Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pro-to-Pro, Part Two!

By: John Paul Severin

Part II of Pro to Pro with bike hammer head, Andrew Starykowicz interviewing upcoming pro Jeff Paul.

Andrew: Coming from a running background and now crossing into triathlon, define suffering...is suffering in Triathlon and Running the same?

Jeff: Suffering…for me suffering has always been when physical or mental performance begins to decline due to the high stress levels a race can place on the body and mind. Suffering for me has definitely been different in running than triathlon.

Physical suffering, completely different…in running I know I’m suffering when my legs begin to tire and I completely fall off the pace. Most of the time after races when I look back the suffering was more mental than physical…i.e. I didn’t think I could handle the pace and thus my body slowed down. It’s a much different feeling in triathlon. I think of suffering in triathlon when my body is actually starting to restrict performance most often through cramping. It is why nutrition plays such a role especially in long course events.

In regards to the mental aspect of suffering for me it is totally different between (only running), and triathlon running. If I’m doing a running only race, I find myself wanting it to end as soon as possible. That mindset probably creates more physical problems because I think about how much it hurts. In triathlon I am quite the opposite. Because the run is where I can gain time on competitors I don’t want it to end. The longer we have to go the better. Mentally it is a huge plus because I wouldn’t want the race to end unless I’d gotten a chance to get to the front.
Andrew: What do you tell your friends when they:

- want to go out for a beer close to a race?
- want to go to an event and you have a big workout to get in?
- ask you how you are doing (and you are wasted from the days workouts)?

Jeff: The social life…oh boy. There's no doubt my time is restricted when I'm into full training mode. If it's during the school year I'm spending 40 hours a week working on top of 20-30 hours a week in total training time while trying to be a good husband and father of two young children. If a friend wants to go for a beer close to a race, I'll do what I almost always do when something comes up...I'll ask my wife for permission.

Sometimes I know not to even ask if I've been gone training a lot. My first thought would be on how much time I've been gone as opposed to the race since I don't think a beer would hurt. Now if they were going out late into the night partying I'd decline and tell them why because I want them to know what I'm committed to. Most of the time they don't ask any more because they know my plate's full.

Honestly, I don't think there are many events as important to me as some of the big races. I've invested so much time and sacrificed so much that it would not be worth missing a key workout unless the schedule allowed for the workout to be moved easily to a different day. When they ask how I'm doing after a tough day of workouts I normally tell them what I did and I don't have to say much more than that.

I think there are many people who don't understand why triathletes, even most age groupers put in the time they do training. Triathlon is an addictive sport and training for some becomes part of their lifestyle. They have to get it in. This can be fine if they keep other things in balance but I find it's toughest for me when I feel an injury or sickness coming on and I struggle to back things down.

In summary, I have told friends when I'm in full training that I really have no social life. Something's got to give in the circle of time and right now I'll sacrifice social life to pursue my dreams.

Andrew: What drives you?

Jeff: I’ve always loved to compete. I played about every sport out there growing up…even soccer which I terribly regret. One thing was always constant regardless of the sport I was competing in…I loved to compete and hated losing. It didn’t matter if I was racing my brother through a word search during church service, trying to throw the football through the tire swing in the back yard, playing one on one basketball games in the snow covered driveway…I loved to compete.

Even still today in my classroom I play my students in Connect 4…a game I’ve mastered. I tracked my success against them through the year and had 196 wins versus 5 losses last year. Each of those losses had me fuming on the inside although I tried to hide it from the class.

Two years ago, I started the summer at nearly 200 lbs. I’d been a recreational triathlete the past few summers. I almost decided to not race that summer because I was so fat and out of shape. Through the summer I lost about 25 lbs. and began having success in races. I started wondering how good I could be if I devoted everything.

I knew that would mean I’d have to stop coaching track and cross country during the school year. I’d just been named the head track coach for the upcoming season but the more I thought about going “all in” for something, the more I was drawn to the idea. I knew I had potential and the idea of finding out how good I could be was too good to pass up.

My wife and I sat down and talked about it and she threw her support in my corner. That was important because with two children (one at the time), I could not train as much as I do without her being in this journey with me. I have my whole life to get back into coaching…I want to spend a few years competing against the best in the world simply because I can.

When I’m done, I want to know there was nothing more. I’m on this journey to find my potential. It’s been well worth it. The journey has helped me to lose 49 lbs. from my peak of 202, and I have more energy for everything I do.

Andrew: Pertaining to your big race career that is just starting; would you rather have a career in triathlon of mainly mid pack (5th-10th place finishes) with one or two big wins or consistent podiums, but lacking the crown of race champion?

Jeff: If I had to choose between a career of consistent podium finishes or a bunch of mid-pack finishes with one or two big wins I’d definitely go with the mid-pack finishes with one-two big wins. This may be different if I stopped teaching and needed to be on the podium to support myself and my family financially.

With money not an issue, winning a big race would be something I would remember forever. It’s hard to imagine how many hours, how much pain, how many sacrifices go this entire journey…to win a big race would forever be a reflection of how much it took to get there. Part of what motivates me is finding out how good I can be in the sport.

When I stopped coaching to begin this journey my goal was get my pro license within 2 years. It was something I thought about every day in training. When I got it in October during year one, I wondered how my motivation would change now that I’d reached what I set out to accomplish.

Almost immediately, my focus went to proving to myself and others that I belong in the pro field. I’m inspired to find out how high up the ladder I can climb. If I could win one big race, I’d feel pretty good about how far I’ve come. In a different kind of way, I’m much like you in putting aside something (in your case the job and in my case coaching) to chase this dream.

A big win would be extremely meaningful in how far I’ve come. I had a lot of people who thought I was nuts because they knew how much I loved coaching and we’d had a lot of success winning three state cross country titles and one in track and field. The doubt of others only fueled my fire and I know there are those out there who think I’ll struggle in pro races. That fuel makes it easy to train hard.

Andrew: If you had the opportunity to have the talent of 1 athlete for one day, who would it be and why (PS: it does not have to be a triathlete)?

Jeff: If I could have another athlete’s talent for a day it would be Michael Phelps. I would use that talent to feel what it is like to swim much faster than I’m capable of. My hope is that by feeling the water like he does I’ll be able to do it myself when his talent leaves me. I see such tiny improvements with my swimming month after month and I feel it must be technique related. I watch videos of myself, videos of other…Phelps included, practice drills and technique…and I feel the same speed week after week. I’d like to have his talent for one day, but then learn from that experience so I can be faster for the rest of my life.

Thanks guys for phenomenal questions and responses. Great insights from both of you. I know both of you are dealing with setbacks in the form of injuries right now. Know that Evotri is behind you and wishes both of you a speedy recovery. For updates, check out Andrew’s Blog and Jeff’s as well. Both are excellent reads.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rolling Along

By Rural Girl

One thing I've wanted for quite a while has been rollers. I don't really have a concrete reason why. It just seems to me that if you can master rollers, for some reason, you can REALLY ride a bike. Yeah, doesn't make a lot of sense on paper, but after getting on the things a few times, there might be some truth to it!!

Evotri's awesome sponsor, CycleOps, graciously has provided me with a set of rollers. They came in March, just when our weather was starting to warm up. In other words, it was tooooo nice outside after our long hibernation to spend one more minute inside than was necessary. Patiently, they waited. Finally, there were a few one-hour recovery rides on my schedule, which provided the perfect opportunity to test myself.

I was nervous! I've heard the stories about people flying off the side and didn't want that to be me. There really would be nothing stupider (other than using the word 'stupider' because it just sounds stupid) than falling off my rollers, injuring myself in April, and messing up my whole racing season. See, since I fell off my bike in September, 2009 and broke my elbow, I have a little fear in me. I've come to the realization that I CAN BREAK! That never really occurred to me before. I'm NOT invincible! If I let my head get in the way, I get to thinking I'm some osteoporotic, frail, little lady. All of the things (osteoporotic, frail, little) I do not want to be; EVER!!! Thus, I force myself to do things that push me outside the box. Enough already!

The set-up is astronomically simple.

1) Pull them out of the box.

2) Put the cable into the groove between the first rear roller and the front roller.

3) Separate the legs until they are flat.

4) Place on a level, hard surface. (Cannot be on carpet. The weight of the bike and rider will cause the rollers to rub and drag on the carpet.)

5) Position the front roller. The front roller is to be just in front of the front wheel when the bike is placed with the rear wheel centered between the two rear rollers. The rear rollers are not adjustable.

Ready to roll! Ha! Ha!

My first time up was scary. I placed the rollers between two counters in my kitchen, both within arms' reach.

I would recommend this approach, if it is accessible. My husband tried to help by holding on to the back of the seat and providing some stability. Finally, I just told him to go away! None of that was helping. I had to figure it out on my own. It literally took me 20 minutes before I felt remotely able to leg go of the counter for a few seconds. Every time I let go I would try to continue spinning for a longer and longer period of time. Within a half-hour, I was rolling along unassisted. Yeah! I've used my rollers three times now and can happily say the second and third rides were way easier! Off the counter in just one minute and actually able to take a drink without having to come to a complete stop!

The key seems to be focusing on just riding and NOT the possibility of falling. Picking a focal point out in front about 5-10 feet helped me to stabilize. Other things that helped were consciously engaging my core and avoiding jerky movements. I noticed that there was a bit of a delay between an action in the front end and its transmission to the back end. In other words, after turning the handle bars, there was a slight time lag and then the movement in the back was felt. At first this felt weird and made me want to over correct the other way, which obviously perpetuates the weaving movement. That's when I felt most likely to fly off the side.

I think the benefits of mastering rollers are improved CONFIDENCE and STABILITY. And who couldn't benefit from a little bit of both!? This all adds up to mean better bike handling skills; something that comes in handy when situations get a little sticky, and quick action is needed. I'm a roller novice, and am certain that if I CAN DO THIS, ANYONE CAN! I have not yet developed the skill to go one-handed, pull my water bottle from the holder, or even get into the aero position to switch gears. But I'll get there, and when I do, I'll be a better cyclist because of it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Welcome Aboard!

Videos from all over the world poured in over the months of April and May in answer to our call for an addition to our team, and the competition was fierce. We would like to formally congratulate all these candidates for the Making the Team: 2010 selection process this year. You passion, creativity and enthusiasm for endurance sport was clear in your videos and in follow-up interviews. Thank you for reaching out to your communities to inspire those around you.

Sarah and husband Steve volunteering as wet suit strippers at Ironman Wisconsin.

It's always difficult to choose just one person from such an incredible pool of candidates but in the end, there can be just one. Please join us in welcoming Sarah Linder-Stenzel -- pharmacist, girl next door, and all around goodwill ambassador -- as the newest member of Team Evotri!

Though not a requirement for our selection process, Sarah has finished Ironman and several other triathlons, in addition to being an accomplished runner. You can find Sarah and her husband Steve braving the harsh Minnesota winters by racing nearly every weekend alongside a group of recruited family and friends - wow!

Sarah's mission in life is to see that those around her, especially those near and dear, follow a daily regimen of health, fitness and subsequent happiness. No matter where you are on the spectrum of inactivity or dispassion, after a short consultation with Sarah, be sure you'll have the medicine you need to turn it all around.

Welcome aboard, Sarah! We're thrilled to have you as the newest member of our family.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pro-to-Pro!

By: John Paul Severin

This dude can bike. 158:48 World Record @ 70.3 distance. Read on...

Now, readers... we're probably all a bit sick of me yammering on. So I stepped out of my pulpit this time and asked Half-Ironman bike split world record holder Andrew Starykowicz and rising pro Jeff Paul to interview each other! Here are Jeff's questions for Andrew. Stay tuned for Part II, where Andrew will flip the switch on Jeff.

Jeff: When you decided to turn professional in the sport, what were your biggest fears/apprehensions and how did you deal with or overcome those?

Andrew: When I got my pro card...It was a no brainer, I stayed in the age group ranks until I did everything I wanted to do as an age grouper (except for win nationals, which was canceled in 2005). I won the big races...Wildflower* (Olympic), Memphis in May, and Chicago* (*-Course Record) along the way picking up a podium at Age Group World Champs. So it was time for me to go race the big dogs.

On turning professional...giving up my great engineering job to chase my dreams. January 31, 2009 I gambled and took a severance package from Caterpillar (which 1/2 of my group was laid off in the following weeks) and never looked back. My biggest fear, not making it as a true professional triathlete. I really haven't overcome it, my ability to continue in the sport pends on my performances at local, regional, national, and international competitions. Yet, as soon as I take that first stroke, pedal rev, or step in a workout the thought about money or making a living is gone. It is about the love of it...because there is very little money in the sport, it sounds corny, but it is about the love of the game, and I got it bad.

Jeff: You’ve had great success in both Olympic distance and 70.3 race distances. How is your approach to those 2 races different in training and actual race execution? Which do you enjoy the most? What distance will we see you racing most down the road…say 5 years from now?

Andrew: Olympic distance is the heart of the sport to me. It is a race that, if done properly, is 110 min of flooding your body with lactic acid and denying suffering at a very intense level. The Olympic distance is about being aggressive start to finish, it is about getting seconds, not being able to speak or comprehend anything. It is about 1 thing, getting to that finish line, FAST. The half distance is a lot more controlled and a lot less fun. For me I just stick it 5-10% below Olympic distance intensity and play the waiting game until the tank runs dry. Usually that happens between miles 6-10 on the run. Then comes fantasy land, disillusion, and just put one foot in front of the other until that finish line.

I train for the Olympic distance and what I will do is put a half at the end of a block of races. Last summer: Decatur, Lifetime, Evergreen, New York, Steelhead. Last fall: Westchester, LA, Dallas, Clearwater. In training for Olympic distance you have the bare bones for the 1/2 distance. Your long swims, rides, and runs are close to 1/2 distance. Then there is the mental side. The pain threshold for Olympic distance training is so intense and requires so much more focus that when you go longer it is easier on the mind. The pendulum shifts from Lactic pain tolerance to confidence that you can hold your pace til the finish. To say the least, I preach Olympic distance. You can race it week in, week out and have enough energy to have a beer with your friends afterward.

Jeff: What inspired you to get started in triathlons? What was your background? When did you realize you could dominate on the bike?

Andrew: My good friend Adam Frankel bet me that he could beat me in a triathlon (he swam and ran). I blew him off. He tried this for the next 2 years, and then got really smart. He got my mom to do it. So if my mom, who had never raced or even run was going to do it, I had to do it. I did the race...I was 3rd out of the water, 2nd off of the bike, and finished 3rd (barely).

My background...I grew up playing soccer and started swimming freshman year of high school. By the time I was a senior I was an All American swimmer. My Junior year I gave up track due to my swimming frame and started Water Polo. When I went to college, I intended on becoming an engineer and swimming. The coach had other ideas and cut me...how is that for motivation?

I was faster than a few guys on the team and got cut. So I played polo in college and got more competitively into triathlon. I had the opportunity to start for a team that won Big Ten's and compete in collegiate national championships in 3 different sports (triathlon, cycling, and water polo).Domination of the bike...Genetically I got lucky on the bike. I have really long femurs, which help my biking (but kill my running).

Growing up I was always pedaling my bike everywhere. I had a need for speed and my bike was my transportation. While many of my friends got dirt bikes, I just chased them pedaling as hard as I could. When I started racing triathlon (on my mom's campus bike) I was able to hold my own. Then I got a road bike and started to have top bike splits and qualified for worlds. After four years in the sport, I got the privileged to ride my first TT bike and then I was untouchable (amongst age groupers). I was rolling thunder!

Jeff: What do you do on a day when you don’t feel like working out? Do you skip it? find a way to push through it?…play golf? In other words how do you handle the times when motivation for working out is low?

Andrew: Keeping my eye on the prize. I have a few sponsors that have invested money out of their pockets in me; I have coaches who sacrifice time with their family to help guide me, and I have a lot of supporters (friends and family) who are there to support me. When times get tough I think about those things and also the big picture.

We are building the Coliseum, the Parthenon, the Sphinx and each workout is a brick in the wall. A great workout is a good strong brick, a bad workout is a crumbling brick, but it is better than no brick at all. I am getting further into my career and there are a few areas where my foundation is not the best, but I am working on strengthening these areas now, so as my career continues these parts of my races and training will be structurally sound.

That said, the stronger and better the foundation and structure, the higher the peaks can be. So that is the big picture I think about.The rest is set into motion with that first stroke, revolution, or step of a workout. All I want to do is go faster, harder and it my coaches who prevent me from killing myself with lactic acid. Like I said, I love the sport and I in a sick twisted way I really like the ways it makes you suffer.

Jeff: If tomorrow was the last day you could ever train again, what would the day consist of?

Andrew: I would do a race w/ the same attitude and focus that I bring to the line at the big ones. Go big or go home crying. Swim hard and get out with the pack and then make them watch me ride away from them. Except in this race the officials will actually enforce the rules. Then I would get off the bike with leaden legs from pushing so hard on the bike and then have the run of my life. Would I win? Hopefully, but I would give it everything I had and then go and get a beer with some fellow athletes and supporters afterward.

If you were looking for a list of my favorite workouts...open water swimming in any body of water that is clear and you can see the seaweed, fish, and sand. Then there would be a bike. If we are talking an easy day, it would be a trail ride on the cross bike, a hard day, anything that makes my lungs burn and the pavement fly by. For running. If it is an easy day, trail running (catching a trend), a hard day, I just want to feel light and good and be fast! Then finish out the day with a good core body workout. Again, I would still be working on building that Parthenon one workout at a time.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Day I Lost the Detroit Ironman to a 10-Year-Old

By: Simply Stu

In a quest to add a new member to the 2010 Evotri team, I hope that we pick someone like Cory...

I was in the Detroit airport a few weeks back on a business trip. At my connecting flight gate, I took a seat next to a young boy that was about 10 years old. He was sitting next to his mom reading Triathlete Magazine. I laughed to myself as this kid turned the pages. As he continued to look at the magazine, I started to prepare for my presentation that was planned later in the day. After about 5 minutes the kid turned to me, tapped me on the arm and said, so what was your time? He caught me completely off guard, and I said, "I think the plane leaves at 9:45." He gave me this crazy look, pointed to my Ironman Wisconsin bag tag, and asked again: "What was your time in the Ironman?" Without letting me answer the question, he continued, "I hope you DID the race and don't have that bag tag to fake people out." I laughed again, and said, "Yes, I did do the race. Three times. Which time do you want?" He looked at me and said, "Lets start with the worst race first."

So the story began. I told him about my 2003, 2005, and 2007 Ironman Wisconsin races. He asked questions about my bike and running shoes. He continued with questions about what I drank and what I ate. By this time, his mom was listening in and seemed to be amused at the "grilling" I was getting from her son. The strange thing was that almost every question was about the "bad (2005)" race and not the "good (2003, 2007)" races I had. After about 30 minutes, he paused as if he was done. He sat back, closed the magazine and closed his eyes. I wasn't sure what to think. Was the conversation over? Did I say something wrong?

About two minutes later, his eyes came open. He gave a big smile to his mom. He turned to me and said, "Can you help me with something?" I wasn't sure what would come out of his mouth, but how could I say no? He smiled and said, "Let's race. If you can do three Ironman races, and I can beat you to the next gate, I bet I can do one when I'm older." I was in a suit and dress shoes in the middle of a busy Detroit airport. Was he kidding me? He turned to me and said, "Ok, let's run three gates, just like the swim, bike and run." At this point a few people had heard the conversation and couldn't wait to see this 10-year-old beat a guy in a business suit.

At first I thought his mom would discourage such an event, but she seemed overly pleased that this was going to happen. I turned to his mom and said, "He sure is convincing." She smiled and gave me the same nod she had given her son, and off we went to gate B15 in the middle of Detroit airport. We'd even made a deal that I would give him my Ironman tag if he won.

By this time, we had a nice cheering section. Cory (as I later learned was his name), was set to go. He said, "On my count of 3, we go. 1, 2, 3, GO!" We ran three gates down. I stopped three gates down, just a step in front of him - my hands in the air in victory. He smiled, turned around and ran back to B15. He slapped a few hands of those watching, taking victory straight from my hands! After giving him my Ironman Wisconsin tag, he said, "I can't believe you thought we would only run three gates out and stop; you should know that triathlons have one common transition area."

The plane ride was delayed for almost an hour, so I continued to talk with Cory and his mother. She explained that ever since he saw the Ironman on TV, this is what Cory what wanted to do. He swims, bikes and runs as much as he can.

The time finally came for us to load onto the plane. I sat in the very back of the plane, while Cory and his mom sat near the front. The plane ride lasted for about two hours, and I thought the Detroit airport race was over. As I left the plane, Cory had waited to give me a note. He smiled and said, "Read this later, OK??"

I pushed the note into my pocket and caught a taxi to my office. After about five minutes, I pulled out the note. Here is what it said:

"My mom wanted me to thank you for racing in Detroit. I wanted to thank you because people at my school don't think I can do this. One day, maybe I can give you your Ironman tag back when I get my own.

PS: You better not tell your friends that you got beat by a 10-year-old."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Team Evotri Bike Build!

Oh, how pretty is that!? And hey, the bike isn't bad either, huh?



Please allow us to introduce to you the newest member of Team Evotri -- the Specialized Transition Pro beast of a bike, built this past weekend at our wrenching whiz teammate, Chris Sweet's house! Stay tuned to meet its brothers and sisters; coming soon. In the meantime, click here for the stats!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Making the Team: 2010!

Today is the day, ladies and gentlemen! Make sure your video application for Making the Team: 2010 is uploaded and forwarded to us at makingtheteam at evotri.com by 11:59 PST tonight in order to be considered for the 2010 team slot. We're looking forward to reviewing your videos and to welcoming one of you aboard! Click here to review the contest guidelines and, if you haven't already done so, get rolling!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yoga and the Triathlete

By: TriSaraTops

Due to my pregnancy, I spent the greater part of the last year shifting my focus away from triathlon a bit. Being a pretty typical Type-A triathlete, I wondered what to do with all this new found time. How would I be able to still remain active while dealing with the changes during pregnancy? I managed to run through about 30 weeks and continued swimming almost right up to delivery, but I really fell in love with yoga. I am hoping to keep this up now that I'm getting back into training for the Rev3 70.3 in September.

But I know, I know. I know what you're thinking. "I have to train a gazillion hours already...how could I possibly squeeze in yoga on top of all my swimbikerunning?"

The simple answer is, I don't know--but you need to.

Yoga has many benefits for triathletes, but it tends to be the first thing triathletes cut out of their busy schedules. However, if you can make yoga a regular part of your training routine, you'll soon see that you will avoid injuries, recover faster, and wonder how you ever trained without it.

I spoke with Puma Reyes, owner of Puma Yoga and a fantastic instructor that I worked with while I was training for Ironman Wisconsin in 2006. I also practiced prenatal yoga with Puma over the past year and credit that in helping with my delivery and recovery. I asked her to convince you, the Type-A, short-on-time triathlete why yoga must become a regular part of your training routine. Here's what she had to say!

Q: What are the benefits of yoga for triathletes who spend so much time swimming, biking, and running?


Puma: Yoga brings focus and clarity to the triathlete; a consistent yoga practice can stabilize, strengthen, stretch and restore muscles which will improve your form, efficiency and build power. Practicing gentle yoga postures will not only help to open and stretch tight muscles, it will also encourage you to use your muscles more efficiently and in a full range of motion. Flexibility in both body and mind are key to the triathlete. As you begin to embrace and experience yoga, you'll see that it, too, can be quite challenging; similar to what you might experience during triathlon training. Keeping in focus and aware of the present without feeling overwhelmed builds confidence in oneself to remain calm no matter what happens. Having mental flexibility and remaining open are crucial in competition.

Q: Many triathletes have trouble fitting in their workouts into their busy days. What would you say to them about how important yoga is? Would you consider it a "fourth discipline" of triathlon?

I believe yoga is very important to an athlete whether your into competitive sports or are someone who enjoys working out at a gym. I would look at yoga as overall conditioning or cross training for the mind, body and spirit. It's something that you can incorporate into your 'daily diet'; yoga is a practice that can be done anywhere. It is a discipline that encourages strength not only in the physical, but the mental as well. There are core yoga moves that can be incorporated into part of your post training routines that can help you prevent injury and also teach you more subtle awareness of your body's center of gravity in different positions. Instead of reaching the finish line and setting a goal, yoga teaches us that what we do on our mat is a process; it's not about the end results; it's about how we got to the end. What was our experience?

3. What poses are good to balance out the muscles used in swimming, biking, and running?

Forearm Plank

Benefits:
Enhances core strength; stabilizes shoulder blades; builds balance and focus.

How-to: From your belly, bring your elbows under your shoulders, hands together. Curl your toes under (toes to the ground) and lift up to form a long line from head to heels. Stay for a few breaths, take a break, and repeat; build to 10 or more breaths at a time.

Variations:
To make the pose easier, keep your knees on the ground. To add intensity, reach an arm forward, (think of swimming), or back (when reaching for a water bottle when biking). You can also try alternating lifting one foot, then the other, to mimic the challenge of holding your core steady while running.

Crescent Lunge

Benefits:
Increases range of motion for the run, working to balance strength and flexibility in a split-legged stance.

How-to:
From hands and knees, line up your right foot with your hands, shin perpendicular to the ground. Slide your left knee back until you feel a stretch in the left hamstring and outer hip, as well as in the front of the right hip. Hold five to 10 breaths before changing sides.

Variations:
Keep your hands on the ground, or bring blocks or books under them if the ground feels too far. For a deeper stretch and balance challenge, take your hands to your knee or overhead.

Cross-legged Twist

Benefits:
Increases range of motion in the spine, critical in swimming; stretches chest gently; works to release tightness in the iliotibial band (IT band) and outer hip, which tighten during cycling and running.

How-to:
Rest on your back, right knee crossed over left, arms wide. As you exhale, roll to the left hip and let your legs drop to the left. Stay ten breaths or more before changing sides.

Variations:
If this feels too intense, rest your legs on a pillow rather than the ground. To deepen the stretch, keep the knees tightly together and raise them toward your left arm while keeping your right shoulder on the ground.

Supported Backbend

Benefits: Gently stretches the muscles of the chest and torso; counteracts the tightening encouraged by miles biking and at the desk; establishes a great position for breath exercises and awareness, as well as relaxation.

How-to: Fold a blanket into thirds so that it is long enough to support your spine from the waist through the head. Bring the bottom end of the bolster against the top of the sacrum and lie back so it supports your spine. If your low back feels crunched, bend your knees, keeping your knees together and walk your feet to the outside edges of the mat. This poses opens the chest and ribcage.

Q: How often should triathletes practice to see benefits?

Some gentle stretching can be incorporated everyday. My thought is that you begin or resume a yoga practice in your offseason of training. Why you might ask? It can give you a newer perspective on your body. Yoga is best learned in the presence of an experienced, patient and gentle teacher who will encourage you to be where you're at and not push you to go further. Look for classes geared toward beginners, gentle or alignment based classes. Here you'll learn the basics. Remember, yoga will be an enhancement to your workouts...not a workout in and of itself.

Thanks, Puma, for your thoughts and suggestions! I am looking forward to using yoga not only for strength, flexibility, and conditioning this season, but for my mental training, too. If you've never tried yoga, the benefits of it go beyond the physical. Holding poses teaches you to be "in the moment," which is critical for all triathletes--especially those in long-course racing. You'll be surprised how hard it can be to be still, present, and in the moment as you hold these poses. Once you master this, you can translate it to tough times on a ride, hitting the wall on a run, or dealing with anticipation and fear before an open-water swim. And all the while you'll be making your body leaner and stronger! What's not to love?

See you on the mat!