Ask The Coach Podcast

Ask The Coach Podcast

On today’s Crushing Iron triathlon training podcast we hit on a ton of topics for the beginner and intermediate triathlete with our new “Ask The Coach” segment. These are questions (or versions of) we see all over the internet. This is one of our favorite podcasts to date and we cover learn answers to the following questions.

  • What is a threshold test for the bike and how does it work…why should someone do this?  Explain power meter??
  • I’m having a tough time getting back into swimming… other than prescribed workouts, what do you suggest to get back into the groove?
  • A lot of people have a hard time training for hills because of where they live….what would you recommend for both the bike and/or run?
  • How do you deal with the mental aspects on the bike and run?  Do you prepare your thought process beforehand?
  • Regarding apparel…. what do you look for when you’re buying a new kit?
  • What about supplements… do you take them?  Why do you take the ones you do?
  • Let’s talk about dry land training for swimming….
  • Would you compare your first Sprint to losing your virginity?
  • FB question:  Since headphones are not allowed during the race itself, I’m assuming that training without headphones would be wise. Opinions?
  • FB question: I have been training six days a week, but I want to make sure I’m training right. What training plan does everyone recommend? Even though I’m a 140.6 first timer I don’t want to train as a beginner. I am ready and willing to put the time and work in, but want to make the most of my time.

Please subscribe and comment on iTunes and email your questions to:


What Do I Eat?

The other day I got a text from a friend asking what kind of a diet I was on for triathlons.  I sent back a picture of a can of vegetarian chili and said, “Tonight, it’s this.”FullSizeRender-3

I guess my diet is a bit of a dirty-little-secret in some ways.  I’m not afraid of pizza or even fast food a couple times a week, but of course there’s always a price to pay.

It’s funny, too, because I think nutrition is everything.  I am nearly 100% convinced that a solid diet (along with exercise and a good spiritual practice) will take care of most modern day ills.

I’m a big believer that inflammation is the root of most of our our problems, including things like depression and anxiety.  And the best way to reduce inflammation is to be on a alkaline leaning diet.  But I’m not scientist or nutritionist, I go by feel. I also listen to a lot of podcasts,  so I guess I like to regurgitate alternative facts.

My overall dietary habits can be summed up like this: I try to eat at least one solid meal a day, and by solid I often mean tuna from a can on bread with butter, steamed broccoli, and . . . that’s about it.  It can vary, of course, but I’m pretty simple and did have pizza tonight.  I also drink a lot of water and try to mix in a spinach smoothie during the day.

In general, our relationship with food cannot be understated.  But, unfortunately I have yet to find a clean handle on my diet, and know just enough to be dangerous.

That’s why we have brought a Registered Dietician onto the podcast today.  It was interesting to hear her philosophy, which I will describe as balanced and thoughtful.

We talked about everything from the best way to change your diet, how to keep is simple and steady, along with things like how to better access body fat for energy, ketosis, and challenges with body image.  We also get into race-day nutrition.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the podcast on Triathlon’s 4th Discipline, Nutrition, featuring Lizzy Miller.

Triathlon: Chasing a Dream, or . . .

Below is a picture I posted on Facebook 5 years ago. I was the heaviest I’d been in my life and depression was my new buzzword. I posted this picture as a “carb-loading” joke the night before starting a Couch to 5k running program. We did 6 sets of 60 seconds of jogging followed by 60 seconds of walking that first day. Since then I’ve finished 4 Ironman races and will likely do more. I’m almost positive you could do something similar if you put your mind to it.carbloading

As I reflect on that day, I remember how obsessed I became with the quest, to first, be a runner, then an Ironman.

There were a lot of pictures like the one above.  Posts of my Garmin after workouts, race results, or anything else to do with my new found love of transformation.

But, after about a year of that, I started getting self-conscious of my quest.  I remember how I would covertly steer seemingly every conversation around to Ironman, then I’d launch into a diatribe about how “amazing” everything was in my life because of triathlon.  But it wasn’t.

I was still struggling with many of the same issues and triathlon was mainly an addictive substitution.  My life balance was still out of whack.

I was definitely on a better path, but had to figure out how to balance the incredibly demanding sport of triathlon with other passions in my life.  And more importantly, how to use the momentum for personal growth.

I can honestly say I haven’t quite figured it out yet.  But I have been on a path of finding contentment in the simpler things in life.

I’m feeling more comfortable in my skin and finding clarity in the idea that this process is for myself.  Most people could care less if I just had a kick-ass 8 mile run, or swam 3,000 meters in the pool.

But some do.  And it’s those people I feel most comfortable with.  The ones who take genuine action towards being a better person, not only in triathlon, but business, creative pursuits, and exploration.  The ones that know it’s a long road and change, privilege, and understanding  doesn’t happen overnight.  The ones who realize we’re all flawed and life is a work in progress.

This is kind of the tone for our latest podcast.  We talk about the delicate balance between endurance sports and life.  The price of isolation, addiction, and obsession.  We ask questions like, “How can we trek 138 miles, ache in every inch of our body, and be sad an Ironman is almost over?”

I just love the drive and desire of people who take up triathlon.  I truly believe they are the type of person who wants to get the most of life through action.

Commitment to change is never easy, but it helps to have like-minded people in your corner.  Hope you enjoy this discussion.

De-Mystifying Swimming

De-Mystifying Swimming

Without question the biggest mystery for triathletes in training, is swimming.  The fact that you literally cannot breath half the time can be tricky, and the fact that drowning is a real possibility probably doesn’t help.

When our breathing gets out of control on the bike or run, we instinctively know how to slow down without fear.  But slowing down in the water isn’t as natural.

In each of my first four races I slowed to either a breast stroke or started treading water to catch my breath and slow my heart rate.  There are not many feelings worse!

That’s why I made it my mission to get that anxiety-piece out of my triathlon-puzzle.  I became obsessed with learning how to relax in the water.

The biggest breakthrough came when I committed to swimming every day for two straight weeks.  I didn’t go long (usually between 1-2,000 meters) but the repetitive nature of my practice made a huge difference.

I naturally got faster, but I really think it was because I was more relaxed. Being “tight” in the water (and land for that matter) is my biggest enemy.

After about 7 straight days of swimming I noticed a very simple thing: That first plunge into the water didn’t feel cold or weird or uncomfortable.  My body had adapted, and I really think that’s the biggest win you can have as a swimmer.

In today’s podcast we go back into the water for a follow up piece to “How To Not Suck At Swimming.” Part 2 takes a closer look at swimming technique, and more importantly ways to remove the mystery.

Coach Robbie lives and breathes open water swimming and he’s back with another round of great insight to becoming faster, stronger, and more efficient in open water.  Topics covered today are:

– Proper breathing – How and When
– Body Positioning and how to get it right
– Hand entry and exit – How and When
– How to deprogram from bad advice, including workouts that get you there
– How to structure a swim week of workouts
– Should you join a Master’s Team?
– Swimming square and why you swim crooked
– A big announcement from Coach Robbie
– Which country has the second most Crushing Iron listeners

If you feel you’re getting some good information, please subscribe and review on iTunes.

Triathlon 101: In The Beginning

Triathlon 101: In The Beginning

It was the morning of my first triathlon and I was understandably nervous. So many fears:  My first open-water swim, the unknown of running off the bike, and walking around in public wearing head-to-toe spandex.

It was actually lycra, but the self-awareness was frightening.  I stood on fast-warming concrete and waited with about 600 others to enter the water. Truth be told, I still didn’t really know how to swim and I was about to jump into the fast moving Cumberland River in downtown Nashville.

We filed down the pier and soon my number was called.  With an exhilarating (and fearful) scream, I plunged into the murky water for a 300 yard swim.  Six minutes later I fought the current with all my might just to get to the ladder with a VERY high step.  I couldn’t get my foot on there and did more of a pull-up-to-body-flop onto dry land.

Everything about that day was a trip.  The feeling of running to my bike was wild.  Gasping for air as I tried not to lose my balance.  Trying to remember what to take off, leave on . . . and put on.  I didn’t know anything about transition and started running out without my helmet, of course.

We hear all this stuff about nutrition, aero bars, race wheels, and on and on, but so much of it is overkill in the beginning.  If I had to do it over again, I would probably do everything in my power to think of my first time as a practice race.

Again, this was a sprint, so the run was 3.1 miles, but it was . . . um . . . weird. I wasn’t yet used to the feeling of running off the bike.  This feeling stayed with me for a few races, but now I almost look forward to running after loosening up the legs.

I finished the race that day and it was genuinely one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.  I thought I’d just scaled a mountain but it was just the beginning.  I was hooked.

I’ve gone on to do many Olympics, several 1/2 Ironman, 4 fulls, and yes, more Sprints.  I love them all.

I think the key is to keep moving forward is to have patience with our development.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but it eventually happens.  You will fall in love with the sport and hopefully with how it makes you feel.

In today’s podcast we talk about the most important things to consider before doing your first triathlon and how you can stay in the game for a long time.  We also share ways to make starting triathlon a LOT less expensive.

Here’s an outline of our podcast:

  • Things to consider before signing up for your first race
    – location
    – brand
    – race management
    – time of year
  • What made you want to do a “triathlon” in the first place – Finding your “why”
  • Gear: Items you HAVE to have, would be nice to have , and items that are just  because you WANT to have them
  • How to set up a plan for success
  • How to know if you are ready to go to the next distance 

Triathlon Trends: Fraud or For Real?

Triathlon Trends: Fraud or For Real?

Everyone’s looking for an advantage, and that’s certainly true of triathletes.  But sometimes you have to wonder if we’re taking placebos.

There is an endless supply of accessories, nutritional options, and advice, but where should it stop?  Or should it keep going?

That’s the topic for today’s podcast, and it will certainly ruffle a few feathers, but it is genuinely an open and honest discussion about which trends are fraud and which are for real. There’s a lot of gray area in this stuff and we address most of it.

Fraud of For Real?

  • Compression Socks
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Stretching
  • Ice Baths
  • Altitude Training
  • Heat Training
  • Oxygen Masks
  • Coca Cola
  • Pull Buoys
  • Wind Breakers
  • And all of the intricacies that could actually make some frauds for real.

Here are the reference links discussed in the podcast:
Chocolate Milk
Ice Baths
Compression Socks

What My Dog Teaches Me About Racing . . . and Life

To be honest, I never really wanted a dog.  Somehow, Matisse, just sort of landed in my life.

As the story goes, she was abandoned on the side of the road and survived on her own for a few days.  I like to say she grew up in the streets.


She’s a good dog, but dogs are a lot of work.  At least for someone who isn’t used to having one.  It’s getting easier, though.

When I’m present, she teaches me a lot, especially how to be satisfied with the simple things in life.  Like stopping and smelling the roses, coffee, or in her case . . . anything!


Mattie’s lived with me most of her life, and I think she likes it, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.  It doesn’t seem like she’s truly happy unless she’s moving around.  I know the feeling.

Lately I’ve made a commitment to take her on longer walks and it seems like good karma.  We’ve ventured off the trails into the deep woods, even started hanging out along the hidden creeks.

It sounds cliche’ but she is truly in touch with nature.  Every scent, sound, or movement takes her breath away.mattieshelbypose2

She’s insanely curious and goes absolutely bat-shit whenever she meets . . . anyone!

Keith Urban might as well be Keith Fleck from down the block.  Jack Freedmore is just as big a deal as Jack White.  And Sparky might as well be Old Yeller.

It just doesn’t matter.  She loves everyone and gives them all a chance.

Every morning after a perfect downward-dog, she tears into the backyard to chase squirrels.  She’ll run up and down the fence for an hour, barking at the top of her lungs.  I keep expecting her to give up, but she never does.

If I decide to take her for a run, she’ll immediately forget the squirrels and move to the pavement.  If I jog, she models my speed.  If I go faster, she hits another gear.  Fast, slow, walk, run.  It doesn’t matter, she’s ready to go.  She loves to move and always with perfectly relaxed form.

I think running tense is the biggest mistake we can make.  The body should flow and we should allow it to so without resistance.


She goes balls-out when awake, but doesn’t hesitate to get her rest.  They say dogs take on characteristics of their owner, and I have no reason to doubt them.

Recovery is probably the last thing on the mind of endurance athletes, yet it is the most important to remember.  When we’re worn down, no amount of sprints or light jogging or hill repeats rebuild our body.

She eats, sleeps, greets, flows and lives with passion.  Oh, and, unlike me, never turns down an invitation to ride.



VIDEO: First Pros Out of Water IM Chattanooga

VIDEO: First Pros Out of Water IM Chattanooga

Here’s Brandon Barrett and Eric Limkemann swimming, then running up the steep hill at Ironman Chattanooga.  Swim course criticism aside, these cats are going after it!

For more of this kinda stuff, follow us on Twitter @crushingiron and be sure to listen to the Crushing Iron podcast, available on iTunes.

Longevity and Consistency in Ironman Training

Imagine what it would be like to do 162 Sprint Triathlons from April to October for 17 straight years.

You don’t have to win, or even podium, but you have to show up . . . and finish.  Could you stay healthy and motivated enough to do it?

My slew of injuries got me thinking about longevity and consistency, which led me to Cal Ripken and his 2,632 consecutive games streak.  Talk about an Ironman.

cal-ripken-streak-consecutive-games-played-conspiracyI know what you’re saying, “It’s only baseball,” but let me tell you, I played baseball my whole life and it is very similar to triathlon.  You are constantly battling nagging injuries that beg for a day (or week) off.

Ripken should really go onto the triathlon circuit and speak about preparation and mental toughness.  I’m guessing his major theme would be to “stay within yourself.”

He didn’t dive for every ball, and didn’t risk hamstrings by over-extending for infield hits, he stayed patient, because just like Ironman, the Major League Baseball season is a grind.

His lifetime batting average was .276, which is basically 1 for 4.  Every night, he was one for four.

He studied opposing hitters more than any other shortstop and his defensive position was impeccable.  He saved steps and energy by being prepared.

Ripken wasn’t overly flashy, he just kept grinding his way toward the finish line. He managed pain and stayed with his game plan, regardless of who may have criticized his effort.

I am certain there were times in June when he “could” have swung for the fence to end the game with a dramatic home run, or dove to stop a ball from the outfield, but he knew that would put the end-game at risk.  His comfort pace was 9 minute miles and he rarely dropped to 8:30 early in a race.

I was a Brewers’ fan growing up and rarely liked opposing players.  Ripken was no different.  He was the enemy and often hurt my favorite team.  He was always there and I truly got sick of seeing him.

But now I can easily say he is one of my favorite and most respected athletes of all time.  Tons of guys put up better numbers and won more awards, but Ripken’s consistency is unparalleled.  And really, when you’re talking about racing, teammates or friends, what is more valuable than consistency?

Ripken understood one of the most valuable principles:  90% of life is showing up.

Or, maybe he carried Yogi Berra’s famous quote on his glove: “Baseball is ninety percent mental, the other half is physical.”