Practical Triathlon

Practical tips, thoughts and information on triathlon and multisport.

Archive for January 2012

Comments on the indoor cycling trend in the sport of triathlon

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Indoor cycling is growing in popularity in the sport of triathlon.  In fact, some triathletes have moved exclusively to indoor workouts on the bike.  Here are a few comments from some trusted sources on this trend:

Matt Fitzgerald on the indoor cycling trend:

Meredith Kessler is one of the better cyclists in triathlon. Her typical Ironman bike split is in the 5:10 range. Pretty good for a full-time office worker and longtime age-grouper who waited until she was 31 to turn pro.

So what’s her secret? Simple: riding indoors.

“I ride outside once every other weekend,” she says. “That’s it.”

The rest of Kessler’s bike training is done under a roof, specifically that of Velo SF, a facility for group indoor cycling classes in downtown San Francisco. The 2010 Ironman Canada champion teaches four or five 90-minute sessions there each week. Each session incorporates high-intensity efforts that seem to do more than merely make up for any additional saddle time she might have if she always rode outdoors.

In fact, Kessler knows for a fact that her indoor-based bike training program is more effective than outdoor riding, because she used to do most of her riding outside. That’s when she used to complete her Ironman bike legs in six hours. Her bike performance breakthrough coincided precisely with her move indoors, in 2007.

Kessler is not alone in finding success with indoor-based bike training for triathlon. In the past several years, indoor riding has become a bona fide trend at the elite level of the sport, and that trend has begun to trickle down into the age group ranks. Also at the vanguard of the trend is Kessler’s fellow San Franciscan Tyler Stewart, who teaches three classes each week at Velo SF and rides outdoors once on the weekend. All of the indoor rides involve high-intensity intervals, and most of the outdoor rides are fairly short—seldom more than four hours.

Comments from Duane Franks at

The reason you’re hearing more about athletes performing indoor bike workouts is because they are time efficient, convenient and they can be a very effective way to improve fitness. Indoor cycling allows you to quickly get to the focus of the workout without having to deal with traffic, inclement weather and other distractions on the road.
Coasting downhill and soft pedaling are essentially eliminated during an indoor ride, increasing the average intensity. Riding indoors eliminates environmental factors such as terrain and wind.

Furthermore, when riding indoors it’s easier to control important performance variables such as intensity of effort, cadence, gearing selection, heart rate and power—if you have a power meter. Controlling these variables enables us to dial-in precise workloads during training and measure the effectiveness of our training program with objective feedback.

The list of disadvantages of indoor cycling is short but worth noting. First, the most obvious downside is that indoor cycling lacks the specificity and feel of the road. Riding on a bike trainer doesn’t require the same balance and stability that riding outside does. Good road cycling skills are necessary for safe and efficient descending, cornering and group riding. Some triathletes complain that indoor riding is mind-numbing, so listening to music or watching motivating videos may help to reduce boredom.

Comments from coach Kevin Mackinnon:

Since that race-day revelation, I have seen time-and-time again through my own racing and coaching experiences that indoor bicycle training can be one of the best ways to improve both cycling technique and performance. Many of the athletes that I coach live in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, which is a terrible place to ride a bike. Rather than have people take time out of their already-busy schedules to drive out of town simply to get a reasonable ride free of traffic and stop-lights, I encourage many of the people I coach to ride indoors two-or-three times a week, and then try to get outside to ride in the country on the weekends.

There are a few different ways you can maintain your cycling fitness indoors. We’ve seen a huge boom in the “spinning-class” industry over the last few years, and many people like the group atmosphere that type of training affords. As much as I love spinning classes, I do try to encourage the athletes I coach to make sure they do at least one workout a week on their own bikes – even the best spinning bikes out there (like the Ironman 112m available from Keys Fitness) don’t truly replicate the position you’re likely to be in on your own bike.

Whether it is the increased time efficiency, the consistent conditions, or the ability to gauge things like your cadence, power output and spinning efficiency, training indoors on your bicycle might just improve your cycling more than any other part of your training regimen.


Looking for your personal best performance in 2012?  Visit for your 2012 personal triathlon training plan!


Written by Matt

January 22, 2012 at 10:13 AM

2012 Triathlon Season Success = ????

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Just a quick question to ponder: Success in my 2012 triathlon season = ???

Rule number 1 –  no answers like: “I’m going to be the best I can be.”  It’s my experience, personally and observing other athletes, that those who subscribe to the mantra “to be the best I can be” rarely become the “best I can be”.  Set some goals that are competitive (even if you don’t like being competitive) and you may be surprised at what a little competitive motivation will do to lead you to your best performance.  Don’t let your perceived personal limitations dictate how great you can become.


Looking for your personal best performance in 2012?  Visit for your 2012 personal triathlon training plan!

Written by Matt

January 20, 2012 at 10:34 AM

Pro run-bike ratios for 2011 Ironman World Championship

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Run-bike ratios are an interesting metric that can be helpful in evaluating optimal pacing.  Here’s a link to a post on 2010 Ironman World Championship run-bike ratios.

Craig Alexander’s 0.621 run-bike ratio sealed the deal for the pro men’s field.  Chrissie Wellington’s 0.582 run-bike ratio held off the pro women’s field.  Mirinda Carfrae’s 0.566 run bike ratio seems to be evidence of Mirinda’s need for a faster bike pace to compete with Wellington’s championship domination.

Data Summary:
Male Champion: 0.62
Male Top 10 Average: 0.65
Male Top 10 Range: 0.60-0.70

Female Champion: 0.58
Female Top 10 Average: 0.62
Female Top 10 Range: 0.57-0.68

Here’s the data:

Looking for your personal best performance in 2012?  Visit for your 2012 personal triathlon training plan!

Written by Matt

January 10, 2012 at 4:00 PM

Personal Motivational Phrases that push you to your triathlon performance limits

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Most triathletes employ some mix of sports psychology tools – knowingly or unknowingly.  Controlling our thoughts and mental focus can empower an athlete to reach higher levels of performance than less mentally disciplined athletes.

One of the powerful tools that I encourage is the use of Personal Motivational Phrases and self talk.  These are one word or short phrases that stimulate emotion that encourage discipline, effort or focus when motivation is diminishing or low.  These words or phrases should be repeated mentally or vocally, when needed, to reinforce optimal physical performance.


  • With the help of his coach Craig has determined that he needs to train at least 10 hrs per week to reach his goal of a 10 hour Ironman.  Prior to the season he chose the phrase “10 equals 10” to remind him of his minimum volume commitment.  Craig is having a difficult time committing to his training volume goal but frequently repeats in his mind “10 equals 10” to help him keep his focus on his commitment and desired outcome.
  • Vivian is working hard this season to improve her running weakness to reach a personal best in a 70.3 event.  She has committed to some challenging interval sessions that require her to push her run pace to levels she has never achieved.  During her first run interval session she notes that she is frequently thinking “I can’t do this, I’ll never reach my goal”.  Her coach encourages her to think of phrase that can she use to push out the negative thoughts as they occur.  Vivian repeats the phrase “never say never” in her mind to push the negative thoughts out and finds that she is able to perform the workouts at a higher level.
Personal Motivational Phrases should be intensely personal.  They can also be completely random words but should invoke deep motivation meaning for you.  Whatever you choose as motivational phrases, they should help you see, feel and desire to achieve the goals that you’ve set.

Looking for your personal best performance in 2012?  Visit for your 2012 personal triathlon training plan!

Written by Matt

January 9, 2012 at 5:18 PM

Improve run speed and efficiency by focusing on stride frequency

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On average, elite marathon runners take 180 strides per minute.  That’s 30 strides every 10 seconds.  Speed doesn’t change this metric.  The magic number of 180 stays consistent whether running a 4 minute mile pace or a 10 minute mile.

It’s not uncommon for an amateur runner to take half as many strides as the elite average.  In so doing, there are efficiency and speed losses inherent in their strides.  One of the most common negative results of low stride frequency is overstride.  Overstriding results in sub optimal foot strike which diminishes speed, decreases efficiency and potentially results in common repetitive stress injuries.

The good news is that this common error is relatively easy to fix and results can be felt almost immediately as you adopt improved stride frequency.  My favorite drill is to count my strides for 10 seconds and compare my result with the goal of 30 strides per 10 second interval.  Start by attempting to reach 30 strides per 10 second interval at a slow pace.  It will feel awkward at first but you’ll quickly begin to adapt and feel the efficiency inherent in a higher stride count.  As your season progresses, make sure to periodically audit your stride count with the 10 second drill to make sure that you’re staying on target and your muscle memory is precise.

Also of particular importance for triathletes, reminding yourself to keep the stride count high after jumping off the bike can be beneficial for helping you to adapt to your race pace more quickly on the run.

Looking for your personal best performance in 2012?  Visit for your 2012 personal training plan!

Written by Matt

January 6, 2012 at 4:23 PM