TriDot Podcast .189
Yoga Your Way to Improved Triathlon Performance
Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together.
Andrew Harley: Throw on some tights and unroll your yoga mats, it is the yoga episode of the TriDot Podcast. I have three TriDot coaches joining the fun, to talk to us about how triathletes can incorporate yoga into their multisport lifestyle. Our first coach joining us Coach Joanna Nami. Joanna is better known as Coach JoJo, and has been coaching athletes with TriDot since 2012. She is a cofounder of Hissy Fit Racing, a member of the Betty Design Elite Squad, and has 19 Ironman finishes on her accomplished triathlon résumé. She is a Kona qualifier, racing on the Big Island for the second time this year. As our Director of TriDot Pool School, her passion is getting athletes faster and more comfortable in the water. Coach Jo, welcome back to the show!
Joanna Nami: Thank you Andrew! I’m super excited to be here with my best buddies, Kurt, Andrew, and Brandy, super excited to talk about yoga practice today.
Andrew: As Joanna said, next up is TriDot Coach Kurt Madden. Kurt is a pioneer of the sport, and a ten‑time Kona finisher. He has three top‑ten finishes at the Ironman World Championships, is a four-time North American Age Group Champion, and is a four-time number one ranked Age Group American All World Athlete. And as if 140.6 miles is not enough for you, Kurt is also a two-time Ultraman World Champion, and in 2019 he was inducted into the Ultraman World Championships Hall of Fame. In addition, he has a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology. Coach Kurt, how’s it going today?
Kurt Madden: Andrew, it is so great to be back on the podcast! I am really looking forward to sharing some insights about yoga, and how people can be successful.
Andrew: Rounding out our coach panel today is TriDot Coach Brandy Ramirez. Her passion is to empower women and young girls, and as such she is the President and CEO of SheStrong, Inc. Brandy is also a cancer survivor, and founded the Monarch Triathlon SuperHalf, which funds scholarships for girls who lose their mothers to cancer. Brandy has been coaching with TriDot since 2020. Welcome to the show, Brandy!
Brandy Ramirez: Thank you for having me, Andrew. I’m so excited to be here with my friends JoJo and Kurt and yourself. I’m excited for this episode, too!
Andrew: I am Andrew the Average Triathlete, Voice of the People and Captain of the Middle of the Pack. As always, we’ll roll through our warmup question, settle in for our main set conversation, and then wind things down with Vanessa taking things over on the cooldown. Lots of good stuff, let’s get to it!
Warm up theme: Time to warm up! Let’s get moving.
Andrew: There are lots of gizmos and gadgets triathletes can buy. Some are big, some are small, some are more expensive, and some are less expensive. What I want to hear on today’s warmup question, is what is one small purchase that made a big impact on your triathloning? Coach Brandy, this is your first time on the show, I will kick this your way first.
Brandy: Well thank you! One small purchase that I got back when I started in 2008 – I had a really long hair, so I wore it in a ponytail all the time. Living in Arizona, it does get cold in the winter, so my small must-have purchase was a beanie from Athleta that has the little hole in the back so you can just pull your ponytail right through. It was a game-changer.
Andrew: Yeah, that is a small purchase, but it could make a big difference if you are a ponytail athlete, male or female. You can absolutely look into the Athleta beanie. That’s great. Not a problem for me or Kurt, I imagine. Coach Jo, what is one small purchase that’s made a big difference in your triathlon training?
Joanna: I had a really hard time with this, Andrew, because there are no small purchases in triathlon. I do love my LEVER system that I use on the treadmill. As I say, I hate running, so I tend to get injured a lot, so I do love the LEVER system that attaches to the treadmill. It’s not a very small purchase, but you can put it in its case and travel with it, it is portable. It does take weight off of you and allows you to run easier, easier on the joints. But if we want to go really small, I advocate that all my athletes buy these Mentos gum containers, and use them. They have an attached lid, and all of my athletes I’ve ever coached use them in endurance racing. They fit nicely in a woman’s sports bra, and they are awesome for salt and many meds you’re carrying during your half or full Ironman. That would be a super small purchase that is very handy.
Andrew: Your initial answer is not, to me, a small purchase, but your second answer definitely is a tiny, tiny purchase. Coach Kurt Madden, what is a small purchase for you that makes a big difference in your swim, bike, and run?
Kurt: You know, I really had to do some soul searching. I had to really think back through my artifacts to see what’s the one small purchase that’s made a huge difference. But it actually came fairly easy, which Andrew I think you can appreciate right now, it’s something called Desitin. It can be your best friend during a triathlon, especially during the bike and run. I’ll give you a couple quick stories, I was in Coeur D’Alene and I didn’t quite use enough Desitin, and I was rolling through an aid station yelling, “Who has Vaseline?!” They’re like, “Whoa!” I knew they didn’t have Desitin, so I thought I’d go with Vaseline, and I unfortunately I came up short there.
Andrew: It wasn’t the same.
Kurt: No, it wasn’t the same. But if they’d had it, it would have been better than what I was experiencing at the time. Just one of those rare days on the bike where it’s like, “Wait a minute, that’s not in the game plan.” Conversely, fast forward to Ironman Texas – in fact JoJo may remember this because this was someone that was seated almost next to JoJo – I came up to her very innocently and said, “How was your race?” And she said to me, “Don’t you get it?” I said, “No, tell me about your race.” She goes, “There’s three things going on right now.” I said, “What’s that?” She goes, “I’m tired, I’m sunburned, and I’m chafed.” I said, “Whoa, got it!” Then I told her about the Desitin and she goes, “Oh my goodness, that is a game-changer.” So I think today, Andrew, it is actually still about $5.00 for a nice four-ounce tube, which will last you for at least a couple races. That’s my go‑to small purchase.
Andrew: Kurt, I almost pulled the same answer, but for me it’s not Desitin. For me I genuinely love our 2Toms, our partners here at TriDot. They have the roll-on and the wipe version of the chamois cream, and anywhere I put my 2Toms wipes, I have not gotten any form of skin irritation or rash or chafing. My 2Toms is kind of like your Desitin, a very small product that goes a long way for the triathlete, makes a big difference. But the answer I’m going to give here is not that, although I had to plug my friends at 2Toms. Kind of like you, I looked around and was like, “Man, what is something that really made a huge difference?” I am going to plug my front, between-the-aerobars hydration system. I’m a simple guy, I like just having a normal bottle there. But if it’s just a normal bottle, I am way less likely to take the time to break out of my aerobars and grab the bottle, pull it out, take a sip, and put it back in. I’m just not going to do it nearly as often as I should. I need a straw there, and nobody sells a normal bottle that’s there that has a straw. So I found the Vision DS-1 Hydration System. It has this front attachment that can screw onto any water bottle, and that front attachment, a little plastic piece, has a straw and a really good hole that you can refill the bottle anytime you hit an aid station with another bottle. You can put any bottle in there and just screw on this front attachment, and you’ve got a straw there. If there’s a straw in front of my face, I’m going to sip water as often as I can, it makes it so much easier to do so. I’m not going to miss any of my feedings having that in front of me. That’s what this answer is for me is for me, anything that gets you drinking more water while you’re racing and training is a great thing. I’m going to post that name in the comments, and I’ll probably show this on the YouTube show just so people can see what I’m talking about, because I’m not describing it very well. We’re going to kick this over to you, our audience. Make sure you’re a part of the I AM TriDot Facebook group where I’m going to ask this question: what is a small thing that’s made a big difference in your triathlon training and racing? I cannot wait to see what you have to say.
Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1…
Andrew: Extremely excited to have 2Toms as the anti-chafing partner of TriDot. 2Toms is always working on revolutionary new products designed to prevent chafing, blisters, odors, and sweat. Their passion is to keep you moving and training. As triathletes, we can certainly have our training and racing thrown off by not taking care of our skin. So when the folks at 2Toms told us that they had the best chafing and blister protection products, we had to give them a try. In fact, we took a huge goody bag of 2Toms anti-chafing towelettes with us to our last TriDot Ambassador Camp, and we asked for our athletes’ honest and candid feedback. The review from those 70‑plus TriDot athletes was immensely positive. Many folks placed orders that day, and made the switch to using 2Toms. Ever since I’ve been using SportShield in my own training and racing and having great results, with happy skin in all the right places. 2Toms has SportShield, BlisterShield, ButtShield, FootShield, and their StinkFree odor-removing spray and detergent. So whoever you are, and whatever skin protection you need, 2Toms has you covered. 2Toms is in the Medi-Dyne family of brands, so go to medi‑dyne.com to pick up some 2Toms today. When you do, use promo code TRIDOT for 20% off your order.
The list of physical activities we can do to help our swimming, biking, and running feels endless. It really does. We can strength train a number of ways, we can recover in a number of ways, and we can work on our stability and mobility in a number of ways. One of those ways is through yoga. The three yoga-loving coaches on our panel today will catch us up to speed on the benefits of yoga for the triathlete, and how to work yoga into your training routine. Brandy, Kurt, Jo, to kick things off today, take me back to your very first experience with yoga. Where was it, how did you get into it, and what was your first impression? Let’s go with Coach Brandy here.
Brandy: When I was younger, my mother was a prima ballerina, so she put me into ballet. By the time I was ten I hated it, so I switched all the way to hip hop, as far away from ballet as I could get.
Brandy: When I was 18, which was a few years ago, I lived in Vegas. I went to a gym that was offering yoga before it was really super popular. Honestly I went in by accident, because I thought it was the kickboxing class, and I was an hour or two early. But I was already in the room, so I was stuck. So we started doing yoga, and I realized that although I didn’t know the Sanskrit words to the movements, a lot of the movements are from ballet. So I did the hour, and I was instantly hooked after that.
Andrew: All right, very great! Coach Jo?
Joanna: Mine probably started way back when I started training for my first half-Ironman and Ironman races. I always say that I hate running, and I hurt when I run. So I would often plan to do half my long run at the YMCA, then in the middle do a yoga class, and then finish with the second half of the run. It broke it up and made the run bearable for me. It was the only way that I could keep going in training, the only way that I could handle the endurance training, because I’m tall, and it’s just hard on the joints. I had a long, long career that ended in college cheerleading, a lot of pounding on the joints, and it was the only way that I felt like I could stay in the game and be healthy and continue training for Ironman.
Andrew: I’ll go next and then kick it over to you, Kurt, to round us out here. Mine’s kind of like Brandy, I kind of just stumbled into a yoga class. Back in college, I was working out at a gym near my university, and a good friend of mine, Jonathan Mejia, who actually is now a TriDot athlete and a TriDot Ambassador, was a personal trainer at the gym that I worked out at. One time I was in the gym, and he was coming off a training session with a client, and he was like, “Hey, I’m about to jump into this yoga class, why don’t you join me?” I’m like, “Are you serious?” He’s like, “Yeah. I’ve done it a couple times, it’s actually really great.” I said, “Okay, great, let’s try it!” So we walk in, and neither of us had a lot of experience in it. We both started the class, and we were the only males in the class. So we’re in the back, clearly a little bit out of place, these two college guys in a room full of soccer moms doing yoga. They were awesome at it, and they were very gracious to us, . We were probably ten minutes in, and one of the ladies near us was like, “Hey, you guys will probably really enjoy this a lot better if you take your shoes off.” So we took our shoes off, and all of a sudden, a lot of the poses we were doing, like a lot of stuff at the ankle, became a lot easier. That was my first impression, and it was a great first impression. Admittedly, I haven’t really done yoga a ton since, so I am excited to learn more about it today. Coach Kurt, first yoga experience?
Kurt: For me, it was actually in January 2022. There’s a lot of great swimmers where I swim, one in particular reached out to me multiple times like, “I think yoga’s going to make a big difference.” I said, “Well, maybe after Ironman Arizona.” I pushed it off, pushed it off, and finally I got up enough nerve to go to this yoga studio in La Jolla. I let him know, “I’m a novice, I’m a beginner. I’m not going to be on the podium. Really, be nice to me,” and they said “Not a problem at all.” As soon as I walked in the studio, the first thing that caught my attention was it was only a 105°. There were mirrors everywhere. So immediately I went to the back of the class, just like any new student, and she let me know before we started, “Hey, you can hold onto the wall for the poses, and you can definitely use the brick, because this might be a little tough for you.” You know, it was really a surreal experience. I didn’t know if I was like Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator, I didn’t know if I was going to be like Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, or I was going to be John Travolta in Staying Alive. Then as I started, I actually made it through the warmup and the first 20 minutes, and I’ll tell you, I almost did a back handspring. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m 20 minutes into it and I made it through the warmup, I haven’t died yet.” Then my Garmin starts going off saying, “Your body is experiencing stress, you should probably relax.” I’m talking to my watch, “I know, I’m in hot yoga.” And I can tell you, in that first class, I think I failed every single pose. It was humbling.
Andrew: But you made it through the warmup.
Kurt: Yeah, I made it through the warmup. I swore to myself, “I’m not going to DNF”. Because I know science well enough, I thought, “if I get down toward the floor, it should be cooler.” But I’ll tell you, it didn’t matter if I was standing, sideways, or on the floor, the heat was the same. I could not wait for the last ten minutes, because it was humbling, it challenged me, and it really put me in check to say, “You know what, if you stay with this, you’re going to get better.”
Andrew: Even in my very entry-level knowledge of yoga, I’m aware of several different types of yoga. Kurt, you just referenced your initial class was hot yoga. I know there is goat yoga, I know you can stream yoga classes on YouTube or you can stream different fitness platforms that have yoga components, and of course there are your local gyms with yoga classes. I’m sure there are more variations of yoga than that. For the athlete interested in yoga, what are the options out there, and which should we consider? Coach Jo?
Joanna: I have to add, I had an experience at hot yoga, and I only went one time in my life.
Andrew: Do tell.
Joanna: There was not enough beach towels in a Walmart to deal with my situation. I had people staring at me like they were about to call 911, because I had a serious medical condition. It was a swimming pool around me. It was traumatizing for me. I am far more about my local YMCA, my local natatorium, I am always training on a budget. But that’s the wonderful thing about yoga, if you are near a YMCA or if you have your local training facility, there are classes almost everywhere. Secondly, you can find it on YouTube. It’s free, it is accessible for every triathlete, every athlete, every person. That’s what’s so wonderful about it, you can better your training without spending any money. I tell my athletes, “We are go‑go-go type of people, and when it comes to work, family, training, we never stop in society.” And it was the first time that it caused me to slow down and to really focus on my breath. So Vikram, any relaxing type of yoga was good for me. That was a good choice for me. It strengthened my mental focus, it taught me to slow down a little bit when training was so hectic. Yeah, there are tons of different types. A lot of them have different benefits, and Brandy is a great expert on this, as well as Kurt, so I’ll let them explain some of the types that they enjoy.
Andrew: Brandy, do tell!
Brandy: I became so fascinated with yoga and Pilates, that in 2007 I became a certified yoga instructor and a certified Pilates instructor. You could do Vinyasa, which is like a build, so you’ll start at one pose and you’ll work through other poses. But you always go back to the initial pose, and you start there and build from there. There’s Easy Flow, which is just an easy stretch yoga that you can do. But for me personally, I love Kundalini, which is an energy yoga, so you tap into your energy and the energy around you. And I love Vikram. So for me, when I teach, I teach what is called Power Yoga. I like to push myself, go figure. But when I teach yoga, it is a mix between Kundalini and Vikram, so I’m going to use all of my muscle groups, I’m going to create power and speed, but I’m also going to stretch everything in my body.
Andrew: That sounds great to me. Sign me up for that! Coach Kurt, anything to add here?
Kurt: I would add that I think we have to start with the why of the athlete, why they’re doing yoga. For example, I know that I race in hot places. I race in Texas and Hawaii, so it’s a double win for me, because I can get the heat and the stretching simultaneously. I’m not telling you that it’s all enjoyable, but I know at the end of the day when I’m done, I can check that box. So I like the Vikram just like Brandy said. The Hatha, that’s another version of yoga that you can tap into, I think that’s a good one to choose from. If you’re kind of more advanced – I’ve done the Vinyasa, but I’m not quite ready. I was a year and a half into yoga, I don’t have a lot of success there yet. But the bottom line is, what drives that training is the instructor. I’m going to mention it a couple times, the instructor will make it or break it. You can do it online, you can do it on a mat, but I think for me – it’s like Pool School, you need to have those fundamentals so you’ve got good habits – someone has to give me that corrective feedback. Otherwise you think you’re doing it, but you might be really off your mark.
Andrew: Yeah, great point. The class I did way back in college, the first portion of the class we were just holding a lot of poses. I have no idea what type of yoga it was, but we were holding these poses for a long time, to the point that the muscle groups that were in charge of holding your body in that position, were just absolutely shaking. It felt productive, it felt like it was really building up certain muscle groups and building the stability portion of my joints. Then as it got deeper and deeper into the class, it kind of transitioned into that more peaceful, relaxing, deep breathing poses, to the point that when the class was over, I’d worked my body, but I was so relaxed I told my friend, “I don’t know the last time I felt this stress-free.” This is also a question that comes out of naivety for me. I think I know that yoga helps us with stability and mobility, having us hold poses that increase strength and flexibility. But take us deeper than that. What is happening in our bodies from yoga session to yoga session? I’ll go to our certified yoga teaching coach first on this one, Coach Brandy?
Brandy: In yoga, what you’re really working on in your stretches is your connective tissues, and that’s something that a lot of triathletes can overlook. Even football players, you have football players now that are forced to go to yoga – they used to be forced to go do ballet – and it was because those poses create strength in your connective tissues. That’s in your ankles, your knees, your hip flexors, your shoulders, all those things that are going to hold those major muscle groups together. They get neglected when people are doing weights. They’re not focusing on their knees and those little connective tissues that you need in there. You need to strengthen that if you expect to push your body. If you want to get faster, you have to pay attention to those connective tissues.
Andrew: Great. Coach Kurt, anything to add there?
Kurt: The first thing, and JoJo does a great job at this, is just the breathing. I just like to start with that breathing. You start with the breathing at the beginning, and you end with the breathing at the end of the class. I think that is really key for all of our athletes, it’s that mental focus. I think it also forces you to focus on one muscle group at a time. Like you said, Andrew, when you literally have to hold a pose for 60 seconds on one leg, that seems like 60 hours. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, it can’t be 60 seconds. Do they have a pace clock in there so I can watch it?” That’s incredible. So you’re trying to build the muscle memory. Like Brandy said, it’s connective tissue, it’s ligaments, tendons, and the muscle group, and really putting some stress on your long bones. I think when we look at that, we’ve got the balance. That is key for all of our athletes. Body awareness is another key. The other thing that people don’t’ realize about strength training and yoga is that it really improves your nervous system. There’s something called a motor endplate at the very end, and through research they’ve pointed out that people that are doing strength training all the time and yoga, their reaction time is a lot quicker. I like a fast reaction time, especially in a triathlon, if I’m going to encounter a bike crash, or if JoJo’s going to cut me off on the swim, or Brandy races by me on the bike.
Joanna: Sorry Kurt, sorry.
Brandy: Don’t apologize, Jo!
Kurt: The other thing too though is that you’re getting a good workout, but there’s no trauma like JoJo said when you’re running. There’s no micro‑trauma, so I think in a way, it really takes stock on what’s working and what’s not. It’s the continuous refinement of Kaizen, that is continuous improvement. You’re never going to get to a finish line with yoga, but it’s something if you do on a regular basis, it’s really going to pay huge dividends down the line.
Joanna: The only thing I would add is that we’re a part of a culture and society, especially in triathlon, that we have to schedule downtime. We have to schedule self-care and relaxation. I’m guilty of it myself. I’ll spend an hour on social media a day, but I can’t spend 20 minutes doing a yoga flow and focusing on my breath. I think we should be more diligent in having that self-care time, focusing on breathing and calming the nervous system. That is so amazing for mental health, and I don’t think we focus on it enough. There’s so many beautiful things about yoga. It does advance our training, as Kurt has said. It makes us better athletes, but it also makes us better humans. I would just encourage people, even if you have to schedule it, challenge yourself to say, “I’m just going to do ten minutes three times this week, and I’m going to learn more about it. I’m going to become a student of yoga, and just start to learn more.” I think you’ll see the benefits in all aspects of your life.
Brandy: I want to jump in real quick, Andrew. When you were sharing your story about how your body was shaking – at that moment, what is happening is your muscle memory is resetting itself. You’ve pushed your muscle memory to a point where it hasn’t been yet, so the body is shaking to try to reprogram itself. What you’re doing as an athlete is you're focusing on not falling over, but you’re also focusing on breathing and holding yourself in that position, and that’s lowering your heart rate. We’re all zone trained athletes. You can learn to control your heart rate, control your breathing, it puts you into a different zone. It’s going to make you a better athlete when you’re out on the race course.
Andrew: Brandy, with all that in mind, with all those physical adaptations your body is doing, the resetting of the central nervous system that Kurt was talking about, the relaxing and the focus on breathing that Jo was talking about, why is yoga so good for triathletes? Why do the three of you practice it, and is this something you’d like to see your athletes do as well?
Brandy: Yeah, absolutely. The main thing about yoga is it’s going to protect you from getting injured. That’s huge, none of us want downtime. I’ll share a story: I supinate when I run, and I’ve been trying to correct this for a super long time. It’s because I was a ballerina, I stepped to the inside of my center, it’s where you’re taught to land. Because my ankles are so strong, I can’t tell you how many times I have rolled my ankles, but I don’t break it because the connective tissue is so strong. I roll and I catch myself and I don’t actually fall. So all of these things that you can do through yoga will strengthen all of these connective tissues, which will help you to create a solid body so you don’t get injured.
Andrew: Kurt, do you like seeing your athletes do yoga? What’s the benefit for the triathlete?
Kurt: The real question and real response to this is, “Why NOT yoga?” It’s not why would you, it’s why wouldn’t you do it, because we have so much more knowledge right now. I think what I’ve found in my short journey in yoga that I want to continue for many, many years, it is a very positive addiction. I don’t think it’s a placebo effect, I can tell you honestly and candidly, I’ve done a lot of things in my life, some things I won’t repeat. But with yoga, it’s a positive addiction, my body craves it. It’s like a cup of coffee or some Sweet Tarts or whatever you want to engage in, you really, really want that. I think that’s good. Brandy touched on injury prevention. If you can prevent injury, that’s money in the bank. Think about your range of motion, think about your nervous system, think about your recovery. The thing we haven’t even talked about is your posture. When you’re on a trainer and you're in aero for many hours, you become kind of a hunchback. All of a sudden you’re doing yoga, you’re doing a Half Moon and it’s like, “Oh my gosh, this is cool!” Plus it’s the variety of your training I think that is so important. Doing just swim, bike, and run is a little like only eating Mexican food. “I don’t want anything else, I’m going to eat Mexican food seven days a week.” You know what, there’s more food out there! What if you went with Thai food? What if you went with some Indian cuisine? The more variety, to me it’s a no‑brainer. And I think JoJo appreciates this, with our TriDot Pool Schools – I can tell you that if more people did yoga-type routines when they’d show up, they would be not experiencing so much discomfort. I know when I went through it, they’re like, “Man, you’re like a rubber band.” I’m going, “No, you’re way too nice.” But I can actually do it.
Andrew: That’s the yoga!
Kurt: That’s the yoga. Another thing I thought of in preparation for this – last year I raced eight times. Some people would say that’s over the top. I think I could do that, and I could do it well and avoid injuries, because of yoga. That’s injury prevention right there. So I think we have to challenge our people and say, “30-day challenge right now!” All our listeners, start your first yoga class and bring a friend.”
Andrew: Ooh! You’ve been challenged by Coach Kurt Madden! Coach Jo, do you have your athletes do yoga?
Joanna: Oh, they get really tired of me talking about it, and I think some of them lie to me and don’t really do it. But we’re always balancing a long journey of training for an Ironman, and that will include family trips, and I will often tell them, “No access to bike or pool for this week? I want you to substitute with a 20‑minute yoga session, 20‑minute strength training.” The other thing I want to add about yoga is – I talk about how expensive our sport is – you can walk away from a really good instructor in a really good yoga class feeling like you had a massage and a therapy session. That is key, I am not kidding.
Andrew: Joking, not joking.
Joanna: Not joking, because you’ll walk out and be like, “Whew, it did a number on my body, but it did a number on my mind.” That’s so important.
Andrew: Kurt and Brandy are both nodding their heads.
Joanna: Yeah, and I encourage my athletes – I coach a lot of menopausal, perimenopausal women who come to me and say, “I’m experiencing migraines mid‑afternoon. I’m experiencing GI issues.” And I tell them, yoga is not only for flexibility and injury prevention. There are poses that you can do right before going to bed that help you with sleep, with GI, with migraine prevention. There are so many different ways to use yoga as a way to better all aspects of your health.
Andrew: It’s hard to argue with that passionate plea for athletes to do yoga. I hope your athletes are, because I know you will give them the earful about it if they’re not doing their yoga as Coach Jo prescribes. I think I mentioned on the podcast before, my wife and I had a newborn back in March. So we are neck-deep in taking care of a newborn, and all the sleep deprivation, feedings and just the overhauling of your schedule that comes with that. So for this season of my life, I feel like 30‑minute runs here and there, followed by 30 minutes of yoga right afterwards, feels like such a good fit to keep the body moving, to keep the mobility and stability there. For me and my wife it's almost like, “Don’t let me go a day without one or the other or both.” Because I need it for the mental clarity, the reset, the “me time”, and to keep my body moving in this season where I’m not able to train as much as I would like to. We’ve had a number of fabulous podcast episodes with Dr. BJ Leeper, our resident expert on functional movement. For the record, BJ did give his blessing for the four of us to talk about yoga today without him. He knows that you three know your stuff. But something that BJ always emphasizes that I wanted to bring up is the importance of triathletes identifying deficiencies in their movement patterns. When I go to yoga, I know I’m going to find out where I have deficiencies in my movement patterns, because they are there for sure. As we work towards getting those patterns healthier, what role can yoga play in that process? Brandy?
Brandy: There’s a couple of different telltale signs in your body. If your thighs are too tight, that can cause runner’s knee or patellar tendonitis. So if you can learn to stretch out your thighs, you can avoid having runner’s knee. If your glutes or your quads are too tight, that can alter the way that your legs can go behind the body, it will alter the way that you walk or run. So if you’re just doing strength training all the time and those two muscles are too tight, you’re not going to be running effectively the way that you want to be running. If your hip flexors are too tight, it’s going to cause sciatica pain and lower back pain. So if you can learn to stretch all of these muscle groups out, which are huge for us triathletes – when we’re on the bike we’re using our legs, when we’re on the run we’re using our legs – if you can learn to stretch those through yoga, you can be a better competitor, a faster athlete off the bike or off the run.
Andrew: Coach Kurt, anything to add here?
Kurt: When you look at swim, bike, run, we’re moving in the sagittal plane. We’re moving forward all the time. What I find with athletes, especially in the later half of the season, the injuries really start to creep up because they haven’t moved enough laterally, they haven’t supplemented their training. What I’ve found in yoga, and I’m sure Brandy and JoJo will concur, is that your deficiencies will show up immediately. There’s just no hiding. First of all, what about your balance? If your balance is great, that’s super. But one side may be not. What about your mobility? The other thing is the mental aspect, JoJo touched on that, your ability to focus. I think the more we can teach athletes to focus, the more they’re going to be successful in their training and the sport. It’s really going to be evident that you can go through a series of poses, and you can pull one pose off with one leg, but all of a sudden you get into another pose on the same leg and you’re going, “Oh my gosh, there’s no way! I cannot hold that!” We talked about injury prevention, we talked about adding more strength training. But I think when you look at yoga, when you look at muscle balance and you talk about what BJ talked about – I remember the podcast intimately and I shared it with all my athletes – he talked about yoga. He talked about your core, he talked about your glutes. Go back to swimming with the Pool School – JoJo and I talk about it all the time, if you’re not working on your core, you’re not going to be as strong in the pool as you could be. So if you add yoga into the mix, it’s going to make you a better swimmer. I recently did a 400‑yard time trial, and I was going into a flip turn, and all of a sudden my ankle was so flexible I’m like, “Wait a minute, I don’t have to take an extra stroke!” I hit that wall and I’m like, “Yoga got the assist on that one.” Those are little things, but again I think what we need say is, “Why not?” It really makes sense.
Andrew: Coach Jo, I’ve been with you in places like the track and going for group rides. As athletes chitchat before, during, and after workouts, I’ve heard people say, “Yeah, my such-and-such is kind of bugging me right now.” And you will jump into the conversation, find out what’s bothering them, and I’ve seen you suggest to athletes, “Oh, you should incorporate this pose, this pose, this pose once a day,” or whatever it is. How do you like spot-prescribing things to your athletes to try to help them stay healthy in their functional movement?
Joanna: Usually an athlete will come to me and say, “I’m having shoulder issues,” or “I’m super-tight in the pectoral muscles.” The great thing about yoga is – like what you said, Andrew, “I’m just struggling to get a 30‑minute run in” – you can do two poses. You can do two poses in the grocery store line. You don’t have to do a full flow, you don’t have to go to a class. That’s a luxury that a lot of us don’t have as far as time. So when I plant the seed with them, they’re like, “My feet are super tight, I’m having plantar fasciitis issues.” I’m like, “Hey, sit down with me, let’s do Lion Pose just for a second.” They’re like, “Ooh, this hurts my feet!” That’s the first time they’ve had any exposure to yoga practice. It’s funny, then they’ll be like, “Hey coach, I did it three times this week, and I’m feeling better already!” Or for Pool School, I’ll tell them, “Let’s do this position, let’s do Camel. Let’s open up our chest.” This is so good for you in that we’re constantly hunched over in an aero position, or swimming only freestyle and no other stroke, so let’s try this to do some chest openers. It doesn’t have to be a full fancy yoga class, it can be just a few things at first for them to just get a little bit of exposure of the benefits of some of these yoga poses.
Andrew: I like that, Jo. As triathletes, some people have all the time in the world, most people don’t have all the time in the world. How does yoga compare to some of the other things that we can do? Obviously we’re swimming, biking, and running, but then we have to fit in things like strength work, it’s good to fit in some stretching, it’s good to fit in some soft tissue work. Some people like turning to Pilates or spending time in a sauna. There are a lot of different modalities we can take advantage of to improve our body, to work on our body outside of swim, bike, and run. Where should yoga fit in alongside of these things? Is it more important than some of these things? Is it used well in conjunction with some of these things? Obviously I selected three coaches for this episode who are very pro-yoga, and that’s great. But realistically, for your athlete who you know is trying to fit in a lot, where would you prioritize yoga in conjunction with the other things going on in their life? Coach Kurt?
Kurt: It’s really case-by-case. I think what’s important, the benefit of having a coach like Brandy and JoJo, is that you do a needs assessment. You really get into that profile of what’s happened in the past, where are you right now, where do you want to go? I think the appropriate response is what really supplements. I don’t think, in this day and age, you can do a standalone. I think it’s just like cooking, you’ve got so much in your arsenal. But it really makes common sense. I think that the athlete will start to see a lot of success, but also understand, Rome was not built in a day. You can’t go to one yoga class and check the box and go, “I’m good now.” It’s like an atomic habit, you do it again and again. Give it a whole season, implement that one protocol with everything else. I think ideally, the industry standard for my athletes in my roster, is to really be persistent with two strength training sessions, and add the yoga as a third. The other thing I see happening all the time, especially in the second half of the year, is athletes getting injured. As JoJo and I are going to Kona, 70% of those athletes, if I did a poll and they were brutally honest, would have some type of injury. Others are saying, “I just want to get this race done.” Because they’re overtraining, it’s the accumulation of stress. Versus, “Let’s maybe back it down six weeks going into Kona. You’ve done your homework, you’ve done your heavy lifting, you’ve done your long rides”. Let’s do more of that. Then in the off‑season, game changer. What a way to transition.
Andrew: Coach Brandy, what do you think along these lines?
Brandy: Yeah, I would absolutely agree with that. I have my athletes try to fit in a yoga session towards the end of the week. If it was up to me they would be doing 20 minutes every day, but after a long build week, definitely do it on your Saturday or Sunday, so that you can stretch out all those muscles and all of those gains from the week. Your body really needs some downtime, and it needs to unwind.
Andrew: Brandy, I love the recommendation of, in an ideal world they would be doing 20 minutes a day. Some people might hear that and might be able to do that alongside some of the other things they’re already doing. But just for that once a week, is that once a week enough for it to make a meaningful difference?
Brandy: It would depend honestly on what kind of yoga class they’re doing, how long they’re doing it. It depends on the poses that they’re hitting in that yoga class. But yeah, if you do a good session of yoga for one hour at the end of your week, it can really loosen everything. Not just the body, but mentally and emotionally it can really reset you and get you ready for that next week of training.
Andrew: Gotcha, very great. Coach Jo, what do you think here? I know you do the strength work, I know you do yoga, you do several things on top of your swim, bike, and run. Where does yoga fit into the order of priority for you?
Joanna: I think it is based on female and male and age. I do coach a lot of women. I tell all my female athletes over 35, “Girls, do not neglect your big weights!” I am huge on heavy lifting, that is the only way we’re going to stay in the game and be competitive. Strength is huge, that does take a lot of emphasis for me when I’m coaching these women and men. I want those two sessions at a minimum done every week. I love what Kurt and Brandy have said, but I’m going to be that mom, like my three kids didn’t know that the yoga mat didn’t lay by the coffee table every night for the last 20 years. If it means you’re going to watch the Voice and American Idol and do 20 poses, that’s what’s going to happen. I can’t always get to a class. I rarely can. But that works for my life. I challenge myself to do what I can with what’s on my plate. So I tell my athletes, “There’s no excuse, because I know you're sitting there watching TV on social media. Put it down and just do five poses and hold them for a minute each for me. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but I want you to tell me how you felt after did it. Did you feel a benefit? Did you feel less aches and pains? Was your run better the next day?” All of those things. This is a mantra I tell my athletes, is we have to have grace for ourselves. We’re trying to make this training perfect, but there is no perfect training. So if you can start small and then build, as Kurt said, and make it more of a permanent part of your training, I think that’s huge.
Andrew: Jo has already given us some good tips, some of her hacks for fitting it in, getting it in. Coach Brandy and Kurt, what other tips do you have for your athletes on working yoga into the weekly routine? Brandy?
Brandy: I’m really big with this thing called “Breath of Fire”. It’s a really good way to start your morning. Most of us, when our alarm goes up we jump out of bed and we have to just take off. We don’t really set our day, we don’t really initiate our day with a good mindset. The Breath of Fire is something that is deep in the diaphragm, it’s called the Breath of Fire because you can warm up the inner parts of your body from just the way that you’re breathing. They’re short, controlled breaths, it’s not in the chest up here. That’s something you will find with a lot of yoga instructors when we instruct, is that most of our people don’t know how to breathe. You ask people to take a deep breath in and they raise their shoulders up, they’re not reaching down in the diaphragm. It should come way down deep in the diaphragm. It’s something you can actually see if somebody is breathing properly – your neck muscles go in, and it comes down into the diaphragm. So I tell my athletes, “Start your day with a good intention. When your alarm goes off, hit that button, put your hand on the belly button, and do Breath of Fire. It’s a very quick breath, just do it for a minute. Start your day off good, get good, clean oxygen into the body. Get yourself worked up and ready to face your day.” Even if that’s the only thing they do, at least they started their day off right. But there are so many different things you can do. Like, I’m sitting in this chair right now and I’m stretching my feet. My toes are under, my ankles down, I’m rolling my feet. You can do almost any kind of stretch anywhere at any given time. Like JoJo said, you can be in the grocery store and you can do a stretch. You drop your keys, and instead of bending at the knees to get down, bend over at the hips and stretch the legs and pick the keys up. There are so many times in your day that you can incorporate any kind of stretch, any kind of yoga.
Andrew: This podcast episode has always come out on a Monday, then our YouTube episode for the week will come out on a Wednesday. So Coach Brandy, between that Monday and Wednesday, you and I will have to hop on and you can give us a video demonstration of the Breath of Fire, take us through a short yoga routine, and we’ll put video to what we’re doing here on audio. So when you listen to this episode, hold on to your butts as I always say, and be on the lookout for our Wednesday YouTube episode where Coach Brandy will be put on the spot with some video to show us a little bit of yoga. Coach Kurt, what are some practical tips for you? I know you work a lot of training into your week on top of your job, on top of a lot of things. How do you get yoga into the routine?
Kurt: Again, it’s really about the efficiency and the effectiveness. I’m going to kind of piggyback off of what JoJo said. All of us have an encounter, after a race, that we’ve got to get on something called an airplane, where you sit for prolonged periods of time. Once you’re comfortable with doing a couple poses – not that you want to draw too much attention on an airplane, because that can really unsettle some folks – but while you’re maybe waiting in line to use the restroom, how great would it be if you can do a couple poses just to reset yourself? I think that is really good. I honestly have two yoga mats in my car with a couple towels, and this is why – just like the podcast where it’s like, “You might want to keep your extra swimsuit in the glove compartment in case you forget yours.” Anytime, anywhere – if the pool is closed, if there’s a thunderstorm or there’s too much chlorine or whatever the case might be – I can take a yoga mat almost anywhere, and literally in 10 to 15 minutes I can get her done. It’s something that you just can incorporate anytime, anywhere. It’s so funny when you watch people before races. We were in Texas, checking in at 5 o’clock. The bike is checked in, we’ve got an hour and forty minutes. The bike is going to be fine, we don’t have to hover. Let’s just walk twenty minutes back to the car, and let’s do some yoga for twenty minutes instead of taking selfies. Even when you’re lining up for the swim and you’ve got five or ten minutes to go, start your yoga routine right there. It’ll draw a little bit of attention, but what I’m trying to do is get my head on straight, get my breathing down, so when I hit that water everything is just flowing. There’s really no excuse, if you’ve got 5, 10, 15 minutes, fit it in when you can. Your body will definitely thank you.
Andrew: All the time on the Facebook group I see athletes ask the question, “I’m going to be on family vacation for a week,” or, “I have this work trip for a week. I’m away from the home studio, I’m away from my treadmill, I’m away from my bike trainer, I’m away from my pool.” So they’re asking, “Do I just run every day?” Well no, don’t run every day. That’s a high-impact sport. Do your run sessions as prescribed by TriDot, but don’t add more running. Instead, replace some of that biking and swimming with some yoga, if you’re equipped to do so. Great point there, Kurt. For the athlete who’s heard all of this, they’ve been inspired by your exuberant enthusiasm for yoga, they’ve loved the stories, and they want to do hot yoga with Kurt Madden. For an athlete who wants to get into yoga, what gear do they need, and how should they find the right class to get started here? Coach Brandy, what would you tell them?
Brandy: The great thing about yoga is you don’t have to spend a lot of money. You can go in any kind of clothes. Your yoga instructor will probably tell you they want to see you in firmer-fitting clothes. That’s a yoga instructor’s need, because they want to see your body position. But when you first do it, you can just wear a pair of shorts and a T‑shirt, and most gyms will have extra yoga mats. I would prefer you clean those yoga mats before you get on a used one. But the great thing is, is that you really don’t have to put a lot of money into it. You can go to a local gym, you can borrow a mat, you can join a class. Like we talked about, there are a bunch of different types of yoga, so it really just does depend on the athlete, their age and flexibility. But I would tell anybody just to go down to your local gym just to try it.
Andrew: Great point. Kurt, any addition from you there?
Kurt: This is kind of scary for our listeners, because you can spend quite a bit of money on a bike or a wetsuit or high-end shoes, but really, for about $50 you’ll be good to go. Get a nice, comfortable mat, a nice towel, and comfortable clothes that you can wear. I think tighter clothes work better because when they get wet like JoJo says, especially in the Vikram, it’s just like parachutes on your body. Then another thing Andrew, I’ve got a really good water bottle, I get the ice in there, and – a big pitch here for Precision Hydration – I drop in the 800. Because like JoJo said, when you’re sweating, you get that pool around you, that jacuzzi, all that sweat coming off your body, you’ve got to get those electrolytes in there. So really, for $50, you’re good to go, and it’s not something that you’ve got to replace every three months. That should sustain you for at least two to three years. That’s what I would recommend for our listeners. Then do your homework. Word of mouth is important. If you’re going to do it right and do it well, try to find the best instructor, because it’s going to correct the bad habits, like again the Pool School. Once you’re self-sustained and you know the routines, then you can do it on your own almost anytime.
Andrew: Yeah, and to Joanna’s point that she made earlier, if finding a studio and getting to a studio is the barrier of entry for you, then just start with what you can find on YouTube, start with what you can find looking around on the Google machine. To Kurt’s point, if there are studios near you to get plugged into, you will probably learn it better, pick it up faster, have better technique, and all that jazz. Great stuff there. We all know a lot of our triathletes can be very DIY with their training, and they might just want to test the shallow waters of yoga at home on their own, kind of like Jo is suggesting. Or they just can’t get down to a studio, like Kurt talked about. To advise those athletes and get them started, what are some poses that would make a solid short list for triathletes to work through and get started? Brandy, what would you recommend?
Brandy: Down Dog is huge. Coach Kurt has talked about your posture, how when we’re in aero we are kind of hunched over. When you do that, you’re putting a lot of pressure on your lungs, and you’re kind of collapsing down into your diaphragm. So Down Dog is really great for opening up the chest, because the arms are elongated in front of you, and when your arms are out you’re not supposed to sit there, you’re supposed to take your shoulder blades and push them to the back, which really opens the chest. It’s a multi-stance, because you get to stretch your calves, your hamstrings, and your glutes all at the same time if you’re doing it correctly. Down Dog is a great one. I love Fixed Firm, which is when you’re on your back, your legs are bent underneath you, your knees are bent so it’s a huge thigh stretch. Then one that a lot of people probably won’t tell you about would be Head Stand. That’s not a beginner’s pose.
Andrew: Doesn’t sound like it, no.
Brandy: But the reality is, every single day, gravity is working against us. It’s pulling all of our blood down to our feet, and our heart has to work harder to bring that blood back up to the body. So even if you can do a modified Head Stand – against a wall is what I would tell any newcoming who wants to try it, so you have that support in case you need to go backwards. You could do what’s called Baby Crane. You can look it up I’m sure on any kind of YouTube, but the benefit is that the blood will go in the opposite direction of the body. You don’t hold this pose forever, I would tell you to hold it for maybe 30 seconds, put yourself back up against the wall, hold it for another 30 seconds. But experts say that by doing that pose, you can actually reverse your aging process, because you're allowing your body to use gravity towards itself instead of against it.
Andrew: A great, solid list, and we’re probably going to see some of that on video form with Coach Brandy when the YouTube show comes out this week.
Brandy: I will not be doing Head Stand.
Andrew: Ah great, can’t wait! That won’t be embarrassing for me at all. Kurt, anything you would add to the list?
Kurt: In addition to what she has just suggested is the Chair Pose, because you typically do the Chair Pose early in the routine. But if our listeners can visualize, your arms are straight out in front of you, and you basically sit down slowly into an invisible chair. It activates your glutes and quads big time, and you hold that for about a minute. Then you notice, “Wait a minute, my arms aren’t straight, and my legs are kind of wobbling.” Then you come back up, and you get up on the balls of your feet so your heels are up, then you’re going back to the chair. You’re going, “Wait a minute, this is not like my recliner in the studio where I watch all my TV.” You’re up on the balls of your feet, and you do that three times. The third part is you actually put your knees together, your heels are up off the mat, and you go back into the chair. Talk about the ultimate in balance, it’s like, “Whoa, those are huge.” I really like that one, I think it really assesses where you are at that point in the session.
Andrew: Coach Jo, wrapping up with you.
Joanna: I have two, for two totally different purposes. For a beginner not knowing any yoga, I’m a big fan of just doing Forward Fold at the hip. It’s kind of a rag doll position. You can let your arms just dangle, or you can interlock your arms. It’s the same thing as Brandy was talking about, holding that opens up the entire posterior chain, your hammies, glutes, calves. It is one of the poses that helps with sleep as well, so you can do that right before you go to bed. On a funnier note, if you want to scar your three teenage children for life, do Happy Baby in front of their friends. They will never forgive you for that position, and they’ll never get that mental image out of their head.
Brandy: You’re terrible Jo!
Andrew: Brandy and Kurt know exactly what you’re talking about. I do not, and I’m kind of scared to Google it. I’m going to, out of curiosity, but I am scared to. So if you’re an athlete who you just know, “In the next three to six months, there’s no way I’m making my way down to a yoga studio, it’s just not going to happen for one reason or another” – go back, listen to those last three or four minutes, and write down the poses that our three coaches give you. Google them, find them – except for that last one – and build your own little routine out of Brandy, Kurt, and Jo’s recommendations. To close out our main set today, I want to hear from all three of you, one yoga pose that you just love – it’s your jam, it’s your favorite, you will do it to the end of the earth – and one that you find yourself struggling with if it comes up in your routine. Let’s go with Coach Kurt here.
Kurt: The one that I would probably choose, the one that I think I can actually execute the best – and Brandy and I have done yoga together so I’m sure she’ll say, “No Coach, that’s not the one” – is the Warrior. I think the Warrior is the ultimate, that I feel like I can hold that and not be totally uncomfortable, that it’s good and I want to continue to refine that. The one that I really have trouble with is called the Bow Pose. For the listeners, try to visualize this – you’re laying down on your stomach, you’re hyper-extending your back, your neck and head are up, then you’re reaching back behind you. Andrew, go with me now –
Andrew: Nope. Can’t do it.
Kurt: You’re reaching back behind you, grabbing your feet, then you’re pulling your feet up to make it like a bow. It’s so funny, when we get to this pose at the end, I’m looking around and I see some people are so arched, they’re like contortionists. Their legs are so high up in the back and I’m like, “I think I need to take my car in and get the front end aligned, because my body doesn’t quite bend like that.” If I can come up with that Bow Pose two to three inches, I am ecstatic. I know I’ve got to work on that one a little bit. So the Bow Pose, if you want to be stretched and challenged. Don’t do it after you’ve consumed alcohol or anything crazy, because you're not going to have fun at all.
Andrew: I am years away from being flexible enough to attempt that pose, I’m sure, just by your description there. Jo, one that you love, one that you struggle with?
Joanna: I love Bow Pose. I actually love Camel as well, I like the chest-opener. I still take pride in my flexibility and cheerleading, and it feels good, so those are two that I do routinely. Thinking about what troubles me, I do struggle with my feet, so I would have to say probably Lion. Sitting on those feet can be painful, and sometimes you don’t’ want to do it, or you don’t want to hold it more than one second, but it is really, really good. I know my friend Brandy always talks about not neglecting your feet, so that would be one I encourage people to work in almost every day. Another tip, I do this –most men will be like, “No thank you” – but if you’re in the bathtub and you’re warmer, do some of those stretches in there. You’re already warmed up, you’ve got that hot water, so stretching your feet and your hamstrings and some of those poses works really well.
Andrew: All right. Coach Brandy, throwing this to you to shut down the main set. One pose you love and one pose you struggle with?
Brandy: I have a son who is 18 who is a competitive gymnast. My oldest is 23, she was a competitive gymnast. As a type‑A personality, just ego-based, I love that I can still do the splits on both legs, and my two children cannot. We often have split-offs, if you would, in the house.
Joanna: You win.
Andrew: Way to go, mom.
Brandy: I do really love that. I love Pigeon to Splits, that’s great for your sciatica, for your hips and upwards for stretching out the legs. That’s my favorite. The one I still struggle with, now that I’ve gone through everything I’ve gone through in my life, would be Dancer Pose. It is a balance pose where you bring one leg back, you flip one hand in the wrong direction and grab that back foot, the back foot comes up behind you, and that front arm comes up,. Think about a ballet dancer.
Joanna: It’s so hard.
Brandy: It’s really sad that I can’t hold that pose anymore. I used to be able to, but I’m struggling with that one recently.
Andrew: All right, that’s our main set today. Do not forget, Coach Kurt gave homework to everybody that listens to this, to try yoga – what was it Kurt, for 30 days?
Kurt: Thirty-day challenge. Get into your first yoga class and do it for the remainder of the 2023 season, that way you’ll be in good standing with the Cool Kids Club or the TriDot Tribe.
Andrew: All right, next 30 days, get to your first yoga class, somewhere in the next 30 days, and stick with it after that. I see the numbers of how many people listen to every episode, so I expect to see a lot of athletes reporting on the I AM TriDot Facebook group.
Cool down theme: Great set everyone! Let’s cool down.
Vanessa Ronksley: Hey everyone! It’s cooldown time, and I’m Vanessa, your Average Triathlete with Elite-Level Enthusiasm! Our featured TriDot coach today is Donnie Winship. I first met him in Utah at the TriDot Ambassador Camp, as we were neighbors at our accommodation, and let me tell you what an amazing person he is. You know the calm, cool, collected type who has a heart of gold, and he also has this soulful nature, where helping everyone he meets is a legitimate part of his mission. Donnie is a financial planner, and he has also founded a company called Bright Owl, which is a product for home emergency lighting. Or even for those times when it’s 4:00 a.m., and you have to get your training underway without turning on all the lights and waking up all your family members. Yes, this product would come in handy for you. Donnie has a long history of coaching, including a U.S. swim team, beginners, masters, and even junior nationals. He has been an athlete with TriDot for over four years, and a TriDot coach for one year. He specializes in long-course athletes, and emphasizes swimming and the mental side of training and racing. Donnie is extremely passionate about his athletes’ successes, and is quick to point out positives in every situation. Welcome to the cooldown, Donnie!
Donnie Winship: Thanks for being here, I’m looking forward to this!
Vanessa: It’s going to be great! Now, I think something else that people need to know about you is that you are curious, like really curious. I heard this little story about the time you did your first full-distance tri, and you saw what looked to be a shark tooth at the bottom of the ocean. So naturally, you abandoned all thoughts of racing, and you tried to dive down to retrieve it. Was it actually a shark tooth?
Donnie: That’s funny, and actually a little embarrassing, because I’m in the middle of the race so I should be racing. Yes, I saw a shark tooth. Was it an actual shark tooth? I don’t know. It was a little deeper than I thought it was going to be, so I started to dive down, and you know when you get too deep, all the water pressure on your ear. So the water pressure hits, and I realized, “Dude, I’m in a race, I gotta get going.” So I abandoned the shark tooth. I’m going to say it was one. In fact, I’m going to say it was either a megalodon or a great white.
Vanessa: Wow. Now we’re going to get to a coach tip, and you’re going to talk about swimming, and hopefully it doesn’t include swimming down deep to pick up shark teeth. Maybe it has something to do with retrieving treasures while racing, I’m not sure. What do you have for us today?
Donnie: I have a swim tip. I don’t mean to sound like I’m giving a commercial for Pool School, but if you can do one, get there. They are phenomenal clinics. I have seen people drop time, and a lot of time, at every single clinic. But I guess to give a good swim tip, I would say develop your kick. I hear time and time again, athletes are told from certain coaches that you don’t want to kick in the water, because you’re going to wear out your legs on the bike. That is completely not true. In order to have good technique in swimming you have to have good balance and body position, and that absolutely comes from your kick. And your abs, so do sit-ups and work your core as well. But if you can develop a good kick, you will speed up your swim by not only the propulsion from the kick, but also the lift it gives you to reduce your form drag. So my best tip is to work on that kick. Don’t neglect it.
Vanessa: Do you have anything that athletes can try in the pool in terms of improving their kick? What would be the first thing that you would suggest to allow us to improve our body position or be more efficient at kicking? What would you suggest?
Donnie: I would at least be doing, at each practice, 500 to 700 meters or yards in kicks, every single practice. Probably start with sprints, 25’s, 50’s, 100’s with fins, so that you can develop muscle in the legs for kicking. Then eventually go from fins to no fins, and just work on the speed of the kick. Anything else, I’m going to have to say go to Pool School.
Vanessa: But for those of us, like me, who live on the other side of the world and there is no current Pool School offering over here, would you do this kick with a kickboard, or are you dolphin kicking? What kind of kicking would you suggest?
Donnie: I would do it both with a kickboard and without a kickboard. You don’t always want to put the wear and tear on your shoulders, but the kickboard does give you some stability, and you can just focus on your kick. Absolutely use kickboard and fins to build the muscle. I would also do it without a kickboard on your back, in a streamlined position, because not only will that help develop the kick, but it will also help work on your core at the same time, because you're on your back all of a sudden, and you have a different type of lift, so it’s working your core as well.
Vanessa: Okay, that’s good. I’ve been practicing on my back, and man do the glutes burn. It’s a butt burner.
Donnie: Absolutely. I will tell you a little story, because every bad swimmer has a bad kick, and every great swimmer has a great kick. When you recognize that, it’s phenomenal. Many, many years ago when I first got into triathlons, I was doing swim workouts with someone who was a coach. He actually coached people in the Olympics, a phenomenal swimmer. So we’re doing 100’s on a pace of about 1:15, 1:20. I’m swimming, he’s kicking, and he’s passing me. His kick was so strong that he was actually passing my swim.
Vanessa: Wow, that’s something to think about!
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