What to cultivate beyond good swim form, bike power, and run mechanics.
by Jessica Elliott
Triathletes have the key tasks — swimming, biking and running — down. We can do those all day (and we do). But we also know that cultivating healthy habits often gets us closer to reaching our goals and that tweaks to our regimen can be a catalyst for improvement. There are a few routines that many of us can identify with, and that line up right with our goals. Here are seven habits that highly effective triathletes share in common.
1. You do your research. From healthy recipes to GPS devices to the best bikes, most of us could double as a gear reviewer, meal planner, or bike advisor. "If I see a giant pile of equipment at the end of the lane, I know it’s a triathlete," says Casey Arendt, an Austin triathlete and coach with Go the Distance Coaching. "They have every gadget." If we’re not training, we’re reading about, buying, and talking about gear — to anyone who'll listen.
Why cultivate it: We spend plenty of time sweating, training and putting in the effort required for a solid race day, so it only makes sense for us to investigate the gear that best serves our needs. The end result could be precious speed.
2. You stay on top of the laundry. And you do a lot of it, which is, incidentally, made up mostly of athletic clothing. "If I didn’t have workout clothes I would probably only have to do laundry once a month," says San Francisco Bay Area triathlon coach and triathlete Kevin Coady. Often, we head to the store with good intentions of buying casual attire, and walk out with another "necessary" pair of running shorts instead.
Why cultivate it: Having drawers full of clean gear not only makes us feel better mentally and even makes a workout seem more appealing— we’re also more likely to keep our training partners that way (the less stink the better, right?).
3. You always carry a water bottle and a snack. Being thirsty or hangry isn’t an option for you. And yes, you do get hangry. Often, family members and friends confirm that you have extra food handy because they want to avoid dealing with you when you’re spiraling without fuel. "My family knows that if I say, 'I’m hungry,' it’s already way too late," says Norwalk, Iowa-based triathlete Jen Downe. "I eat a lot and I eat often, and when I don’t, my kids literally fear me. I’ve had my 11-year-old look at me and say, 'Mom, maybe after you’ve had a snack, things will be clearer,' like she is talking to a lunatic. I am also the only softball mom that has a never-ending supply of sports nutrition on hand during tournaments."
Why cultivate it: Without fuel and hydration, we know we’re really not doing ourselves any favors — they are integral to solid recovery and performance. Keeping our loved from fleeing our company doesn’t hurt, either.
4. You keep your bike and gear cleaner than your car. Your car is for all of that excess gear. "I live in this suburb where everyone keeps their cars immaculate and mine is always dirty," Coady says. "One time, I was scrubbing my bike, racked on my filthy car until it was pristine. My neighbors were all looking at me askew. All the cars are clean and the lawns are perfect and I’m the triathlete on the block who doesn’t care about that stuff." Let people judge away, waving at us when we fly by on our sparkling race wheels.
Why cultivate it: Keeping our two-wheelers in tiptop shape ensures less mishaps and snafus on training days. Plus, it just feels good to be on a clean bike.
5. You're never without your GPS watch. We’re numbers people, and most of us we need at least one form of tracking to get us through a workout. We often wonder if a training session isn't recorded, if it even exists. This also means we’re usually sporting some sort of terrible watch tan line. "I have to stack my arm with fashionable bracelets to hide evidence of my watch," Downe says. "People probably think I’m one of the most accessorized women they'll ever meet."
Why cultivate it: The ability to track our pace and progress in real time not only enables us to analyze our stats and improve our weaknesses, it gives us a sense of pride to follow our gains and accomplishments.
6. You sleep. A lot. When you can, that is. If you can’t get to bed early or wake up later, you try to squeeze a nap in somewhere. Otherwise, sleep will happen—and likely at an inopportune time. "During training for a recent race, I fell asleep during a movie," Dallas-based triathlete Lisa Torpy. "When I woke up, I left to go home and get some rest."
Why cultivate it: Aside from making us more enjoyable people to be around, we know that rest prevents illness and injury.
7. You genuinely enjoy healthy food. "I’m always experimenting and trying new things, and recently made this cauliflower recipe that tastes like mashed potatoes," says Lorie Tucker, a Sigma Human Performance triathlon coach and triathlete. "Everyone at the table just rolled their eyes at me. I thought I was such a chef and it was so delicious, and meanwhile, my family was trying to sneak out the back door to a fast food joint." We’ll just be in the corner eating all that cauliflower...and then, because we're balanced like that, head out the door to join them.
Why cultivate it: Healthful foods not only provide our bodies with those much-needed varied nutrients, they help us stay closer to our race weight.
Jessica Elliot is a Dallas-based freelance writer and triathlete.