to compete in her sixth—yes, sixth—Olympic Games.

We had to ask: Will there be seven? “This will be my last try at the Olympics, no matter what. Going back to 1984, I had always thought that would be my last swim, but I mean it this time,” says Torres, who was in town as a BENGAY Brand Ambassador.

As she prepares for her final quest for Olympic hardware (she already has twelve medals), we sat down with Torres to learn more about her training, her hobbies and the other swimmer in her house.

You recently had surgery—how are you feeling?

I took a year off after the 2009 World Championships to have a cartilage transplant in my knee. It really helped with my quality of life—I can now walk without pain and train again. But I never completely stopped. I would do pull-ups with my crutches resting against a nearby bench! Being fit is so important to me. Exercises relieves stress, gives me energy and I like the way I look because of it.

Speaking of that training, what does a typical week look like for you?

I train five days a week while my daughter is in school and take Thursdays and Sundays off. I swim for two hours, spend 60 to 90 minutes in the weight room and do 45 minutes of leg rehab, including Ki-Hara resistance stretching for recovery.

So the 2012 Olympics are in seven months! How do you feel?

The trials are at the end of June and beginning of July. I’m training for that now, or as I like to say, “I’ve been training for this since I was eight!” My Olympic prep really began in August 2010. I’ll be 45 by the Olympics, so tapering before trials is important, but I can’t rest quite as much as I used to because I lose muscle quicker at my age.

For Dara’s pick for the next great swimmer and her favorite pool-free activities, Read more