Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tri Tips: Swim Coach Laura McPhie- Kick: How, Why and When?

From Nic: Recently was contacted by about sharing an article. They are an online swim training program that allows you to customize your program along with stroke analysis and personalized coaching options. I thought this was a perfect article to share as many of us are heading into off season and will be in the pool during the winter. Laura also shared a swim set for you to try out (plastic ziplock not included).  Read more about Laura and L2Swim at the end of the article. 

Kick: How, Why and When?
By Laura McPhie at

Lets talk about kicking in practice. Historically, triathletes have tended to be anti-kick, often falling on the argument that triathletes shouldn’t kick during a race so not to kill their legs, so they don’t need to practice kick with kick focus sets. More recently, swim coaches have been on the debate of kick with a board or without one. I’m a fan of moderation. Kick should be used by everyone for fitness, body position and propulsion but there is a right time and place for a kick-set and there is a point of diminishing returns.

Kick is an excellent way increase your effort in practice without worry of stroke breakdown – aka. you can go harder for longer without practicing bad habits. Anytime my swimmers hit the water after being away from it for any period of time, we kick fast first while working good quality swimming and then integrate in high effort or heart rate control swimming later in the training period. I find it encourages all the negatives that kick can provide when done badly – lazy body position and incorrect leg use.

That leads into the second reason kick is excellent and my argument for triathletes doing kick sets – body position work. Your legs and core are what dictates your position in the water. Men have a tendency drag their legs and women settle either really high or low with their hips. Either way means you are using your legs improperly, have poor efficiency and need more energy for swimming. The more you kick, the more you train your muscles to settle with ease into the right place. The ideal is that you control how much effort it takes to use your legs for proper body position at the surface of the water and for pace change. Triathletes, my reason for you kicking is so that during a race, your legs are strong enough to hold your body position and still get out with legs ready to race. The care is to not overwork the kick and shift the balance of muscles to one not optimal for biking and running (not my love for moderation).

Propulsion is a little easier to understand. Clearly kick moves you forward (unless you happen to be one of the unfortunate few that is currently literally kicking backward, point your toes and get your feet up, it will help). The efficiency of that forward propulsion is sometimes debatable. You want the effort expended to align with the speed gained. This takes a bit of time a patience. Make sure your kicking from your hip and upper legs and your feet are near the surface of the water. Try to isolate your legs and keep your head and body still during the kick-only parts of the set. Keep the kick small and contained with a constant (quick) rhythm.

Finally, because everyone loves some drama, the swim debates regarding kick. I have been all out attacked for my stance on kick, normally online by Triathlon enthusiasts. The attack is normally that kick on a board is bad for swimmers, creating an awkward position in the water. Agreed, which is why mixing it up is nice. I have taken my stance from a variety of coaches, but more recently from Canadian high performance coach Ben Titley. Kick with a board, but not all the time and when not kicking with a board, do so in a useful body position. Now his swimmers and my swimmers and the swimmers of L2Swim have very different reasons to do kick, but generally swimmers are poor at kicking and a variety of types of kicking at a high pace will improve that. For newer swimmers, I like kick for all the above reasons and because it increases comfort and confidence in the water.

Hope that helps increase your understanding of why we kick!



2 or 3x

75 BP Kick  on 10 sec rest

  • BP Kick: Hold a position right before you start a pull and after your recovering hand has left the water.
  • top hand is palm down fingers down.
  • head in line with that arm, in a neutral position.
  • body tilted on its side, trying to be long in the water, make sure your hips aren’t sitting backward.
  • recovering arm is out of the water, bent with a high elbow and a loose wrist.

25 Fast on 30 sec rest

  • as far as you can Underwater Kick
  • surface on your back and kick the remaining distance.

3 x 50 Kick on Board - Best Average on 1:10/1:20/1:30 or 30 sec rest

100 DPS on 30 sec rest

Laura.JPGIf you need a breakdown of their jargon, ck out their FAQ HERE

Info about Coach Laura:

Ms. McPhie has over twelve years experience as a competitive swim coach. her experience ranges from beginner triathletes to Olympic swimmers. She has served as assistant age group coach for the Guelph Marlin Aquatic Club, head coach for the University of Western Triathlon Club, and assistant youth coach for the Toronto Swim Club. In the 2013/2014 season Laura will serve as the Head Age Group Coach of the Dorado Stars.
Like all of TriBloggers posts, this post is NOT sponsored.  
Just helping share the sport of triathlon and those in the industry.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tri-Life: TeamRWB interview with Zack Armstrong

I recently met Zack Armstrong, Midwest Regional Director with Team RWB, and asked for him to answer a few questions about himself and the organization.  I love what Team RWB stands for and it is very easy to get involve with them.  I am a firm believer that endurance sports are more than just competing for yourself and this organization is a great way to give back. 

Tell us a little about yourself and your endurance background?  My endurance career started in 2004, as my collegiate baseball career was coming to a close. I immediately immersed myself in the endurance culture and have never looked back. Triathlons were my first passion, and it was not too long before I attempted and completed Ironman Lake Placid (my brother Nick and I will be participating in 2014). Several other events followed including: the JFK 50, American Triple-T, various 70.3's, Marathons, and many more. It would be fair to say that I'm an active person, and endurance sports has provided me the opportunity to meet thousands of friendly people, that I may not have met otherwise. While making new friends within the endurance community, I feel privileged to help bring newcomers to the Team Red, White & Blue Family and share an active lifestyle with them.

What was your appeal with TeamRWB before becoming involved with the organization? I come from a military family. My Grandfather (Otto), Uncle (Greg), & Brother (Nick) all served in the Army (WWII, Korea, Bosnia, Afghanistan & Iraq respectively). My older brother (only brother) means the world to me! To say that Nick is the greatest influence in my life is an understatement. Team RWB has served as an amazing outlet for my family, and has enabled us all to become closer than ever. There is nothing more important to me than connecting our nation's Veterans to their communities and enabling them to serve and lead again!

What is TeamRWB? Team RWB is an all-inclusive non-profit that builds resilient communities by connecting America's Veterans to their community through physical and social activity. Our Chapters & Communities deliver consistent, local opportunities for Veterans and the community to connect through unique and meaningful physical and social activity. We host weekly fitness activities, monthly social and volunteering events, and participate in local races and events together. By doing this, we are able to help active duty and recently discharged Veterans transition back into civilian life. Additionally, Veterans of all ages have joined our ranks to connect with our Team, and enjoy the camaraderie that comes along with Team RWB. We are seeing positive results all across the country by giving our men and women a new sense of "duty" or purpose.

Who can be a part of RWB and how can people contribute?
Team RWB is all-inclusive and it's Free! The best way to contribute is to give part of yourself to the Team and become active. We feel it is critical for Veterans to be connected to their Community. Civilians, or Community Members as we call them, are an important part of who we are at Team RWB and I highly encourage community members to become active in our local chapters.
Taken from TeamRWB's facebook page:  at West Point Triathlon
What are some of your most successful programs used from donations? Donations made to Team RWB directly fund our local programming. We use donations to eliminate barriers to entry for our Veterans to get physically active. We have procured running shoes, bicycle tubes, and swim goggles. Donations have helped local chapters create several unique events such as Stand-Up Paddleboarding on Lake Michigan. In 2011, 90.9% of expenses went towards our programs.

What if someone wants to help out and you don't have a local group formed?? (maybe could be a plug to start new groups?) Team RWB is growing rapidly. We believe Veterans are leaders, and we are looking for our Veterans & Community Members to volunteer and lead in several ways. If there is an interest in volunteering your time as a leader, or in general, please feel free to contact me at If someone is interested in starting a Chapter in their local area, they may learn more here

Taken from TeamRWB's facebook page

Connect with TEAM RWB:


Sunday, October 13, 2013

#14 Tri-Friend- Jenny Leiser

Hope all of you had an awesome weekend.  Between IM Kona and Chicago Marathon, there was a lot of tracking athletes mixed in with football (did you see the PSU/Michigan Game!?!)  

Excited about our next tri friend, Jenny Leiser.  Ck her out!!!

1. Tell us a little about yourself in a few sentences?
My name is Jenny Leiser and I reside in Charlotte, NC. I have competed in triathlon events off and on for the past 9 years but I made the leap to go pro. I have a swimming background and continue to work hard to improve my cycling and running legs. I work full time as a forensic chemist and log in 18-20 hours of training most weeks. I spend my down time with my four rescued cats and we taking foster kittens for the Charlotte SPCA.

2. How did you come about the decision to turn pro?  Was this a hard or no brainer decision to make?
I was fortunate enough to make the qualification standard at two events. Since I work full time I wasn't sure apply for my pro cars but the right move but I saw it as a once in a lifetime opportunity. I mean, I am not getting any younger, right? I know racing among pro  athletes who train full time would be a challenge but only in accepting the challenge will I be fully rewarded with all my hard work.
3. How have your goals changed since going pro?
Since I have a swimming background, I thought I could rely on the swim-bike portion of the race to make up for my weakest leg, running. The women out there are phenomenal runners so I knew I would have to step up my game a bit. I have been working really hard on improving my run and the hard work has paid off so far. I have enjoyed the process of leaving my swimming days behind gaining the confidence of being a well rounded triathlete.
4.  Have to ask, as a forensic chemist, do you have cool music/lighting when you are in the lab like in CSI?   ... ok, real question... how has balancing your training/full time job been since going pro?  any different?
Sadly forensic chemistry is not nearly as glamorous as it looks on TV. I have a set schedule, 8-5, where I spend most of my day in my lab running testing and shuffling paper work. Several times a month I am asked to testify in court to explain what I do in the lab and how I have to the conclusion I did regarding a piece of evidence. Having a regular schedule helps to keep me balanced. I workout before and after work everyday. In order to do this, I definitely make sacrifices but I always make time for those I care about. I also make sure I leave time for me that does not involve swimming, biking, or running. I spend most of my down time at home experimenting in the kitchen with vegan/vegetarian recipes. I also like to knit. Knitting is a type of meditation for me that has no competitive aspect to it. I give away everything I knit so it is a rewarding past time.
5. One tip for individuals with a pool swimming background transitioning to open water.  
Transitioning from the pool to the open water is easy you just have to be confident in your ability. A lot of people get in open water situations and panic. This just makes this worse for everyone. Calm your breathing and relax, even with so much going on around you. The more you can relax and continue swimming the better you will feel. Pool swimming is very rhythmic. No matter what breathing pattern you are conformable you can stick with it lap after lap. When you are swimming open water it is ok to deviate from that pattern so that you can breathe when it best suits you and you can sight buoys when you feel like you need guidance. If you feel like you are off course, it is ok to take a few moments to stop, tread water, and reorient yourself with the buoys before continuing.

6. Will you share with us your favorite swim work out?
I like to mix it when I am in the pool. I enjoy doing other strokes, incorporating kick sets, and 25 sprints. Sometimes I write swim sets for me and a couple of buddies. Of course we make it a little competitive. I wrote this one last December. It was a lot of fun and everyone enjoyed competing for the "King of the Mountain" title:
Main Set:
KOM -  Who will it be? Please take :30 rest between each set of two
-       2x 100 on 2:00
-       2x 100 on 1:55
-       2x 100 on 1:50
-       2x 100 on 1:45
-       2x 100 on 1:40
-       2x 100 on 1:35
-       2x 100 on 1:30
-       2x 100 on 1:25
-       2x 100 on 1:20
-       2x 100 on 1:15
-       and so on . . .
RULES: To be crowned KOM you have to do 2x 100 in a row at the said interval. If you make 1x 100 but miss the second one you have one chance to redeem yourself. ONE CHANCE! Take :60 to recover and start over where you missed. If you make those 2, continue descending the interval from there. FOLLOW JENNY AT:
@trikitten on IG

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Giveaway!!! for the ladies!

I recently heard of the company Spandits! and really liked what this company was about.  
The company was founded by women athletes, all their products are made in Maine and cleared by the owners before they are shipped to customers.. talk about personal service!!!  
Really love what they are about!

Straight from their website:
"When you spend up to three hours a day wearing spandex tights, you get tired of rotating from black to gray to navy and back to black again. That’s why, after combing through hundreds of store racks, we decided it was time to start our own venture. We’re both mothers, running coaches and marathoners, so not only do we have active lives, but we also interact daily with athletes of different ages and get to hear their input as to what they look for in quality athletic apparel.

We are a small local Maine business. Each piece you order from Spandits!™ is made with care from start to finish by us, and then inspected by us, the owners, before we ship it to you." 

They have lines for Women, Men , Youth and Accessories
After contacting them, they gave me a skirt to raffle off to a lucky reader!! (tropical tie dye color)  The skirt is just that with no shorts/bottoms underneath which makes it perfect for something to throw over your tri kit if you want a little touch of femininity on your bike/run. It is a size medium and would fit most ladies in the size 8-10 range.

Good LUCK!  Winner picked next week!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 7, 2013

New Blogs

Jenny Leister - (NC) Criminalist by day, pro-triathlete by early morning, comatose by night.  **Tri-Pro interview coming soon!

NormalGuyTri (WA) -Just a normal guy who likes to do triathlons. Short distance, that is (Sprint/Olympic).

John Flynn- (NC) Triathlete, Software Developer, Tattoos, Ironman. Christian, Husband, Father, KCCO, I love to train hard and eat healthy

Rachel (Chicago)- Just completed 1st Ironman (IMWI 2013) Blog about training, injury treatment/prevention (I'm a PT), and training/racing with Crohn's/ulcerative colits.

Linda Kay Richards (Toronto, CA) -Mom to 2, Ironman triathlete, runner, workout-addict, and lover of the sun. Currently training for Miami70.3 and A race IM Cozumel 

Cynthia (Wash DC)- mom of 3 little kids trying to balance running and triathlon training with working FT and traveling. Just completed my first sprint triathlon with the goal of signing up for bigger triathlon goals next season and beyond.

Steph Hance (SC) - engineer by trade, but I also enjoy participating in the activities mentioned in my blog's name - though generally not all at once.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tri-Life: Interview with Race Director and USAT Coach Jeremy Brizzi

People seemed to really like the interview with RD Colleen, I wanted to reach out to another.  I didn't have to look far as my friend, Jeremy Brizzi, is the Race Director for Leon's Triathlon in Chicago.  Check out his interview and my hard-hitting questions. Also, Crush will be hosting a Kona Live Viewing party at Ale Syndicate in Chicago.  All ChiTriBloggers are invited!   Hope to see you there.  Info and RSVP here
  1. Tell us a little about your experience as a Race Director?  In 2011 I began corresponding with the Legendary Leon Wolek, Race Director for Leon's Triathlon.  I worked my first full season with Leon in 2012 and in 2013 the fruits of my labor began to be realized, bringing to Leon's Triathlon the Special Qualifier status for the USAT National Championships, host of the Best of the US Championships, ParaTri friendly certification, relationships with Team In Training and Team RWB.  I also serve Elkhart Lake Multisport under the direction of Jeff Grady.  Both Leon and Jeff have been mentors to me, have helped me develop my vision, and together they truly give me a very wide spectrum into the possibilities available within our sport.  My interest in race directing was actually sparked in 2009 when I first entered triathlon.  From day one I was hooked.  I read everything I could get my hands on and quickly began to realize that the Mideast Region is underserved when it comes to Long Course and Ultra Distance races.  My passion for triathlon became a goal to bring these distances to the Chicagoland area .  With this idea, Crush Multisport was formed and planning began for the Crush Race Series.  We are finally set to launch August 3rd, 2014 with an Olympic & Sprint distance event in Winthrop Harbor, and a Long Course and Ultra Distance event in Crown Point, IN on September 27th, 2015.  
  2. Have you seen a problem with AG triathletes and doping?  What can realistically be done to avoid this?  I've read the occasional report about Age Groupers doping.  It is interesting to me that this would be an issue and honestly, who knows how large of a problem it actually is?  Age Groupers aren't typically tested and as a result, there is no fear of getting caught.  Likewise, triathlon is an affluent sport with a pretty high average annual income.  This tells me that a large number of participants can afford the drugs necessary to dope and with almost no reason to fear getting caught.  I like to think that the vast majority of athletes out there are clean and feel sorry for any individual willing to poison his or body and sacrifice both character and integrity.    It isn't until you start talking World Championship level competition that testing of Age Groupers takes place.  In terms of what can be done to reduce the number of Age Group dopers?  That's an interesting question.  I don't see much happening in this department.  My only suggestion is education, education, education.  Hopefully, informing athletes of the risks that they're taking with their lives will be enough of a deterrent, but this logic is flawed in that someone willing to cheat isn't likely to be overly concerned.
  3. What do you see the most common infractions for seasoned AG'ers being? Any advice to avoid these problems.  In addition to being a Race Director, I'm also a  Cat 3 Official.  This may come as a surprise but the most common infraction in Triathlon is likely athletes wearing or carrying headphones or devices that can play music on their person.  People too believe that just taking the headphones out of their ears is enough.  Not true.  Even if you're not using the device but it is with you, it's a time penalty.  Position fouls like blocking and drafting come second.  What I would like to see is a lifetime ban given to athletes who are aggressive toward Race Directors.  Too often, athletes come to races and treat volunteers terribly.  I always make a point of thanking our race organizers and volunteers regardless of the day I am having.  And yes, you can be disqualified from an event for verbal abuse.  
  4. You are preparing to bring a full distance triathlon to Chicagoland, how has this process been?  So far the process has been an unbelievable experience.  Sitting with the mayors and community members, communicating with the DNR, seeking sponsors, freaking out about finding hundreds of volunteers, budgeting, registration, permits, creating scenic courses with perfect roads only to find that construction crews plan to demolish half of your course or that roads cannot be closed, etc, etc, etc....  I love every second of it.  There is nothing easy about it and I'm only about 1% into the commitment,  but its an understatement when I say that I'm excited for the challenge.  The Crush Race Series is going to deliver safe, enjoyable, challenging, and well-organized events that are unique, exciting and give back to the communities but with a fair price that athletes deserve.  I strongly feel that race organizers don't do nearly enough to advance the sport and that corporate organizations like Ironman fail hard in their support of professional athletes, instead charging age groupers far too much while pocketing their millions.  Take away Kona and we would all be doing Rev or Challenge! It is my strongest desire to host races that make athletes feel catered to but also allow professional athletes to earn a living making money representative of the amount of effort that they put in.  A few thousand dollars may seem like a lot of money for eight hours work but when you can only race that distance a hand full of times per year, well, professional athletes should be making ten times that for doing well at events!  This is something I fully intend to deliver but the only way that happens is registration.
Jeremy Brizzi is USAT Certified Level I Coach, Race Director, and Cat4 Official. He also founded Crush Multisport, a Chicago Triathlon and Ultramarathon training team. He has attended races across the nation, including Kona in 2011 and somewhere along the way he began to recognize that there was a new direction for the sport as well as the necessary confirmation that a great market exists within his own Mideast Region. This has lead to his goal is to bring more Ultra Distance racing to Chicago.

Follow Jeremy and his team at: