Below you’ll find a list of the common questions on training, racing, gear and other topics we commonly receive from our athletes. Of course, we’re always happy to talk face-to-face if you’re looking for more in-depth information. Athletes of all experience levels are always welcome to drop by the PowerHouse or contact us via E-mail.
Coaching and Training
- My life/job/obligations keep me pretty busy. How much time can I expect to spend training? Do I have to train every day?
- I’ve got some pain in my knee/ankle/shoulder/etc., but it’s not too bad. Can I continue to train?
- I’m a terrible swimmer. I can’t even complete a single 25-yard length of the pool without getting tired. What should I do?
- I’d like to come to a group swim, but I’m just not experienced/fit enough to do that yet. Right?
- I’m coming to a swim workout for the first time. What should I bring?
- What is a bike fit, and why do I need it?
- I’ve never ridden in a group/pace line before. What do I need to know before jumping in on a group ride?
- I’m coming to a spin class for the first time. What should I bring?
- Do I need to spend a ton of money on a bike to compete in a triathlon?
- Will a high end bike, race wheels, aero helmets and other gear make me “faster”?
Gear, Clothing and Accessories
My life/job/obligations keep me pretty busy. How much time can I expect to spend training? Do I have to train every day?
That all depends on your goals. Many athletes come to us with the simple desire to increase fitness and complete their first sprint distance triathlon. More seasoned triathletes often seek our help in improving speed and endurance with the goal of placing in their age group (at various race distances). And, of course, completing an IRONMAN event is another common goal for those willing to take on the challenge. PowerHouse Racing coaches athletes from a variety of ages and backgrounds, and most of our clients are working professionals with families and other important responsibilities that demand a large portion of their time. We’ll work with you to develop a training regimen that fits into your busy schedule. An average weekly training load for many of our athletes will fall in the 8-10 hour range, depending on goals and upcoming race distances.
I’ve got some pain in my knee/ankle/shoulder/etc., but it’s not too bad. Can I continue to train?
Easy there. Many novice endurance athletes, and especially triathletes, live by the “no pain, no gain” mentality. Harder is always better, right? Wrong. The triathlon training equation is a lot more than just working hard on the swim/bike/run. Proper rest and recovery are vital if you want to see consistent, long-term improvement in your fitness and race times. Little aches and pains, minor swelling and other seemingly small injuries can turn into big problems when not addressed immediately. Some muscle soreness is to be expected, especially for those new to the sport. But if you find your soreness lingering from one workout to the next, or if you have any type of joint or ligament pain, or any pain that causes trouble sleeping, please TELL US. It’s better to take a week off to rest a small injury than to potentially be sidelined for months with a major issue. If your injury is something that requires the attention of a medical professional, we can put you in touch with some of the finest sports medicine doctors in the area to help get you back on track.
I’m a terrible swimmer. I can’t even complete a single 25-yard length of the pool without getting tired. What should I do?
Come swim with us. No, really. We know you think you’re a terrible swimmer. We know your swim fitness is lacking. Lucky for you, we have the answer: spend time in the pool. You don’t go from a couch potato to a marathon runner in a week. And you don’t become a competent swimmer sitting in your bed watching YouTube videos of Michael Phelps. Trust us when we say that you are NOT the first person to be intimidated by the idea of swimming. We know it’s not easy to show up in front of a bunch of people you don’t know, and attempt something you don’t think you’re very good at, but that’s how we all started out. Give us a try.
I’d like to come to a group swim, but I’m just not experienced/fit enough to do that yet. Right?
See the answer above. There’s no such thing as “too bad” or “too slow” to take part in a group swim workout. Swimmers are grouped in lanes by experience and average pace. Our primary goal is to put you in a situation where you feel comfortable and can learn from the coach, as well as your fellow swimmers. A group swim is not a race or a competition, it’s an environment where everyone is constantly learning and pushing themselves to get better. Seriously, give it a try. What you’ll find is a welcoming group of people, many of whom started out just as “bad”, if not worse, than you think you are at swimming.
I’m coming to a swim workout for the first time. What should I bring?
So we finally convinced you to come swim, huh? If it’s your first time, don’t worry about anything beyond your goggles and a good swimsuit (and a swim cap if you want to protect your hair, especially the ladies). And while we’re on the topic of swimsuits, that thing you wear at the beach or hanging out in your back yard is probably not the best option for lap swimming – nothing loose-fitting. Most men wear jammer style bottoms. Women will want to pick up a one-piece designed for fitness swimming. Many of our workouts also employ the use of kick boards, pull buoys and paddles. If you’re new to swimming you probably have no idea what these are or how they’re used. That’s fine. Just show up with a good attitude and we’ll fill you in on the rest.
What is a bike fit, and why do I need it?
You’ve been riding bikes since you were a kid with no problem. So why all the sudden do you need to be “fit” for that new triathlon or road bike? An individualized measurement and bike fitting session serves several purposes: it improves a rider’s overall comfort on the road, reduces injury risk by ensuring proper body alignment, and helps minimize fatigue by placing the rider in the most natural and efficient position for using the major muscle groups. In addition to observing general positioning and pedal stroke, the rider’s shoes and cleats are often adjusted to ensure a “clean” up-and-down leg motion throughout the stroke.
I’ve never ridden in a group/pace line before. What do I need to know before jumping in on a group ride?
We’re a pretty easygoing group here at the PowerHouse, but this is one subject that definitely needs to be taken seriously. There are dozens of elements that go into a successful group ride: communication, preparation (both body and bike), knowing one’s limits, knowing the riding styles and tendencies of those around you, and the list goes on. Throughout the year we offer bike clinics as well as beginner-friendly “no-drop” rides (a no-drop ride is one in which a rider will never be separated from the pack due to a mechanical issue or simply not being able to maintain pace), and these are great opportunities to learn the basics of riding in numbers. Group riding on public roads isn’t rocket science, but it does have to be approached with a dose of respect and caution.
I’m coming to a spin class for the first time. How does that work? What should I bring?
Bike, cycling shoes (if you’re using clip-in pedals), water bottle, towel. That’s it! Our spin classes begin at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons at the PowerHouse. NOTE: The actual workout begins at 6:30. We recommend showing up at least 10-15 minutes early to get your bike set up in the trainer (if you’ve never done this, just ask someone next to you, they’ll be happy to show you how it’s done), fill your water bottle and handle any other pre-workout business. You can bring your own trainer from home if you’d like, or just use one of ours, we have plenty. Our spin workouts are coordinated around heart rate zones. If you don’t know your heart rate zones, that’s fine. You can still follow the workouts based on perceived effort. If you plan to attend spin regularly or start a full training plan, we recommend talking to a coach about setting up a threshold test (this is how your heart rate zones are determined). Threshold tests are performed during spin class and take 20-30 minutes. AFTER CLASS: Several athletes will run a short 1- or 2-mile route (easy pace) after the spin workout. Make sure you bring your running shoes if that’s your plan. After the run it’s time to hang out, cool down, and have a beer with your new friends (We usually keep Shiner Bock on tap. Or feel free to bring your own favorite brew.). PowerHouse staff will be available after the workout if you need to purchase anything from the pro shop.
Do I need to spend a ton of money on a bike to compete in a triathlon?
Absolutely not. Is your bike safe to ride? Yes? That’s the only requirement. Go attend or volunteer at a local triathlon. You’ll see plenty of tri and road bikes, but you’ll also see a number of mountain bikes and recreational models. If you get your feet wet in the sport and decide you’d like to take the plunge and make the investment in a bike, we’ll be here to help you make the right decision. But until that time, ride what you’ve got and have fun doing it.
Will a high end bike, race wheels, an aero helmet and other gear make me ride “faster”?
Yes… and no. Think of it like this: You can take a minivan and add racing tires, a spoiler, and all sorts of other gadgets in an effort to make it faster, but ultimately it’s the power of the engine that’s going to determine the true potential of that vehicle. The same is true when it comes to you and your bike, except that engine is YOU. High-end aerodynamic bike frames, time trial helmets and deep-rimmed wheels all operate on the idea of making the cyclist more efficient by reducing drag. That’s a good thing. But if you’re aerobic engine is less like a sports car and more like a Ford Pinto, you’ll never be able to take full advantage of the efficiency increases provided by the aforementioned components. So, yes, investing in accessories that cut down on drag will help your overall bike times, but your biggest improvements will come from time spent on the bike and a consistent training regimen.
How do I know how fast and how far I should be running?
That’s a great question without an easy answer. When you sign up for a PowerHouse training plan, most of the running (and cycling, for that matter) you’ll be asked to do will fall into the “easy” category. The problem is that the definition of “easy” is subjective, and many athletes tend to push beyond the easy aerobic threshold without realizing it. Over time this can leave the athlete feeling fatigued, mentally burned out, injured, or all of the above. We use a few different tests to help clients be more self-aware about their effort levels during their training: cycling power (if you have a power meter), cycling heart rate threshold and running time trials. From these tests we can assign real, measurable values (heart rate zones) to different training intensities. Often times athletes are surprised to discover they’ve been training in a much higher heart rate zone for their “easy” effort workouts than they’d originally thought. It’s also important to note that there are a number of factors (beyond aerobic fitness) that can influence heart rate from one workout to the next (sleep, diet, stress, etc.). Therefore, it’s essential for the coach and the athlete to constantly analyze workouts, average heart rate, level of perceived exertion, general level of fatigue and other factors to ensure the athlete does not fall into the realm of over-training. All of these ongoing observations will go into determining optimal training load, intensity and paces.
What are the advantages of training with a heart rate monitor? Do I really need one?
Our training plans hinge on two key factors: heart rate zones and time. Monitoring heart rate zones, along with other factors, is a good way to keep an eye on an athlete’s progress, as well as guard against over-training (for more on the role of heart rate zones and training intensities, check out the discussion above on “How do I know how fast and how far I should be running?”). That’s not to say you can’t train without a heart rate monitor, but it is a valuable tool that provides observable data that’s useful for coaches and athletes.