Group Training & Racing = Fast and Fun

Canyonlands 1/2 Marathon Crew pre-race. Moab, UT
Training and racing with a group from time to time is is a great way to mix things up.  Last weekend, a group I coach and run with headed for Moab, UT for the Moab 1/2 Marathon.  The trip reminded me once again how much fun can be had when you get a group of people together for some exercise.

Post race hike Arches National Park Moab, UT

Incase you have never had the opportunity to workout with a group, here are a just a few benefits of group training:

  • Training partners
  • Someone to push you and go into the hurt locker with
  • Someone to just cruise when you need it
  • Socializing during workout
  • Coaching
  • Someone to draft in the pool, lake or ocean
  • Accountability knowing you are meeting a friend for a workout
  • Potential cool photo opportunities
  • Someone to draft on the bike when you're dragging ass or rotate through on a paceline
  • Post work social activities... need I say more
  • Carpooling to workout and/or race which leads too...'
  • Roadtrips!
  • Therapy... usually cheaper than retail therapy
  • Laughter, think about it, when is the last group workout you did and there was no laughing?
As you plan out your training in the coming days and weeks, think about ways that you may be able to add a group workout into your schedule.
Lace um up and have a great week,
Coach Eric

Northern Colorado Triathlon Club (NoCo Tri) has launched!!!

There are many small groups of endurance athletes working out in Northern Colorado, and even more people working out by themselves. What if these groups could be brought together for training, racing, educational and social activities?

Two local coaches, Jon Mason & Eric Neilsen had a vision of a triathlon club that would unify the endurance athletes of Northern Colorado.  They also wanted to make a difference in the community they live in.  After some further discussion it was decided to move forward and start taking the necessary steps to forming the club.   Knowing they would need the support of other like-minded individuals in the community, a meeting was held in mid-December to see who might want to be involved in the leadership as the club was being formed.  Fifteen people showed up for the first meeting and from that group they filled roughly 2/3 of the officer and committee chair positions that would lead the club in 2014.  

Next up was planning for the first meeting and filling the remaining leadership positions.  Jon and Eric along with the club officers Brent Phinney, Michelle Alexander, Jennifer Schneider and Diane Schultz worked on the agenda and logistics for the kick-off party to be held on January 15th.  They had a great turnout for the event with 85-90 people showing up.  The evening consisted of socializing, seeing old friends, and meeting new friends along with hearing about the nuts and bolts of why the club was being formed.   The turnout of people for the first meeting exceeded expectations and is a good sign that the people of Northern Colorado are interested in making this happen.

People join clubs for many reasons: social, training groups, education, racing.  We envision the NoCo Tri Club serving all these needs and more as interest continues to build in 2014.   

For more info on the Northern Colorado Triathlon Club please visit www.nocotri.comor check out the Facebook page

Make it a great week of training where ever you're at and take a few minutes to check out your local triathlon club.

Swimming reference set for Ironman Training

Swim Start Ironman World Championship view from Kona Inn on Ali'i Drive

March is here and if you are preparing for an early season Ironman, this is a great 3500yard/meter

workout you can insert into your training plan.  Also, good for swimmers preparing for open water swims and/or the time crunched athlete.  Continues reinforcing the need to build into swims making early pacing critical to maximizing your performance.  

The workout
1 x 500 Free Warm
2 x 400 Faster pace per 100 than 500 this should be easy since 500 was warm up
3 x 300 Faster pace per 100 than 400's
4 x 200 Faster pace per 100 than 300's
5 x 100 Cool down
Total 3500

500 on :30 sec rest
400's 300's and 200's on your normal base example 1:30/100M
so 400's on 6:00, 300's on 4:30, 200's on 3:00
100's on :10 sec rest mix strokes as you like

You could repeat this set every 3-4 weeks to measure your improvement as the season progresses and it works well before a bike session as the first part of a swim/bike brick.

Make it a great week of training and please email me at eric@coachericneilsen with topics you are interested in learning more about.

Coach Eric

Powerful Glutes… Powerful Athlete!

Recently I was corresponding with a client that will be preparing for some triathlons later this year and we got to talking about strength training, in particular strength exercises for the glutes aka "the butt" and how important it was to have functional strength in this area for multisport athletes.  There are three muscles comprising the glueteal region Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius & Gluteius Minimus and a 4th smaller muscle the Tensor Fasciae Latae.  Click on the links below to read more about each specific muscle. 

Gluteus Maximus
Gluteus Medius 
Gluteus Minimus 
Tensor Fasciae Latae

There are many exercises for the glutes but here are three that she found to be very helpful in her strength program.  All these exercises do not require that much balance, can be done with body weight, then progressed to an unweighted Smith bar.  When doing an exercise for the first time, work on technique and check body position to create body memory before adding weight.

1.  Split lunges with back foot on a bench or ball with bodyweight or weighted on Smith machine.  Narrow stance works quads more, wider stance works glutes/hamstrings, push up through heel.  Knee do not pass toes.

2.  Sumo squats either with bar or on bosu ball.  Key is for thighs to drop below parallel to engage glutes/hamstrings, keep butt out (do not curve lower back or tail bone in).  This can be difficult for people with tight Achilles.  You can use plie squats with a landmine just to vary it up (this is a wider stance with toes pointed out like in plie).
3.  Wide stance leg press brings in more glutes/hamstring, narrow stance quads/vastus lateralis.  Try to bend knees past 90 and push through heels. 

Do the time in the gym NOW, so you can cut loose when its time to go fast later this season.

Make it a great week of training.

Coach Eric

Athlete Education…Never Ending!

Visited in Fall 2011 on my quest for more knowledge!

I have been coaching since 1991 and one thing I have always tried to do is keep and open mind to new ideas in ways to train and continue to educate myself on how the body really works as one unit.

Below are a couple of articles from the folks at Rebound Sports I think you will find helpful as you continue to amass your own knowledge.  They have been helpful reminders as well as some new information to add to my library. One talks about the the imbalances our bodies have and the other is about the feet in terms that you can understand.

Happy reading, make it a great week of training and never stop learning!

Coach Eric

Re-Post, Just Try… One year later

A little over a year ago, I decided to try and create content for a weekly blog.  This was a bit scary on multiple levels, but the pro's out weighed the con's and I gave it a go.  It is now early February and I am still at it. One week at a time in 2013, I chugged along like the little train that could with posts on different topics in the multisport world, general health and wellness and reader suggestions on new topics to explore.  At times it was a challenge to write, but I am glad I stuck with it and look forward to where this writing journey will take me this year.

Now, I would imagine that some of you have set new year's resolutions and may be struggling to maintain your focus and commitment after the first 40 days of 2014.  Maybe some of you were inspired to just start exercising, shed 10 pounds, or just eat a bit healthier.  Regardless of the resolution, you took the most important step, you decided to try.   Come to think of it, life is like a triathlon.  Below is slight revision of my first blog post back on January 21st, 2013 and a good reminder how far I have come in the past year.

By definition triathlon is “an athletic contest comprising three consecutive events, usually swimming, bicycling, and distance running”. What if we looked at it from a slightly different perspective and called it a try-athlon.  Would that help take some of the fear out of it?  What is it that prevents people from getting out of their comfort zone and trying something new?  I believe the answer is very simple.  The fear of failure is what stops most people from not only trying something new, but from leading the life they were meant to live.

This fear of failure paralyzes us from reaching our full potential as athletes, and experiencing some of life’s greatest moments.  We see this in sports all the time, but also in many aspects of daily life: work, school, and relationships to name a few, where fear prevents us from trying. What are we afraid of?   Are we too worried about what others may think or say?  Too vain as to how we might look in spandex? Being the slowest in a training group or last in race?  Look clumsy or awkward when first learning a new skill? I guarantee you, the Olympians we watch during the winter Olympics had plenty of awkward moments when they first started off.

What’s that old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again”.  The Front Range here in Colorado is an athlete’s playground with so many things to choose from. So, find a sport you like and just get out there and do it.  Life is far to short to be spending your free time doing a sport you don’t like. Give it your best shot and jump in with both feet and embrace the new challenge.  The only person you have to answer to at the end of the day is you so, do what makes you thrive.

In closing, the athletes we will have the opportunity to watch during the two weeks have failed on more than one occasion to reach the level excellence they are now at. One of the reasons they are champions, regardless of their final outcome is that they have learned from these failures along this long journey to Sochi.  It’s better to fail trying, than to not try at all.  Failing can be artistically beneficial and when we allow ourselves to become vulnerable by putting fear aside, we often times achieve the greatest growth.

Aquathon… Triathlon without the bike

Aquathon, no bike needed so why not decorate!
 Lago di Garda, Italy

One of the wonderful things about being a multisport athlete is there are endless ways to create workouts and have fun doing so.  One order to combine events is by doing a swim/run or the more common term, aquathon.  Competing in aquathon events is gaining popularity among athletes that are looking for new challenges in the multisport world.  Some people love to swim and run as part of the fitness regime but when it comes to the bike have no desire, do not have a bike or can't afford one.  Let's take a little closer look at some of the basics of aquathon.

Race Format - Typically is either run/swim/run or swim/run.  Of course swimmers would love to see a swim/run/swim event to even things out.  Hmmm.... idea for a future blog.  Some triathlons are now starting to offer an Aquathon as one of the formats to choose from on race day along with biathlons which are run/bike/run events.  For more listings of aquathons that may be in your area, check out
Race Distances - For the run/swim/run format will typically range from
Sprint 1.6 mile run, 1/4 mile swim, 1.6 mile run 
Intermediate 4 mile run .63 mile swim, 4 mile run
Long 8 mile run, 1.25 mile swim, 8 mile run
Ultra where they may run 18.6 miles, swim 2.0 miles, run 18.6 miles
For the swim/format, either a 1/3 - 1/2 mile swim, 3.1 mile run or 2/3 - 1 mile swim, 10K bike seem to be popular.  Really any combination of distances could work predicated on the venue you are using.  The swim part can be challenging because of limited access to water sometimes.

Time - It takes less time to train for an aquathon than a triathlon as the athlete is saving hours by not having to train for the bike portion of a triathlon which is close to 50% of most races.

Training - You can pretty much run anywhere it is just a matter of finding a lake, ocean or pool to swim in.  If you're lucky to live near a fitness center with a Vasa Ergometer or have your own, you can complete your swimming and even stay dry.  No cap, goggles, or bathing suit so you can already be dressed in your running stuff ready to go!

Variety - Along the lines of training, there are endless ways to combine events, based on distance, time or both to get a great workout and work on transitioning from one sport to another.  One thing I used to enjoy doing when I lived in Kona, Hawaii was run to the ocean or pool as warm up, then do my swim workout, then run home either as an easy cool down, or a hard run if I was feeling spry.  Just the opposite of that, some days a swim warm up, followed by a run, followed by a swim cool down was a great training session and swimming I have found over the decades is great way to finish off any run session.

If you ever have the chance to travel to Kona, head down to the pier for a swim, then a run along Ali'i drive.  Great way to start the day.  They have swim/run events from time to time their as well and they are free.  More info, check out

For more questions about Aquathon, how to set up a training plan for it or questions in general about training, please contact me at

Make it a great week,
Coach Eric

Triathletes and training the other strokes

Recently I was asked if triathletes should train the other strokes from time to time and my answer was YES!  Swimming is the most technical of the three sports in triathlon and requires the athlete to learn to be one with the water.  Often times you will hear coaches talking about "the feel" of the water and one way you can enhance this feel is by training the other strokes from time to time.  In case you don't know what those other strokes are they would be butterfly, backstroke and breastroke.  If you do those three strokes in order and then add the freestyle, you would then being doing an Individual Medley or IM for short.

Typically the best all round swimmer is usually the 400 IM champion at Nationals (yearly) World championships (every 2 years) and Olympics (every 4 years). Interesting note 400 IM in swimming is a combination of doing 4 different strokes the fasted and a IM distance triathlon is a combination of doing 3 different sports the fastest.  
Where to start? If you only know freestyle, then I suggest the next stroke you learn would be backstroke.

  • Great for recovery swimming between sets stretching out the chest and shoulder muscles.
  • Helps connect the core to the pull as your body rotates and shoulder shifts similar to freestyle
  • Teaches the swimmer to kick with long legs and loose ankles
  • In the open water sometimes 4-6 strokes on your back in a long swim will give your freestyle muscles just enough of a break to maintain a good solid pace when you roll back on your stomach.  Lastly, if you are swimming an ocean race and have to come thru surf to finish, you can roll on your back for a couple quick strokes to check the waves behind you and possibly catch a free ride into the beach.
If you are feeling good about your backstroke, then next up would be butterfly. 

  • The pull pattern is similar to freestyle except now you are pulling with both arms at the same time and your body is moving through the water in an undulating motion like a dolphin instead of rotating from side to side.
  • Great stroke for helping swimmers develop power when repeats are done in short increments like 4 strokes,  12 1/2 or 25 for advanced athletes that can hold form.
  • Using the undulating motion of butterfly is great for dolphin dives at the beginning of a swim (beach start or shallow water) and exiting the water. 
Breastroke rounds out the other strokes.  A challenging stroke to teach as there are different ways to swim this stroke and swimmers knee, hip and ankle range of motion will determine the best kick.

  • Great for loosening up the hips, knees and ankles.
  • Because of the difference in the kicking motion, be careful when swimming breastroke and make sure you are warmed up before trying any harder kicking. 
  • The arm pull on breastroke outsweep and insweep, is a great way to enhance feel for the water and really give the forearms a good workout.

A simple set you can do to incorporate the other strokes would be 3 rounds of

4 x 25 Stroke
1 x 200 Free
The first round the stroke is butterfly, round two backstroke and round 3 breastroke.  As you progress you can bump up to 6 or 8 x 25's before the 200.
Not only does training the other strokes help feel for the water, it gives the freestyle muscles a break which may help decrease potential injuries from overuse.  Plus, it is a great way to add variety to a work out and keep the heart rate elevated as changing strokes and muscles groups frequently will challenge any athlete.
Have fun with it and don't be afraid to try something new in the pool the next time you go for a swim.
Make it a great week,
Coach Eric

Bike Workout + Time Crunched = Tempo Time

Cruiser bike works good in snow with tires at about 10psi

I decided to stay with the cycling theme after last week as many people are having to ride indoors this time of year.  Multisport athletes are usually time crunched between the training and everything else that occupies there waking day.  So, when time is short, get some bang for your buck with some tempo work.  Tempo pace is what I like to call "comfortably hard".  You are working but it is something you could sustain if needed for close to 60 minutes.

Here is a great workout I like that takes about 60-65 minutes depending on how long you cool down.

Warm up 5 minutes easy spinning focussing on smooth pedal strokes
3 minutes alternating 
20 seconds single leg right
20 seconds single leg left
20 seconds spin up to 100+ Cadence
repeat 2 more times.
Main set
1 x 10 min Tempo (use first 3-4 minutes to build up to that then hold)
2 1/2 minute easy spin
2 x 8 minutes Tempo
2 minute easy spin between each
3 x 4 minutes Tempo
1 minute easy spin between
5-10 min cool
That works out to 38 minutes of tempo pace work during the session.  The goal is not to go harder on the shorter repeats, but just hold a good steady pace.  A progression from this after 3-4 weeks may have you going
Main set
1 x 15 min Tempo (use first 3-4 minutes to build up to that then hold)
3 minute easy spin
2 x 10 minutes Tempo
2 minute easy spin between each
3 x 5 minutes Tempo
1 minute easy spin between
The training benefits from tempo work on the bike as well as running and swimming will continue to teach the athlete how to properly pace themselves.  Learning to measure ones effort for a workout is critical to getting the most out of each session.  For example, some days 6:30 pace running may come at  an easy effort other days, it is a monumental effort.  Or cycling if using power you know some days cycling at or near FTP comes easier than other days.  So, learning to measure your perceived effort for that particular day is critical because that is all your body/mind may have for that particular training session and you have to accept that.  
Make it a great week of training,
Coach Eric

Triathletes and Group rides

As a triathlete, joining a group ride from time to time can have some great training benefits.  But, joining a larger group for the first time or a group you don't know can be a bit scary.  I came across an informative article today by Katya Meyers, professional triathlete and coach.  She points out 5 things that are just good common sense not only for triathletes joining a group, but anyone riding in the group to help keep things safe while getting a good workout.

Check out this link when you have a minute


In the meantime, keep having fun with your training, sticking to any resolutions for 2014 and as always, make it a great week.

Coach Eric