Spending for Speed

By Christine Frietchen | Oct. 06, 2017, 1:04 p.m. (ET)

bike

This article originally appeared in USA Triathlon Magazine.

Between training and races, not to mention juggling family and work, it seems that every waking moment of a triathlete’s day is stretched to the limit. And midway through the season, our wallets are also feeling squeezed after paying for race entries, travel and gear.

But what could happen if you found yourself with an extra 10 minutes in your day? How about an extra hour or even a whole day? And if you unearth some extra cash in your budget, how could you spend it to gain a little extra speed, better efficiency or a mental edge? Seasoned triathlon coaches tell us how to make the most of these extras.

10 MINUTES: Work on a Weak Spot

Six hundred seconds doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but you can accomplish more than you think. USA Triathlon Certified Coach and four-time IRONMAN World Championship finisher Joanne Dondero recommends using that time to work on your weakest discipline. For many of us, that’s the swim. Try using 10 minutes to practice run-in swim starts in open water with high knees and a dolphin kick.

No access to water? Spend 10 minutes at home practicing your T1 routine. You’ll shave seconds off your transition time and ease anxiety going into the bike leg.

Even if you’re stuck in a car or train, Brooklyn-based coach John Stewart suggests visualizing challenges: “Do you break down halfway through threshold workouts? Visualize yourself maintaining cadence and steady breathing, knees tracking smoothly, feeling strong to the end.”

1 HOUR: Up the Intensity

An extra hour feels like a luxury, so make the most of it. Too many of us are happy doing hours of easy miles without varying our effort, Dondero says. After a 15-minute warm-up, do power intervals up a hill, starting with 5 seconds hard with 10 seconds recovery, then 15 seconds hard with 30 seconds recovery, then 30 seconds/60 seconds, 60 seconds/2 minutes, on up to 3 minutes with a 6-minute recovery. Repeat a second time and finish with a cooldown.

Do you have to spend that free hour training? Think long term. Stewart suggests using that time to sort out another part of your life that you’ve been avoiding. Shaking that monkey off your back will free up more time and headspace for focused training tomorrow.

1 DAY: Train Like a VIP

A whole extra day really lets you hone in on weak spots, Dondero says. She suggests a short, intense morning workout for your weakest discipline, followed by 30 minutes of your easiest discipline. Then in the afternoon, do a longer aerobic workout.

Stewart agrees. “A free day is a chance to treat yourself like a pro. Mentally focus yourself for the day. Do a swim, bike and run, then get a nap and a monster stretch session, and eat super-healthy food. How fun would that be?”

$10: Small Tools, Big Benefits

For $10, get some chamois cream, says coach Greg Close. “There’s the obvious use to prevent saddle sores, but there are some not-so-obvious applications as well. Apply a bit to your ankles and wrists to make getting a wetsuit on and off easier, and even try a bit on your biceps to make a sleeved trisuit fit a bit more comfortably,” Close says.

Coach and 14-time IRONMAN finisher Cheryl Miller advises picking up some stretch bands, an “inexpensive way to make sure you get in some stretching and strength work in a limited amount of time.”

$100: Get a Tuneup

According to USA Triathlon Certified Coach and personal trainer Kristen Hislop, “it’s the engine that counts,” so put your cash into quality coaching. For $100, a gait analysis or swim analysis will help you identify weak spots and give your workouts a new focus.

Close agrees: “I recently did a one-hour lesson with an incredible swim coach in which she  dissected, destroyed and then rebuilt my swim stroke. One hour, $100, and literally minutes gained in an IRONMAN swim.”

$1,000: Gear Up

What a dream to have an extra $1,000 burning a hole in your pocket. For that amount of scratch, you might be able to find some used race wheels or a slick aero helmet, but a power meter is the best way to nail down your bike training, taking away the guesswork, Miller explains.

Hislop agrees: “When training with power you quickly learn your sweet spot — the cadence and grade where you easily put out the most watts.”

Already have a power meter? “I think the best thing you could possibly spend that money on is making your bike fit perfectly,” Close recommends, plus upgrade aerobars, stem, saddle or brake levers that just aren’t working for you. A properly fitting bike will make you faster but will also “help facilitate proper postural alignment for the run, and it will make the entire experience of triathlon more enjoyable.” And who doesn’t want that, whatever the price?

Christine Frietchen is the president of the Brooklyn Tri Club. This year, she’ll complete her 100th race, and is always looking to get just a little faster.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.