Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Balance: the Art of Prioritizing

On Saturday, my wife and I brought home our first child. She was born on December 1st and she is the cutest thing I have ever seen. We got home to an empty house; Ole, our one and half year old black Labrador was at my parent’s house while we’d been at the hospital. In the quietness of our vacant house, I was reminded of the seasons leading up to this new season of parenthood. I was reminded of the season before my wife and I got married, the season of being DINKs (Dual Income No-Kids); although each of these seasons has brought a very new and wonderful change they each have posed a new level of responsibility and commitment to life. We are faced with the choice of prioritization and balance at every turn in the road. What will be of most importance? Who will have priority in my daily schedule? Which activities will make it to the top of the to-do list? At the root of each of these questions is the idea of priority and decisions of what is most important.

Although most of my closest friends, colleagues and family would be able to guess pretty easily what my highest priorities are, I will not give you my recommendations for what you ought to list, but I do think it is an important enough topic that every athlete ought to think about as they look at the here and now, and the future. In the last year I have read more articles, comments, and editorials about balanced living in triathlon periodicals and websites than ever before. Triathlete Magazine published an article in its November issue about “Walking the Tightrope” referring to the complex and challenging balance of life and training.

In my recent article on Reflection, I offered an exercise, for your self-assessment, on how you as an athlete are doing in your training, how you’ve done, and what you might plan to do in the future. In this exercise I purposefully asked how you’ve involved others (and how you might) in your training. This was done as no accident. Often times athletes see training and family as antagonists. When one is doing well, likely the other is not. This is one of the large misconceptions about the multi-sport life, “Aw, I could never do a triathlon, I am just too busy with my wife and kids….” This ideology of mutual exclusivity is trite. I argue to reason that involving your family in your training will actually make it more profitable and fulfilling. I can remember many times that ‘dad’ would take us kids out on training sessions with him. Whether he was dragging us in a sled behind him on a cross-country ski workout, strapping us into the seat on the back of his bike, or pushing us along in the stroller on a run, these were fond times and cherished memories. Be creative and think outside the box.

As endurance athletes, we are no strangers to the concept of periodization. In a nutshell the term essentially means to break down our training season into periods or segments so that we focus on specific incremental objectives, in a certain succession, so as to meet or exceed an end-goal. In the same way we plan our training and race season, so too we need to think about the goals that we have in our non-sport life and try to plan a strategy for meeting those goals. Maybe that means intentionally planning a daddy-daughter date on Saturday afternoon to purposefully spend time and invest in your daughter’s life; wouldn’t that be an appropriate training phase for the objective of cultivating and maintaining positive communication lines with your pre-teen daughter? How about planning a weekend camping trip with your buddies from college, wouldn’t that be an investment into the relationships you’ve grown and the relationships for which the tough times in life will inevitably be supported upon? Maybe it’s the investment in your marriage through purchasing your spouse a bicycle or trainer so that long rides can be spent together. These are just ideas and certainly not specific relationships that might find their way to your top 3 priorities.

Balance is not something that comes naturally for most people. It is something to think about, work at, and invest in. Balance takes careful thought regarding what is most important to you, and how you will allocate time, energy and finances to support that priority. If the proverb we reap what we sow is true, then all of us could benefit from meditating on what we’ve prioritized and whether what we’ve spent out life’s time and energy on, will leave a worthy legacy.

Friday, November 6, 2009



Reflection: a thought, idea, or opinion formed or a remark made as a result of meditation; consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose

Reflect: to bend or fold back; to think quietly and calmly; to express a thought or opinion resulting from reflection

(definitions from

The epistemology, or origin, of the word reflection in the English language, comes from the Latin word reflexio, which means to "bend back." Reflection is a word often associated with meditation, contemplation, and 'to process.' In a variety of forms we all reflect on activities and events that have impacted us. We reminisce about our schooling days, we ponder our first love, we meditate on various abstract ideas or concepts-whatever it is, our processing of these remembrances helps us to form thoughts, ideas, and insight into how we understand the past and plan for the future. We need to specify here however, that although it is healthy to contemplate the past, we must make sure we are not living in the moment of some historic event and thus stifling our ability to move forward into more wholesome and positive places/experiences in the future.

So what does this mean for the endurance athlete? It means a great deal, but specifically it means that 1) we as athletes can learn from our experiences, and 2) the concept of reflection can be utilized to improve our future performance.

As athletes that compete in a challenging sport, we often times face circumstances, in competition, that are unpredictable and unforeseen; our goggles get kicked off our face by a fellow competitor on the swim, our tire flats at the turn-around on the ride, our calves cramp up because of sodium depletion and dehydration caused by abnormally hot conditions, and the list goes on. Fortunately there are no wasted experiences in life, and the same is true for triathlon and endurance racing. When we look back to and reflect upon our experiences, we gain insight, wisdom, and understanding that cannot be read in a book, watched on a video, or imparted by a coach.

I encourage all my athletes to reflect after each race they compete in, and then reflect again at the end of the season about how it went, and what could be learned for the following seasons. This looking back and looking forward allows the athlete to put their past performances into perspective and to grow for future competition.

Now that we have a better idea of why we reflect and the benefits from it, the next question one might ask is, "how do I reflect and what questions do I ask myself?" I have attached a document that can help guide your through some of the necessary and beneficial questions to ask yourself. If you find this exercise helpful or you would like to set up an appointment to review your season with a coach, please contact me.

As you look back on this year's season may you relish in your accomplishments, learn from your short-comings, and look forward to next season with anticipation and hope.

<Triathlon Season Reflection Exercise>

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Jaunt on the Wild Side: Bushwhacking 101

Knee injuries, plantar fasciitis, iliotibial band syndrome, and shin-splints are just a few of the maladies that a pavement-saturated running regime can inflict on the endurance athlete. So what's an athlete to do? There's a simple solution: take a jaunt on the wild side!

Reminiscing of cross country running years gone by I was reminded of all the joys we had as cross country boys in high school. Days when the coach would say, "today will be a two mile recovery run" translated in our minds meant, "TO THE WOODS!" Clad with little more than a pair of tiny running shorts, which would have made David Hasselhoff
blush, we made our way to the woods where our love of running was rekindled and the little boy within us was released like times in the sandbox. Even today, however, the woods have more to offer than the wooing of fond childhood memories.

Trail running is a tremendous discipline for a number of reasons; First and foremost trail running puts much less impact on ones joints. One of the primary reasons that triathletes are limited in training duration and intensity is due to injuries caused by the excessive strain running puts on the hips, knees, ankles, and feet. I don't need advanced degrees in civil engineering and physical therapy to describe why running on pavement is so detrimental to our body. Most trails are those that are shared with mountain bikers, hikers or Nordic walkers. In my hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota we are fortunate to have Nordic ski trails that are either wood-chip or dirt covered. These trails, like mountain bike or hiking trails, are great for running because they are much less dense than pavement or asphalt.

A second of many great reasons to go trail running is the intensity that trails naturally integrate into the discipline. When ascending a hill, a triathlete focuses on the technique-smaller strides, higher cadence, smooth horizontal movements-which directly translates to faster race splits. Another amazing reason to take it off-road is simply the pure fun and exhilaration that accompanies blazing down an unbeaten trail. This to some may be a bit freaky, but as long as one keeps a watchful eye alert to wandering tree roots, it’s a blast. Those that are particularly prone to rolling ankles should be cautious on descents as roots and vines often jump out and ensnare the unwatchful harrier.

Whether frolicking ferociously through the furry of the forest for the first time, or rekindling a fond past-time, get out and tame the woods and discover a load of fun and excitement that an afternoon of bushwhacking can be.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Discipline begets Discipline

'Discipline' is a word often associated with punishment or chastisement for an action of wrong-doing. Discipline is also the word triathletes use to describe each of the sports they compete in: the disciplines of swimming, bicycling, and running. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary describes it as, "4: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character" or "5 a: control gained by enforcing obedience or order b: orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior."

While there are different meanings for this word, formed from our own contextual experiences, there is no doubt that
for the triathlete "discipline" is a bit about self-inflicted punishment, and a little about a lifestyle of discipleship to training and fitness. Recently, I started my second period of base-training for a long-distance course race I will be competing in this Fall. There are days that I have long rides or runs scheduled, and for whatever reason or another, I neglect to complete them. It is in these days that I experience, not so much remorse for my disobedience to the training plan, but the realization that I am prepared slightly less than I ought to be for the race. On the flip side, there are days when I finish a long swim workout and get every last one of my 100-metre splits on my target time, and I walk away with a feeling of elation and accomplishment for the 'discipline' I have mustered to finish strong.

It is said that, "success begets success," and I would say the same is true for discipline in training and fitness. Not only does the accomplishment of sticking to our schedule give us a feeling of structure and commitedness, but there are actually chemicals that our bodies produce which reinforce the labors of our efforts.
Beta-endorphins, chemicals secreted by our bodies, are one of the positive effects of training and exercise. Not only do these beta-endorphins give us that feeling of "runners high" but there have also been studies which support a positive correlation towards their combatment of stress related maladies like migranes. These chemical endorsements are similar to the way the body becomes addicted to drugs. In our case as athletes however, this chemical-dependancy might not be quite so bad.

In addtion to the scientific research, I have found that when I stick to my training, for a short period of time, it encourages me to want to stick to it for the long haul. A disciple is a person who is characterized by the lifestyle to some kind of discipline. For us as triathletes, this includes a life epitomized by continual education, healthy diet, and balance. When we make the small sacrifices of immediate desire and gratification, we ascribe to the path which will allow us to accomplish long-term goals. When we put our legs to the hills now, we will be able to muster through the 70.3 race later this Summer. When we eat the veggies and fruits instead of scarfing down the Mc D's fry-fest, we keep off unwanted pounds and empty calories and thus keep our bodies groomed for the splits we are aiming for.

Although this concept is not revolutionary and certainly not one that I have monopolized, it can change the way you look at your training and racing. Instead of worrying about what you are going to do in your training next week, focus on the here and now. Wake-up with the goal of finishing the tasks you have for the day. When you complete your long run, or that hard bike ride, give yourself a pat on the back and remember that you've just positioned yourself one step closer to your next personal best.

Discipline yourself today and enjoy balance and health for a lifetime.

-Coach K

Monday, July 13, 2009

Congratulations to MARStri Participants!!!

Congratulations MARS tri Team. Having put in the training and prepared yourself for the race, you all did marvelously. I want to encourage you to take some time-off and mentally process the training and all that led up to the race, and the race itself. Think through what went well, what was particularly challenging, what specific accomplishments you're proud of, what areas you would hope for a better outcome in, and most importantly-what's next?!?

I would be happy to meet with each of you and synthesize some personal goals for your fitness and future triathlon endeavors. I would like to do this at no additional charge, because I think it is in the assessment of what one's done that they realize the joy of their accomplishment, and the hope for future pursuits. Give me a's on me too.

May the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon truly be one big step towards a lifetime of healthy living.
-Coach K

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Swim Clip = Faster Split

(Photo taken from
Although I have sent the link of this clip to many of my athletes, I decided it was worthy of putting on the blog. I believe it was produced in the US and translated for a Japanese group-hence the interesting figures on the title screen.

I want to point out that this swimmer, in this clip, is using a modified front crawl kick known as trudgen kicking. Typically the flutter kick is used with front crawl. The trudgen kick however, can be a very useful kick to use especially when used in triathlons where there are slight to large waves. The trudgen kick takes the appearance of a scissors kick and is typically implemented somewhat asymetrically, coinciding with one arm of the pull. The use of this kick in wavy open water swim conditions can allow the swimmer to actually pseudo-body surf the waves as the swimmer crests each passing wave. In essence the swimmer will ride the wave and give a short quick kick at the crest to ride the wave similar to the way a body surfer or boogie boarder would.

I personally used the trudgen kick, inappropriately, when I was learning how to breathe during the front crawl. The danger of using the trudgen kick in order to thrust your upper body out of water in effort to take a breath (which is why I was utilizing it), is that you will ultimately swim very asymetrically and risk overuse injuries in the shoulders and elbows. As I later learned, proper body rotation (sculling) illeviates the need to get the head out of the water when breathing.

Check out this clip and note the body rotation, pull and kick. This swimmer swims very smooth and makes it look effortless...that's because he's utilizing great technique. Watch the clip and visualize it when you are swimming in your next session.

<Click Here.>

-Coach K

Friday, June 12, 2009

Red Bull for the Tri Soul

(Taken from
With just under a month until race day for the 2009 Lifetime Fitness Triathlon, I am sure you are all getting pumped for the big day!!!

In case you are just a little less than pumped about the race and need of some are a few great events that will get your heart rate going.

To Read the full Article CLICK HERE.

Monday, June 8, 2009

BuffTri Recap

Despite a balmy 49 degree forecast athletes covered the hillside at Sturgis Park, in Buffalo MN. Over 1,500 participants turned out for the Buffalo Triathlon in Buffalo MN. The race was scheduled for Sunday June 7th at 9am. The water temperature was 69 degrees so wetsuits were an essential commodity for the swim. There were two race distances a sprint, and the international or olympic distance.

A robust elite wave started off the race at 9am sharp, the pack included the likes of 70.3 World Champion Terenzo Bozzone
. Swim heats started 2 minutes apart with 10 year groups of males and females. The swim was a loop around a rubber-ducky lined course. The bike was a loop as well, which graced the rolling hills of the country side. The run, an out and back, took racers alongside the shore of Buffalo Lake.

Despite my feelings of under preparation, I had a great race. All things considered, it was not my personal-best, but it was a nice day for a race even with the cold temperature. The swim was freezing and my head felt a bit whoozey getting out of the water into the transition. The transitions were difficult because the cold slowed down neurologic functioning of fingers and acute body movements. I think I wasted the most time tightening my shoe laces at T2. Going into the bike I felt really strong. One difference for me however, was that the wind was the exact opposite direction as when I had ridden the course the Tuesday before. Keeping my head low and staying down in the aerobars, even on the hills, allowed me to average just over 20 mph and came in to T2 in a nice position. The run was amazing, considering the volume I had done in training. Finishing it all up I felt encouraged and spent!

What a wonderful day of athletes giving it their all. It was so good to see a few athletes that I coach, and they seemed to have had great races too. A proud coach I am. Way to go athletes!

-Coach K

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Buffalo Triathlon Overview

With less than a week leading up to the Buffalo Triathlon, I am starting to wind-down my harder intensity workouts and set the cross-hairs on race day. Although I feel fit, the old saying goes, "it's always the contractor's house that is in greatest need of repair"...maybe the same could be said for this coach and his training volume.

I drove to Buffalo last night to ride the bike course. I had a support car drive with me to draft off, but the wind and the hills were no less noticeable. The swim, a 1500 meter out and back, routes along the shore of Buffalo Lake taking you out and around the race-iconic rubber duckies.

As you exit the swim the race goes south on Cty Rd 25 and does a good amount of hills until you get to the 8 mile this point the road flattens out and the wind pushes from the side instead of the headwind. Turning around at the half-way point you get a tail wind for most of the return trip back to the transition.

As you come back towards the transition, you will start to see the runners. The end of the bike overlaps the run course for the last few miles. The run is an out and back on 35 coming back into Buffalo after taking you along scenic Buffalo lake shore. The run is relatively flat, however there is a slight uphill on the way out and a steeper uphill/downhill at the turn-around.

I was encouraged at the completion of my ride. With a good amount of intensity work in my training program, I was able to scurry up the hills pretty good. My suggestion to other racers would be find a good gear for uphill climbing and just shift back and forth on the chain-rings from large to small as you go descend and ascend the hills at the beginning (not really changing the rear gear at all). As you enter the flat stage for the middle third of the course find a harder gear in back with the smaller chain-ring in front...this will help you keep your cadence high without sacrificing speed on the flats. You'll be able to see the finish on the ride back before you get hold on, race fast, and have fun!

-Coach K

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Welcome to Coach K's Tri Blog

With over 10 years of experience in racing and training in triathlon, I bring a wealth of experience to my athletes. I have coached swimmers and triathletes for 8 of of those 10 years helping my athletes to personal best's and division titles.

I work with athletes in-person and online through a comprehensive approach to training and racing. I work with athletes in both specific and long-term goal formats. Whether you are hoping to win your age group at a target race this season or to work towards a more balanced fitness life, I am excited about working with you and helping you attain your goals!

-Coach K