Hauling water, chopping wood.

“It is not about volume, it is about time commitment.  There are very, very few things you do in life—and we tell our athletes this all the time—there are very few things you do in life that if you put less time into it, you are going to be as successful at.  And you start to think about it.  It deals with relationships.  It deals with your work.  It deals with your hobbies.  If you put in less time, your chances of being as good at it are diminished.  So, you want to learn the skill, and you want to work at the skill, and you put more time in.”

-Gregg Troy, Garbage Yardage and Other Things That Work

It seems that the trend in training for endurance sports seems to swing from one extreme to the other every few years.  First, it’s all about volume and how many yards you can rack up in the pool, how many hours you can ride, how many miles you can run.  Most athletes that I coach know that I love stories about crazy workouts and insane volume, it’s something I’ve been fascinated with for a long time.  An old book that I used to have on swimming defined distance training sets as being “up to 20,000 meters, or when you lose your mind.”  Some people took that pretty literally.  Vladimir Salnikov, the first swimmer to break 15:00 for the mile, swam a set when he was 14 years old that consisted of 20,000m as 400 IM/400 free, non-stop.  That’s 50×400, a pretty darn long workout by any standards.  The swimming world is full of stories of workouts like that one.  Eric Vendt’s 30×1000 on 10:30, Larson Jenson’s 20×1500, those workouts are the stuff of legends.  Most of the triathletes of the early years, like Dave Scott and Mark Allen, grew up in the swimming world of late 1970’s California, where “20K a day” was the standard.  They took that workout ethic into the triathlon and it’s defined the sport ever since, and for good reason.  If you want to race well over the Ironman and 70.3 distances, you’ve got to do a lot of work.

But every so often someone comes up with a new program that promises to make you faster with less work.  These kinds of programs are especially appealing these days in our culture of getting everything you want with the click of a button.  I recently saw a young woman being interviewed on TV about the millennial generation and what they want, and her reply was “I want exactly what I want, exactly when I want it.”  That’s not an attitude that translates well into success in triathlon, or life in general for that matter.

This brings me to an explanation of my title for this post.  It comes from an old saying that John Leonard uses in the webinar for the American Swim Coaches Association Level 3 certification.  I recently took this certification and this saying really stuck with me.  It comes from the idea that for most people, for most of human history, most of life was spent hauling water and chopping wood.  In other words, hard, repetitive work.  If you think about it, it holds true for most of life today as well.  Success isn’t about a few dazzling moments of brilliance, it’s about persistence, consistency, and hard work.  When Michael Phelps won his record breaking eight gold medals in Beijing, it came after seven straight years where he never missed a practice.  Seven years.  And it goes without saying that those were some hard practices.  Swimmers regularly train 20-24 hours per week in the water for events that last from roughly 20 seconds to 15 minutes.  You’re not going to succeed in triathlon in events that last for most athletes from 4 hours to 12 hours, or more, without a lot of work.  That doesn’t mean that you have to embark on a training plan of working out 40 hours a week.  How much training is enough?  My answer to that would be that it depends entirely on the athlete.  Basically, it’s how much training you can recover from.  For elites, that could be a 5 hour ride on the bike or an 8000m workout in the pool.  For most people it’s significantly less than that.  It takes experience to find what you can handle, a good coach and help you with that and speed up the training process by helping you avoid some of the most common pitfalls.

The bottom line is that if you want to be a competitive athlete, and if you want to put together a strong 70.3 or Ironman race (or for that matter, even a sprint or Olympic distance race), you have to be prepared for a lot of work.  A lot of days of hauling water and chopping wood.  Love the training, love the process.

SwimOutlet.com Approved as USA Triathlon Certified Multisport Retailer

Big news for the multisport world!  SwimOutlet.com, which dominates the online retail market in aquatics in the U.S. (disclosure, I have an affiliate store, click on the “Ironworks Store tab above to check it out!), has been approved by USA Triathlon as a part of their USAT Certified Multisport Retailer program.  The certification was granted as SwimOutlet.com has moved more and more into multisport with its product offerings and sponsorships. This year, it announced a partnership with Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker and later this summer will sponsor its first triathlon event with the inaugural Oakland Triathlon Festival.

Having SwimOutlet.com more involved in triathlon will be sure help our sport’s broader outreach to potential new athletes and triathletes since they have such a prominent voice and place in the aquatics and swimming world.  SwimOutlet.com carries a full range of swimming, running and some limited cycling products, I particularly like their Sporti in-house value brand for great quality and incredible value.  USAT members will be sure to receive a discount on certain items, stay tuned for more details!

The Ironworks Review: Sporti Power Swim Paddles

sporti power paddles 1If there’s an item of training equipment that most swimmers and triathletes love, it’s hand paddles.  Okay, some people may love pull buoys and fins even more, but a good set of hand paddles have always been my weapon of choice.  There’s nothing like that feel of gripping the water and extra speed that you get from a good set of paddles, and there are also some great benefits like improved strength and technique.  This is also the perfect time of year to get the paddles out.  The cold winter months make it tough to get out and put in the long miles on the road, so why not hit the pool and build up some strength and endurance?  This is especially valuable if the swim is your biggest limiter as an athlete.


sporti power paddles 2If you’re looking into getting a new set of paddles, the new Sporti Power Swim Paddles are a great place to start.  First of all, the price is just about unbeatable at $4.95.  You can literally spend more on a cup of coffee these days!  These paddles are well made and sturdy enough to hold up to a lot of pool time.  They also have a nice secure fit; you can put these on and pound out a tough set of 50’s or 100’s and be confident that they’re going to stay in place and not slip around on your hand even at high speeds.  I particularly like the ergonomic design that makes the paddles more comfortable and allows you to maintain a better feel for the water.


sporti power paddles 3Of course, like any other piece of equipment, it’s important not to overdo it with paddles.  You don’t want to turn them into a crutch and reach for them every time you can’t make an interval.  Used correctly though, they’re a great tool to use to help you build strength in the water.  When I use paddles, I like to put them on for the first half of a set, and then track my time and stroke count with paddles.  Then, I challenge myself to swim the second half of the set without paddles and to hold my time and stroke count from the first half of the set.

2008 Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker

2008 Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker

And if you’re looking for more great info on triathlon gear and training, be sure to stop by SwimOutlet.com for new features from Olympic Triathlete and ITU star Jarrod Shoemaker!  Jarrod is joining other Olympians like Mark Gangloff, Tony Azevedo, and Garrett Weber-Gale as an expert contributor and will be sharing some of the insights and experiences that he’s gained over his career as a professional triathlete.

As always, thanks very much for taking the time to visit my blog!  Happy New Year’s and all the best for a safe, healthy, and fast 2014.  Happy Training!

Beginner Triathlon Tips: The Off Season.


Champions are made in the off season!

Champions are made in the off season!

Everyone knows by now that the off season is an important time of the year for training.  It’s when you focus on your limiters, improve your technique, and build strength and base for the upcoming year, not when you sit around on the couch, binge viewing old TV shows on Netflix while eating bagfuls of Doritos.

I was talking about this very subject with an athlete I coach earlier today and an analogy that one of my old coaches used came to mind.  He said that athletes should think of their competitive season training as building a big cannon, and that the off season was when you build the ship that you place that cannon on.  In other words, the base miles you put in during the off season form the foundation for the cannon that is the speed work that you do during the competitive season.  So, sticking to the analogy, you can imagine the results if you took a great big cannon and tried to fire it off a canoe.  All the best equipment, nutrition, planning, and speedwork are only as effective as the base training that supports them.  So what kind of ship are you building over the upcoming off season?  When you head to your A race next spring are you going to be on a canoe or a battleship?

SwimOutlet Fall Clearance!

Anyone who’s been in triathlon for a while knows how much you can spend on equipment.  Beyond even the essentials for racing you need all the gear for day to day training.  Having up-to-date and comfortable clothing and equipment makes all the yards in the pool and miles on the road a lot more comfortable and enjoyable.  So when a great clearance sale comes along like the one going on at SwimOutlet you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity!  Take a moment and check it out, you might find some great holiday gifts for your multisport friends and family, or even pick up an early Christmas present for yourself!

Happy Training!


The Ironworks Review: Sporti Hand Paddles II

Sporti Hand Paddles IIEvery triathlete needs a good pair of hand paddles.  They build strength, help refine technique, and provide some variety when you’re putting in the long yards for your big race.  The biggest issue facing most triathletes when it comes to hand paddles is which kind to choose:  Do you go for smaller paddles designed to correct stroke flaws and improve feel for the water, or do you go for the giant “trash can lids”?  Depending on how much swim gear you want to accumulate, multiple pairs of paddles may be a good solution.  If you’re looking for one solid, all around paddle, or if you have several pairs and you’re looking for a good versatile paddle for daily use, the Sporti Hand Paddles II are a great choice.

Sporti Swim Paddles III’ve been swimming with these Sporti paddles for the past week and have found them to be ideal for triathlon training.  They fit securely, are easy to get on and off, and are very comfortable to wear.  I remember the old paddles I swam with in high school that would leave marks on my hands and wrists after a long pull set, but those days are long gone with the new paddles like these.  The adjustable silicon rubber straps let your hand slip right in and hold the paddles in place without uncomfortable pressure.  The contoured shape of the paddle also helped improve my feel for the water.  The best part for me was how the paddles really made me focus on a clean entry.  Despite my best efforts, I have an awkward entry that my training partners dubbed “The Claw” years ago.  The feel of these paddles encourages a smooth, clean entry which I found very helpful.  Even after taking the paddles off I still found myself focusing on entering the water cleanly.  I also tried swimming with these paddles at various speeds and found that they work well for long, steady state sets as well as fast sprint efforts.

Overall, the Sporti Hand Paddles II are a great choice for triathletes and swimmers looking for a solid, all around hand paddle, and at $8.95 you can’t beat the price.  Thanks for reading, now get out there and work out!

Train hard and have fun,

Coach Land


Triathlon Goggles, Tips From Ironworks Multisport: Sporti Anitfog Cabo Goggles

Sporti Cabo Anitfog GogglesWhen it comes to the swim, one of the most important, and yet often overlooked, pieces of equipment for any triathlete is a good pair of goggles.  In training, they protect your eyes from the ravages of chlorine, and in competition they help keep your vision clear so that you can navigate efficiently around the swim course.  Even the best wetsuit or speedsuit isn’t going to be of much use when you can’t see where you’re going!  Hardly anything can spoil a swim faster than a leaky or fogged up pair of goggles.

This summer I’ve been searching for the perfect open water triathlon goggles.  I’ve tried several pairs, the first of which were the Sporti Antifog Cabo Goggles.  The Cabos are a one-piece soft Silicon design with shatter-resistant polycarbonate lenses, and a split Silicon head strap which ensures plenty of adjustability for a good fit.  I found adjustment to be easy and had no trouble getting the goggles ready to go.  The fit was very comfortable.  The lenses are slightly on the large side, which offers great peripheral vision, but those with a smaller face might try something like the Sporti Antifog S2 Goggles.  I’ve been swimming with the Cabos for the past week and have had no issues with fogging or leaking.

Overall, the Cabo’s are a solid choice for triathletes and swimmers looking for a good pair of goggles for training and racing, in the pool and in open water.  And at $5.95 they offer an unbeatable value!

Thanks for visiting Ironworks Multisport.  Be sure to check back soon for more triathlon training and equipment tips.  Happy Training!

Jason Lezak’s Gold Medal Delivery!

BEIJING - AUGUST 11: Jason Lezak of the United States celebrates finishing the Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final in first place and wins the gold medal held at the National Aquatics Center on Day 3 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 11, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Jason Lezak of the United States celebrates finishing the Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final in first place and wins the gold medal held at the National Aquatics Center on Day 3 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

If you’re a triathlete and interested in improving your swimming, signing up for a Master’sswim meet is a great way to do it.  For one thing, no one is better at swimming than the swimmers!  There’s so much swim talent in this country, you’re likely to see some great performances, and you’re likely to meet some very cool people too.  US Master’s Swimming is an amazing organization, so I thought it was extremely cool to see Olympic Medalists Jason Lezak and Emily Silver showing up for a relay at the Master’s National Championships.  It’s great to see Olympians giving back to the sport, and it’s also great to see the enthusiasm they generate among other athletes.  So if you’re looking to improve your swim split, see some fast swimming, or just have a great time, find a Master’s meet near you and dive in!  You never know who might show up!

Happy Training,

Coach Land

Triathlon Tips From Ironworks Multisport: Finis Agility Hand Paddles

Finis Agility Hand Paddles

As a life long swimmer, and triathlete and swim coach for 15 years, I’d thought I’d seen pretty much every possible variation on hand paddles, but the Finis Agility Paddle is something entirely new.  So what makes it so different?  As you can quite easily see, they have no straps.  Instead, there’s a hole in the paddle which you put your thumb through, and then apply light pressure to hold the paddle in place. This strapless design has two main benefits.  First, there are no straps to degrade and eventually break.  Second, you must use the pressure of the water to keep the paddles on your hands.  As a coach, the second is what makes these paddles so exciting.  I’m constantly telling my swimmers that their hands should enter the water cleanly, catch early and with a high elbow, and to strive for an early vertical forearm.  These hand paddles encourage all of these traits; you don’t even have to think about it, you just feel it.  And if you have faulty technique you get immediate feedback because the paddles will just fall off!

The first time I tried these paddles out, I was a little unsure about how well they would perform, and they did feel different from a conventional paddle.  However, I didn’t have any problems keeping the paddles on, and after a few laps they began to feel completely comfortable and natural.  I experimented a little and tried to lead with my elbow for a few strokes, and as expected the paddles immediately came off.  Another great thing about these paddles is that they can be used for all four strokes.  They are equally comfortable for butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle.

Finis Hand Paddles

I would find these paddles suitable for all swimmers, especially younger age groupers and triathletes who constantly need to focus on form and technique.  Beginners will find them valuable because of the constant demand for an early vertical forearm, and advanced swimmers can benefit from using them for long sets where technique can sometimes falter.  If you’re looking for a great new paddle to help you perfect your swim technique and improve your swim splits at the races, I’d highly recommend giving Finis Agility Paddles a try.  Thanks for reading my triathlon tips, please check back soon for lots more information on triathlon and swim training!


Beginner Triathlon Tips: Top Swim Paddles Compared by Olympic Gold Medalist Mark Gangloff

Swim Paddle ReviewThinking of getting some new swim paddles?  Then be sure to check out The Gangloff Review by Olympic Gold Medalist Mark Gangloff at SwimOutlet.com!  He compares 15 popular swim paddles and offers some great tips and insight.  If you’re looking for some new paddles and can’t decided which ones are the right for you then this is definitely worth reading.  And while you’re here at IronworksMultisport.com, please check out the new Ironworks Store feature at the top of this page to stock up on all your swim gear.

Happy Training!

Coach Land