Finding your Blind Spots – Improving your Triathlon in the Offseason

Finding your Blind Spots – Improving your Triathlon in the Offseason

IMG_6786Last week I rented a small SUV while I was at the Long Course World Championships in Oklahoma City, OK.   Normally I rent compact or economy cars because they’re less expensive and I don’t have a need for a lot of cargo room.  But invariably, by the end of my trip my back and neck are tired and sore from the low, molded seats that these cars usually come with.  So on the spur of the moment I upgraded to an SUV.  My back was really really happy with that decision!   But I had two close calls while driving on the highway, trying to switch lanes and noticing that there was a car in my blind spot.

I’m used to the blind spots on my own vehicle, and therefore know where and when to look and for how long before I switch lanes.  I was a bit surprised to have this happen twice…once on my right and once on my left in this rental SUV.  It didn’t take more than one occurrence though, because as soon as I knew there was a blind spot and where, I knew to look for it before switching lanes.

Improvement Requires some Type of Feedback

Normally in order to locate your blind spots you need some type of external feedback.  Hopefully it’s not a car accident that becomes your first warning a car was too close to you. Typically I look in my mirrors, rear view, then side view, then finally I turn my head to check for anyone there…in that blind spot that I’m used to.  IN this new car, I had to look further back and for a second longer.  But once I knew it was there, it became routine to check and I had no further close calls over the weekend.

Applying “Blind Spot Reduction” to Triathlon Training

How does this story apply to triathlon training?  WE all have blind spots in our own preparation for the sport.  Whether it’s a fitness blind spot (Doing only long slow distance and no intervals?), possibly a sport balance blind spot (you like running the most, so you skip all your bike rides?), or often a technique or skill blind spot (not sure when to shift gears, or how to smooth out your swim stroke?)

A blind spot means we can’t see it.  We need some type of external feedback to identify it.  So chances are, unless you train often with a variety of friends, hire a skills or technique coach, or sit down with someone to review your training and preparation you may not know where your blind spots are.

I can guarantee one thing, though…if you can locate them, they will almost automatically improve!  Just like my rental SUV story.    Once I knew they were there, they became a non-issue.

How to Find your Own Blind Spots (Hint: If you already know about them, it’s not a blind spot!)

If you become aware that you preferentially skip bike rides to go for a trail run, then maybe you’ll be more inclined to get in an extra trainer ride this winter or sign up for a spinning class.  Pay for it ahead of time or buy a punch card, and you’ll be more likely to go.

Even if you enjoy swimming and feel skilled, seek out a qualified swim coach in your area, or someone who can do video analysis from good quality submissions…and get some outside feedback on your stroke.

How to Specifically Ask for Outside Help

Take a swim or run clinic.  Ride with a different group of people.  Join a local tri club’s weekly fitness session.  All of these are ways to get objective feedback especially if you ask for it!   How do you ask for feedback?  Just pick out someone who seems confident and comfortable, or perhaps there is a coach attending and let them know your concerns.  Ask questions like:

  • Can you watch me shift during these rolling hills and let me know if I’m using my gears appropriately?
  • My right shoulder gets sore when I swim longer than 1/2 mile, especially when I am forced to breath left.  Can you take a look at what could be contributing?
  • I can’t seem to increase my pace when I try to run intervals. Can you let me know if you see anything that could be causing an issue?

You don’t have to know the answers, and you also don’t need to Know what your blind spots are.  You only need to be aware that all of us have them.   Blind spots are even easier than weak spots to address, because the simple act of becoming aware of them opens up all sorts of avenues to create lasting improvements.


I’d love to hear from you.  What kind of blind spots have you discovered in the past? How did you address them?

Swimming Faster… What’s your hurry?

Swimming DolphinsLast weekend I had the rare opportunity to see dozens of dolphins swimming, leaping, spinning and playing in the ocean.  They were Atlantic bottlenose dolphins gathered at the mouth of the Ogeechee River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean near Savannah, GA.

What’s our hurry? Dolphins are particularly interesting to us as swimmers because like humans, dolphins are also mammals and must breath air regularly…they don’t have gills.  This means that they need to surface often.  Granted they can hold their breath for a long time, but they always need to return to air even momentarily.    Babies are assisted to air by their mother or an aunt if mom is out feeding somewhere.   Thus they often surface in pairs.

However this was different.  The dolphins surfaced in groups of three, four and five. And there were several groups of them.  They didn’t seem to care that we were nearby, and they also seemed to enjoy circling and swimming under the boat.

My entire extended family was gathered on that day to recognize the lives of my grandparents who lived in Savannah for many years.  We co-mingled their ashes as my aunts & uncles poured them into the ocean and we watched them drift away…the two of them finally together again after fourteen years apart.

The captain gave a thoughtful speech about water & ocean and how central it is to all of our lives…water being a part of us all.

I thought about what a rush we all seem to be in as athletes, swimmers, triathletes, competitors, and how impatient we always seem to be waiting for improvement to happy, rushing the process of discovery, taking shortcuts to speed…and simply wondered, what’s our hurry? 

All too soon the days and months and years will pass by.  Our children will grown, our friends will change and move on, our parents will age.  New pets will come into the family and old loved ones will be remembered.

I felt compelled to keep my athletic and coaching ambitions in perspective. I want to swim faster and I want my athletes to swim faster as well, but even more importantly I want them to experience and enjoy the life they are living now, no matter their swim ability.

Slow down…enjoy the pace…speed will find you, so enjoy the ride.

An Interview with Long Course World Champion Kirsten Sass

This interview originally appeared in a live Facebook interview with Kirsten Sass and is transcribed here.

The Fresh Freestyle coach crew and friends were excited to chat with amazing athlete Kirsten Sass yesterday,  the day after her age group AND overall female win at the ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championships this weekend in OKC USA.


We were grateful for her to spend an hour answering any questions we had. In case you are not on FB or missed the chat here are some excerpts from the conversation.

Qu: Congratulations Kirsten! What will you do today as part of your recovery?

Kirsten: Thank you! Well – it will not be the most ideal recovery day as most of it will be spent driving home! I will just try to get out of the car periodically and do some moving around. 😉 Probably a nice easy swim tomorrow will help more than anything!

Qu: Thanks for taking the time to answer questions! I have one more: what is your go-to recovery snack after a training session?

Kirsten: A lot of times it depends on how intense the training session was. If first thing in the morning I try to just eat a good breakfast within 30-45 minutes of finishing. If I just need something to tide me over, my all-time favorite snack is a banana with almond butter.

Qu: Wondering how you balance everything between the kids and training? Spending 40 hours working every week and 3-4 hours a day with the kids how do you fit it all in and have energy to make it to the weekend? What are the most important tips for getting it all in and who are the most important members of your Team?

Kirsten: Great question! None of that would be possible without the support of my amazing husband. I tend to get up early, (sometimes REALLY early) and that is when I try to do my most important training session for that day. I then am able to spend some time with the kids before school; I start work around 7, so my husband takes them to school. I generally finish work around 3 so I can get an afternoon training session in if needed, and still have the late afternoon/evenings for family time.

Qu: What does your typical week look like in training?

Kirsten: Well, it depends a lot on what I am training for. It has been rather interesting the past month getting ready for a sprint draft legal race, an olympic distance tri, and a long course that was almost an Ironman distance. Typically I try to get in a good quality tempo/interval session of each discipline, a longer distance of each, and a recovery/skills based session of each. Then, depending on how that goes and how my time is, I may add in some additional sessions. Biking is my favorite, so I typically try to do a group ride in there somewhere.

Qu: The weekend before sprint and international races in Cozumel, this weekend long course in Lake Hefner OKC, two very different swims. Was there anything you did differently in the 2 environments?

Kirsten: Great question! They were two very different swims. The swim in Cozumel was relatively calm, but with a very strong current. I was actually fortunate to find a swimmer of similar ability and stay with her (hoping that would help some with the current). The swim yesterday was pretty amazing. It was very windy, and the water was really choppy. I have done ocean swims that were more calm. White caps, rollers, almost felt like body surfing and getting caught in undertows at places. Difficult to sight due to the waves. And there were shallow areas where people were actually walking. So – a little bit of everything! I found that I just really had to relax and try to ‘become one with the water’ – not fighting it but letting the chop carry me if needed. I also resorted to a flash-back from my early days of triathlon . . . when I first started I had a race where the swim was a mass start and I got a little panicked. I noticed it was a beautiful sunrise and just tried to take it in every time I took a breath. After the race I was talking to my dad and some friends, and they teased me about looking at the sunrise. Then they realized I had the fastest swim split of the group . . . . 🙂 Well, yesterday I spent a lot of time looking up at the sky – because I was more likely to actually be able to get some air by doing that! The one thing both swims had in common though, was really not expending a lot of energy trying to ‘push through’ or ‘fight’ the water, but to trust my form and training, and swim efficiently. I felt great getting out of the water yesterday!!!!

Qu: I’m doing the half in Cozumel next week. Could you share any tips or strategies as to how you adjusted your fueling and hydration plans to deal with the heat and humidity?

Kirsten: So, living in TN I am pretty used to hot and humid. Cozumel is a different kind of hot and humid. The sun just feels ‘stronger’ somehow if that makes sense – we have decided maybe because it is closer to the equator. Definitely try to arrive a few days early to adjust, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Electrolytes will be key. Have something to drink while waiting for the start. Drink early and regularly on the bike. Take in water/electrolytes every aid station on the run. Wear a cap and fill it with ice at the aid stations on the run – or if a visor is more your speed then be sure to dump some cold water on your head every chance you get. Hydrate and stay as cool as possible!

Qu: What is your favorite thing about the sport of triathlon?

Kirsten: Hands down, my favorite thing about triathlon is the community. While an ‘individual’ sport, the support I have always received from my fellow competitors never ceases to astound me. There is something about sharing that experience of testing your limits and pushing yourself above and beyond – it creates this environment of unity that is hard to recreate. I think that is why I have especially enjoyed racing the World Championship events this year so much – being part of Team USA exemplifies that in so many ways. It is a most amazing experience – and I would highly encourage everyone to do a World Championship event if given the opportunity. Very, very inspiring.

Qu: And your second favorite thing?

Kirsten: After racing yesterday, I realized what I also love, and why I continue to race as much as I do, is the challenge. I train hard, I make choices in what I do and don’t do, because I love it. You go to a race, and the conditions are challenging. Especially with the longer races – the challenge increases. Suddenly it is about much more than just the physical. There is nutrition, hydration, and most of all, psychological. You can do the training – can you put that training to work in a race? Can you continue to push once the going gets tough? There is always something in a race that doesn’t go according to plan. Can you get through that and just keep moving forward? Can you adapt and overcome? Can you acknowledge that voice inside you that says you need to slow down and recognize whether you really do or if it’s just saying that? I was telling a friend of mine that it is like why I love doing Time Trials – the ‘race of truth’. There is no hiding, no drafting, no easy-way-outs – it is you and your ability. When you are able to do your training justice, and push through, and go beyond what you might have thought was possible – well it is just an incredible thing. It is what keeps driving me, and why I hope to continue doing these races as long as I am able. And – I would be remiss to fail to acknowledge the roll of all those spectating and cheering on and off the course. That truly makes a difference – and many a time has gotten me to continue to push when the mind said to slow down.

Qu: When did you start triathlon and what was your swimming background prior to that?

Kirsten: I started doing triathlons in 1999. Growing up my swimming background was a backyard pool and Girl Scouts (side-stroke, hahaha) at the lake. When I went to university my roommate challenged me to try swimming because ‘it was a good form of exercise’ – so we went to the university pool – and it was ALL I could do to make it 25 meters. I looked around at everyone else swimming with apparent ease, and knew that I should be able to do that – so I started swimming. I met a girl who was there frequently who turned out to be the coach for the university triathlon club, and she invited me to start swimming with them. She was a Total Immersion Swimming coach at that time, and started teaching me drills and technique based swimming. My father had also discovered Total Immersion, and when I went home for the summer, continued to help me work on my swimming. Then he signed me up for my first race. And that is how it all began… And, although swimming continues to be my biggest challenge in triathlon, I truly love it. I love the feeling of when the stroke comes together, and everything just flows smoothly. I love doing an open water swim in the early morning when the lake is like glass and the sun is just coming up. I love the challenge of trying to ‘find faster’, while balancing form and efficiency. I love the ‘more intense’ – longer, interval-type swims, and I equally love the ‘just get in the pool and enjoy swimming’ swims. There is always, always, something to learn and more to gain….

Qu: One of my favorite things to ask you about is your nutrition…can you share a typically race day’s nutrition strategy, and maybe also a typical or favorite non-race-day meal?

Kirsten: I discovered this amazing product called UCAN. It is a ‘super starch’ meaning it provides a steady energy source without spiking blood sugar (like sugary gels and such will do). It is my number one pre-race nutrition. I like the protein formula – it is a powder I just mix with water and drink about 45 minutes before I race. If it is a short race (sprint) then a lot of times that is all I need. For a longer race I will generally eat a few boiled eggs, some white rice, and a banana with almond butter early. Then still use the Generation UCAN just before the race.They also make bars which I used yesterday on the bike, and then for a half or full IM if I need something on the run my favorite is Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut almond butter. As far as a non-race-day meal . . .I am lucky again in that my husband LOVES to cook. And he does it very well! I don’t do any grains – other than plain white rice. People are always surprised, but, although lacking in nutrients, it is easily digested and I generally just eat it after a training session. Otherwise I follow something similar to the Whole 30 – lots of fresh veggies, and lean meat. My diet also changes depending on racing and season. In the winter we will do more soups, butternut/spaghetti squash, etc, while in the summer it is more of the fresh vegetables in season, salads, etc.

Qu:It seems to be working well for you. Plenty of folks struggle with nutrition…how long did it take you to sort out your current strategy?

Kirsten: It actually started back in 2014 because I somehow committed myself to several Ironman distance races within a short period of time, and I knew nutrition would be paramount. I contacted UCAN, and also worked with a nutritionist for a while, because I really wanted to dial it in and did not have time or room for errors. I worked with her for about 6 mos – through the Ironman(s) and a little into the off-season just to make sure I knew how to continue on my own. Apart from that, it is still a bit of a continuous learning process. Sometimes what always worked in the past stops working, and sometimes I just crave something new. I really try to be in tune with my body, and trust my instincts if that makes sense….

What a great opportunity to get to know Kirsten, and learn a little about the life of a truly gifted and amazing athlete!

Thank you Kirsten for spending Sunday morning with us!

2016 Age Group National Championships, Omaha, NE

Kirsten Sass crossing a finish line at national championships

ì2017 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships ñ Olympicî

Age Group Nationals Summary …

Steel City Endurance had FOUR athletes represented at the Age Group national championships just two weeks ago (the same time the Olympics were going on, making it doubly exciting!

Michelle Johnson McClenahan and Kirsten Ingeborg Sass both competed in the  Olympic & Sprint Distance races held on Saturday an Sunday, both are coached by Coach Suzanne.   Matthew Martino amd Richard Albertson lined up for their start at the Olympic distance race Saturday morning, both Matt & Rich are coached by Coach Michale Bauer.

In our Midst, a National Champion x 2 (Overall and Age Group)

The big story of the weekend is the remarkable accomplishments of Kirsten Sass, named the 2015 Triathlon of the Year and Duathlete of the year (first time ever one athlete has received both awards).  Kirsten finished 1st in her age group and 2nd overall in the Olympic Distance Race on Saturday.  The next day she finished 1st again in her age group, as well as first place OVERALL in the sprint distance race, beating the 2nd place finisher by just 3 seconds!

Want to Swim Like an Olympian? Then Avoid the “Crossover Effect”

Want to Swim Like an Olympian? Then Avoid the “Crossover Effect”

Photo removed at request of copyright holder, Associated Press.   Image used according to Fair Use Doctrine.


You can learn something from 100m sprinter Simone Manuel or distance specialist Katie Ledecky, regardless of which one of these remarkable women is your hero.

Streamlining and drag reduction in the water helps us conserve forward momentum because water is 800 times denser than air.  Anything you can do at any point in the stroke to become more streamlined, even as you’re trying to swim faster, will allow you to swim better, with less energy. Why? because slowing down is what humans do best in the water!   Staying fast means paying attention to small details…for example, the “crossover effect”.

The Crossover Effect is Human

The Crossover effect occurs because of the way our shoulder joint is oriented, and the fact that we are used to operating in our daily lives with our arms reaching, holding, and manipulating objects directly in front of us.   When we turn our upper body, we are usually still operating in the frontal plane, or the plane that divides your body into a front half and a back half.  the shoulders lift the arms forward and typically our arms stay in front of us most of the time.

Picture things like typing, driving, cooking, cycling, having a conversation with someone (arms folded or hands in front pockets) as typical things we do.  We carry this habituated position of the arms into swimming and as a result, while you don’t feel like you’re crossing your arms in front of you, the effect is that arms cross midline of your direction of travel.
This is a key point, and the reason it’s so difficult to correct…your arms are still in front of you when you crossover in swimming.  The crossover effect is that you direct your energy diagonally instead of the direction you really want to go!  How frustrating, right? Believe me, I know.   But sometimes you don’t know you’re doing it until you see a video or photo of yourself, or have someone physically make that correction for you.

Olympians Eliminating the Crossover Effect (this is the slick arm trick)

Here are two examples from the 2016 Olympics, Katie Ledecky in the first photo, and Simone Manuel in the 2nd photo.

Photo removed at request of copyright holder, Associated Press.   Image used according to Fair Use Doctrine.

Their arms are extended parallel to the lane rope, right? The arm is aligned, no crossover.  The effect of arm aligned, is that momentum continues forward.   However look at where their sternums are directed, and look at their body rotation.

Photo removed at request of copyright holder, Associated Press.   Image used according to Fair Use Doctrine.

Now imagine those activities I mentioned previously…driving, typing, shaking someone’s hand.  If Simone Manuel were autographing a gold medal photograph at this moment instead of swimming, her left arm would be pointed way over towards the right edge of the photo in a diagonal direction, right?

Her arms would be “in front” of her chest or directed to the right since her body is rotated to the right.

Weird, huh?

How does she do that?

When the body is actively rotating in freestyle (or backstroke), the lead arm aligned requires you to have the sensation that your arm is kind of off to the side a bit, even sticking out.  Visualize yourself in their rotated positions in the pool…now hold your arm above your head and visualize where the surface of the water and where the lane rope would be.  Can you get your arm lined up with the lane rope? It will feel far off to the side.

Avoiding the crossover effect is one easy trick you can practice while standing in the mirror so that you start to develop your Olympian’s freestyle stroke!

In the meantime, don’t try to sign any autographs while swimming, things will get messy and you’ll avoid the crossover effect!

Testing My Limits at the Duathlon National Championships

Duathlon National Championships – Bend, Oregon.

Tested the limits big-time. Beautiful city, challenging course, great competition, wonderful time meeting up with old friends and making new ones, and an absolutely fantastic job by USAT, Tim Yount, and the Duathlon Team putting on a top-notch event.

If you can run and ride a bike – make this your goal for 2017. Go to Bend. Test yourself. It will be worth it!

Sunday morning, waiting for my flight home, I met a girl (Kirby Heindel Adlam) whose 2nd duathlon EVER was the world championships in Spain. Now THAT is incredibly inspiring. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The opportunity is yours for the taking – why not seize it with both hands!?!?!

I am thankful beyond words for my husband, Jeffery M Sass (most of you know as Elvis), who is my constant support and cheered tirelessly all day for everyone out there competing; for my family who watched the children so we could pursue this adventure; my awesome coach (Suzanne Atkinson) of Steel City Endurance who has put up with multiple texts and questions and always has the right answer; to Raceday Transport ( who got my bike from Spain to Bend so all I had to do was show up at the event and my bike was ready to ride (I cannot even begin to say what a fantastic job they do, definitely worth checking out!);

Bobby McGee – what I learned from him in running was all that got me through that second race (whew!); UCAN nutrition also saved me for that second race, Lynn Greer for the awesome new race suit/helmet/shoes/all my biking needs; to John Lines for all the support and encouragement; and to ALL of you who cheered from near and far – you keep me going!!!! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!Du Nats Sprint Start2016 Kirsten&ElvisBend2016 Du Nats Finish-Bend OR Sass Du Nat Champ 2015
?#?USATDU? ?#?steelcityendurance? ?#?UCAN? ?#?kask? ?#?fizik? ?#?racedaytransport??#?testyourlimits? ?#?Elvis? ?#?ilovemybike? ?#?hills? ?#?lifeisgood?

What I learned about Swimming from Muhammed Ali

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Last weekend I participated as a guest coach with Dinah Mistillis of Discovery Aquatics to help teach a two – day swim clinic.   Dinah asked me to lead a 15 minute talk that was a condensed version of my  “Every Day Skills for World Champions” talk that I gave in Minneapolis as  keynote speech for the Total Immersion Coaches Summit in May.

For this open water clinic I chose three key skills to share with the dozen swimmers present on Sunday. My first key skill was “Plan a Map to Your Success.”  In order to plan your way to success in swimming or triathlon, you need to know of course where you are now, and where you want to go.

In the context of open water swimming, recognition of problem areas might included open water anxiety, difficulty swimming in a wetsuit, trouble sighting in open water,  that pesky left hand that smacks the water…this list can get really long!  It’s easy at this point for swimmers to feel overwhelmed.

The reality is that each of these skill and mindfulness issues takes time to address.  While Dinah and I were discussing this, she shared a quote with me…eerily this was the day before Muhammed Ali passed away.

It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.
Muhammed Ali

3x Heavyweight Boxing World Champion

In these swim camps and workshops, we typically have a set order of skills to present to our athletes, and we present them in a logical building order that allows each skill to build on the next.  But even if the athlete is 95% competent in a foundational skill such as head position, for example, the review allow that athlete to find any pebbles or grains of sand that may be interfering with a better execution.

There are probably bigger pebbles or grains of sand as well, and at some point, the pebbles become rocks or boulders which are simply too big to be addressed in one lesson, one trip to the pool, and at times, even one training block or season.

I used this quote in our clinic and it was well received, and then I investigated the origin of the quote.  It was used by Muhammed Ali, but it also appeared in military literature 50 years prior to his use of it.

An early appearance of this quote also included several other inspirational admonitions alongside of it:

It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it is the grain of sand in your shoe.

Back up your ideas with courage that will not back down, and there will be no way too long, no road too rough.

The reason most men and women do not accomplish more is that they do not attempt more.

My takeaway from this quote parallels what I’ve learned in my own journey of becoming a better swimmer, triathlete and coach:  be courageous and one by one you’ll remove every obstacle in your way.  It doesn’t matter how long it takes, or how difficult it seems, you and I have the skills and tools we need to improve bit by bit…one pebble out of the way a ta time.  We can accomplish far more not only as triathletes, but as individuals than we think we can because we often don’t even attempt to do something more.


Monitoring Your Injury During Recovery–Tips from Halle Frederiksen

Coach Suzanne leading a skills clinic while wearing a walking boot!

Coach Suzanne leading a skills clinic while wearing a walking boot!

It is important to monitor your progress through an injury so as to know where you stand. This is made much easier once you start monitoring yourself while healthy so that you have something to compare it to. When you are injured, monitor how you feel every day. In general, how do you feel doing different tasks, at different times of the day. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to monitor how you’re feeling and set goals for yourself.

  • Recovering from an injury requires dedication and hard work for a triathlete in order to get back on track
  • When one is injured,monitoring what aggravates the injury, how it is recovering, and what hurts or doesn’t hurt is important to track and look back on progress.
  • The best way to improve when one is healthy is by monitoring ones progress,  which may be done through software like (not an affiliate link, although I do use them).

As I write this, I am edging my closer to a start line. My body is close to full health and as my fitness builds, soon it will be race time again. Nothing excites me more than the thought of battling with the best in the world. But how did I get here? How did I, and so many others, get through such a long period of injury?

Helle Frederiksen

Professional triathlete and current holder of the fastest half-distance time by a female 3:55:50

Kirsten Sass Team USA, Duathlon World Championships 2016

Kirsten sass duathlon world championshipsGood luck to Kirsten Sass, Steel City Endurance  athelte coached by Suzanne Atkinson in this weekends Duathlon World Championships in Aviles, Spain.

Kirsten earned her spot in Team USA by winning last years sprint and standardized Duathlon National championships on the same day!

Kirsten entered 2015 wanting to improve her running form and dedicated herself to both technique as well as training. Running transformation camp with Bobby McGee early in the season set the stage for her to not only improve her form, but also quickly improve her post bike speed and resiliency in run training.

Her “secret” run training included short post bike race bricks. Not simply doing a hard bike ride followed by a trainig brick, but competing in road bike and time trial races (often winning) and then immediately doing a quick 10-15 minute run.

These sessions forced her to learn leg turnover after digging deep in a race effort not just a hard trainig effort. The difference may seem subtle but it’s significant.

Kirstens training also included progressive training blocks that built strength, leg speed, neuromuscular connections and of course overall fitness.

Her run improvements since her stress fracture in 2013 have been from a long term planning arc, and not from a need or desire to hit a specific pace at a specific time in her season.

This is is the true result of process over outcomes…competing with team USA at the World Championships.

Good luck Kirsten!!

4 Keys for Open Water Swimming this Spring

Open Water Swimming & Spring Triathlon Season is here!

DonSwimMorgantown09The first local triathlons are coming up soon and our local club membership kickoff is right around the corner. This summer two local to the Pittsburgh and Eastern Ohio area lakes will have organized open water swimming for triathletes including safety boats as well as buoy marked courses set up.  It’s my favorite time of the year!

I’ve invited Dinah Mistilis of Discovery Aquatics in Moorsville, NC, my fellow Fresh Freestyle author who also received the distinction of Master Coach during her time with Total Immersion, to share some of her insights with you and I.  Dinah has distinct advantage as a triathlon & open water swim coach of living right on a lake with an endless pool in her ground floor.

Are you getting the picture?   Take a day trip to Moorsville, spend a  Saturday doing a 90 minute endless pool session, have a snack then go straight out on the lake to put your open water skills into practice.  What an ideal setup for triathletes! Dinah your swimmers are lucky to have you there.

Here is Coach Dinah’s post…and if you read to the end you’ll also find information for our local open water swim events you can put on your training calendar.

It’s heating up!

dinahMistillisMugThis time of year is wonderful! The air is getting to be that perfect day time temperature and the lake water is not far behind. Open water racing is underway and the first local triathlons have been completed. Last week also saw Discovery Aquatics athletes swimming at the USMS National Masters competition in Greensboro NC. So much swimming to be done!

If you have taken a break from swimming that is okay too.Most of us will take a break from swimming at some point. It may be a few weeks, months or longer between swims. Making the decision to head back to the water is the first step. Now, what to do when you get there?

Take these ideas with you to make the first swim back enjoyable, purposeful and successful so that you will want to do it again. and again. and again!

1. Relax Into It – choose a warm up distance and pace that is a comfortable for you. The goal here is to find relaxed exhalation and inhalation, and to keep the body tension free. Use this time to make a connection with your environment by stimulating your senses – what do you see, hear and feel?

It may be 4×25 repeated 3 times, or 6×50, or 3-5 x 100, or a 300, or a 500. Make it your practice from the start by feeling what your body can do comfortably.

2. Find a Focus – training yourself to think about swim technique in all of your practices is important. Start in this practice by repeating your warm up distance, this time with one swim focus in mind.

You may recall the focus from previous coaching, or from watching a swim video, or self assessing your stroke, or by watching graceful swimmers at the pool. Make it your practice by feeling the focal point and holding the thought and form for this set.

3. Add Some Speed – just enough to wake up your neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems. Choose some short distance repeats, a series of 25s or 50s and pick up the pace. Keep the focus from the second set and allow yourself recovery time between each repeat.

4. Warm Down and Reflect – round out your first swim back with an easy relaxed warm down. Use this time to congratulate yourself and to reflect on the swim. What went really well today? What can you improve? and….When will you be back for the next swim?

Coach Dinah

Thanks coach Dinah! We always love your insight.


2016 Summer Open Water Swimming Opportunities in SW PA

Keystone-_Lake_1Here is information for the local open water swims in our area of southwestern PA and southeastern Ohio.   Be sure to put these on your calendar and note what the requirements & costs are.

The first opportunity is at Keystone State Park with a series of four monthly swims by No Boundaries Fitness.  Each swim day has two start times, 10AM & 11AM. Show up for the first, or the second or for both.  Safety kayaks will be present.

The second opportunity is weekly Monday night swims at Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park.  These are set up by Joella Baker of Get Fit Families.   In addition to the ‘open house’ swim setup, she has several open water races on her calendar as well.  Joella’s swims have become something I look forward to every summer.  Whether you swim 200 yards or 2 miles, it’s so gorgeous to swim in the setting sun on the lake with the safety of a marked course and plenty of kayaks.  Usually after I swim I’ll hop in a boat to do some coaching as well.

This summer I’ll be doing some mini open water clinics in conjunction with her swims as well.  If you’d like to be notified of those events, please take a moment to fill out this contact form.


Fresh Freestyle: 99 Practices for Triathletes & Swimmers

Fresh Freestyle Cover

Looking for more practice ideas?  Pre-order my book of 99 Swim Practices for Swimmers & Triathletes.  Fresh Freestyle, a refreshing way to approach your freestyle practice. Fresh Freestyle is perfect for new swimmers, fitness swimmers and triathletes. This collection of progressive technique based practices will have you swimming with focus, ease, confidence and speed.


Now taking pre-orders at a discount, with shipping expected by May 31st, 2016