Sunday, March 30, 2014

Headsweats Giveaway!!!!

A giveaway for all those people that have emailed me asking if if the blog is still alive.  Definitely appreciate you checking up on me and look forward to posting more once the season gets going.  Till then, Lets do a Giveaway!  A HEADSWEATS Giveaway!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tri-Coaching: The Benefits of Swimming with a Group

Life has finally started to fall into place for me personally and look forward to keeping up the blog a bit more which is perfect timing as the season is about to start. And with that, here is an article from TZ Coaching on the benefits of group training from TZ Coaching.  Tony also has written an article for us about the benefits of group biking for us!  (NON-sponsored post)

Swimming with a Buddy: The Benefits of Swimming with a Group 
By: Brett Collins - U.S. Masters Swim Coach
Since we finally got all the pieces in place to start up our swim program for the winter session I've been immersed in old notes, books, and articles developing the workout plan for this season and it got me reminiscing about my athletic path that has brought me to where I am today. Although I call myself a triathlete today, I come to the sport by way of swimming and I am still a swimmer, and always will be, at heart. From junior high through college I was a member of various swim teams basically year around for over 10 years and being involved with those teams have truly shaped who I am today.

This is probably no surprise, but things are often better in a group setting and swimming is no exception. The repetition of laps in the pool can wear down even the most bull-headed of us, especially when swimming alone, but swimming in a group not only helps breakup the monotony it also provides a plethora of other perks. First, for those who like structure group swims provide a formal workout plan every day, week, month, and season; this is a side effect of limited pool space, since you can’t have four people in a lane all trying to do four different things. With that structure also comes needed variety (even after swimming for 15 years I somehow end up doing very similar sets every time I show up to the pool without a workout in hand). Also with this structure comes valuable feedback, drills, and lessons from a coach to improve your form. One thing that I can’t repeat enough is that swimming is dominated by technique: pick up any book on swimming and you’ll read about coaches going on and on about distance per stroke or strokes per length at a given pace. You’d be surprised how sometimes a simple tip, observation, or pinpoint drill can unlock some speed.

But besides the obvious and technical aspects that come with swimming with a team, the most valuable aspects of group swimming are the people. Taking an excerpt from multiple leadership courses, one of the best things you can do is build your social network (and I’m not referring to your number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers). Your fellow training partners, competitors, and ultimately friends bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the pool that they’re willing and eager to share. Swim training is not a cookie cutter sport when it comes to training and most programs are pretty secretive on their training philosophies. Because of this a group of adult swimmers often have a broad spectrum of training experience that can make practices exciting and you’re likely to learn something just as valuable from a fellow swimmer as the coach on deck. Finally, one of the most interesting aspects of performing swim sets in a group is the respect and bond that forms as people struggle to complete tough sets and then share the satisfaction upon completion; in the most challenging of sets swimmers often work together taking turns leading, drafting, and consciously (or unconsciously) encourage one another to push a little harder – stretch a little further – achieve a little bit more than previously thought. If you’ve never swam in a pool with others performing the same set, I’ll tell you that it’s great motivation to keep the person in the next lane over from passing you, or trying to keep up with the person in front of you, or pull away from the swimmer behind (there’s no such thing as pulling away and out of sight in a pool).

The best friendships I’ve derived throughout my life have come from the situations previously mentioned and some of the strongest are through my college club swim team, which was as much focused on socializing as competing; you don’t have to be an elite swimmer to share these type of experiences, create these type of bonds, and learn from those with more (or less) experience. Thus, to wrap up this week’s post if you want to improve your swimming I strongly recommend getting involved with a swim team or group swim program. Whether it’s the structured workouts, tips and tricks, new ideas for sets, formal feedback, motivation, encouragement, or friendships gained I believe that that it will be well worth your efforts.
Miami Redfins Club Swim Team February 2007.

About the author:
Brett Collins is a lifelong competitive swimmer who started competing in triathlons after college. Brett is a certified U.S. Masters Swim Coach where he has coached Age Group and Master's swimmers dating back to 2004 and now is the head swim coach for triathlon focused swim programs with TZCoaching in the Chicagoland area. Follow Brett through his weekly blog at

Note from Tony – I completely agree with what Brett wrote here. Swimming in high school was one of the first team sports I ever did. I really felt a sense of teamwork, respect and camaraderie that I’ve carried with me throughout my life, and in fact is one of the reasons I wanted to give back as a coach!
The benefits of swimming with a group are big, both in terms of results and of course motivation! If you’re looking for a group swim, we will have our summer Tri-Swim program at an outdoor 50m pool in Oak Park Starting June 7.

To learn more about Tony, TZ Coaching and to sign up for the sign program:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tri-Life: Team Salute- Charity Spotlight

Always love featuring charities especially when my friends are involved in them. Team Salute is an organization that "passionately pursues meeting the financial, physical and emotional needs of military service members, veterans and their families. We strive to raise awareness of their sacrifices and provide a safety net to ensure every military family is treated with honor and dignity." 

You can read and watch more about their history HERE

This year, Chicago Chapters Team Salute Running for Rocky!  

Rocky Loera - Husband, father, triathlete and officer in the US Marine Corps. He has served honorably and survived four deployments in Iraq/Afghanistan. Upon his return Rocky worked enthusiastically as a Marine Recruiter stationed in Chicago. On January 29th, 2013 he was leading his platoon of recruits on a training run.  After safely guiding them across the street he was struck by a car that ran a red light. While the recruits were all safe, Rocky suffered a traumatic brain injury. He has endured at least 14 surgical procedures including craniotomies, bilateral cranioplasty, and implantation/removal of various shunts, drains and tubes.  His surgeons say that his very survival is a miracle.  After a year at Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Loyola, Rocky has returned home where he continues his recovery.
While Rocky bravely fights to recover, his wife Brenda carries the huge responsibility of acting as his primary caregiver and mother to their 9 and 11 year-old sons. Although the military covers the majority of Rocky’s medical care there are many family and personal needs and expenses which need to be met. SALUTE, INC has “adopted “ the Loera family and will be helping to meet their needs. Please be generous as this year we “RUN for ROCKY”.

Specifically, the team plans to do the following races and if any Chicagoans are looking to support Rocky while also participate in well priced races, check these out:

Twin Lakes Triathlon on June 29 (Palatine)

Ride 2 Recovery on June 8th (Skokie)
GWB is active in Ride2Recovery Races

Even if you just want to learn more, sign up for these races and stop by their tents or talk to the team.  Joe Emmons is working on growing the triathlon side of the Chicago Chapter.  Be part of the movement! Team Salute also is an official charity of the Chicago Triathlon, contact them if you are interested in being part of the team!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tri- Friend: Chris Vokaty's Story: Fit for Life

Our next tri-friend wrote an article about his transformation to becoming a triathlete and wanted to share with all of you.  Hope you newbies find inspiration in this!  Also, will be picking up the pace with posts now that life is settling down for me personally!

Tri- Friend: Chris Vokaty's Story: Fit for Life
Sometimes life has a strange way of getting your attention.  It was mid December and I was waiting to see the doctor.  I had a horrible bug of some sort but that was the least of my concerns.  I had been feeling generally bad for most of the year, my cholesterol was way too high and at the age of 43 I felt like I was 70.  As I stepped on the scale the nurse stated my weight to which I replied “you need to check that again! Without breaking even a hint of a smile she replied “you need to stop eating so much!” 

WOW, I don’t know what was worse; the fact that I had gained over 30 unwanted, donut laden pounds or that someone giving it to me straight!  Merry Christmas I thought to myself on the way to the pharmacy to pick up an assortment of “wonder” drugs and of course a soda, candy bar and box of Mike and Ike’s.
Fast forward to Christmas Day. I have always loved giving at the Holidays and of course receiving gifts is fun as well.  I was laying on our couch thinking about the year and how even though my cold was gone, I still felt absolutely awful.  I realized the best gift I received that Christmas came from my doctor that fateful day as I tipped the scales to new weights. 

He simply stated that if I did not make changes to my life, I would end up like my father!  My dad died of a heart attack at age 47 after gaining thirty pounds and letting his cholesterol rage out of control.  I was fast becoming a chip off the old block in ways I certainly didn’t like and I am sure he wouldn’t either.  I was 43, May and I were trying to have a baby and I was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. 
With stark clarity, I recalled having a decision to make.  I could either choose the path my father took or be dead in a few years, or I could take control of my life and make the most of the precious gift God had given me. 

The decision was made, it was time to get serious and get into shape!  I enjoyed that Christmas Day to its fullest, tomorrow would be a new, and healthy beginning for the rest of my life.

The plan was simple.  First I would implement changes to my diet and second I would run two miles.  That would be easy and a great start, or so I thought!  I went to bed that night with a nervous anxiousness that was scary yet exciting.  I thought to myself….”What have I done?  Can, or better yet, will I really do this?  What if the weather is bad? It’s still the holidays, etc.  No, no more excuses, there is no time like the present to start a new beginning.

As sure as I was out of shape, the sun came up the next morning and it was time to face my new beginning.  The choice was made, now I just had to do it. I managed to assemble some workout clothes and headed out the door for my first two mile run in over twenty years.  The day was sunny and cold and I set off on my run with the nervous energy of a child leaving the house for her first day of school. 
I learned quickly just how out of shape I was.  I managed to finish the two miles in just over forty minutes.  It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t pretty, I could hardly breath and my legs felt like deadened tree stumps but I DID IT!  I ran two miles and the burning in my legs and lungs felt incredible.  Tired, sore and completely energized, I rewarded myself with a healthy bowl of oatmeal and fruit….the breakfast of champions.

 As I finished my breakfast I could not help but be proud of what I had just accomplished.  I had not won the Boston Marathon or the Hawaii Ironman, but I felt like I had!  I set a goal and I achieved it.  I had to chuckle out loud when I realized while running I imagined I looked like the famous triathlete Craig Alexander, when in all actuality I  looked like Elmer Fudd wrestling a small raccoon on the side of the road…and I don’t have to tell you who was winning.  

I was a champion none the less and reveled in the moment.  I realized that eating better and running was not the hard part, the hard part happened on Christmas Day when I made the decision to make changes in my life, the rest was a formality. I reaffirmed the commitment I had made to myself and could hardly wait for tomorrow to get here so I could do it all over again.  One day a habit does not make, but YOU will never make a habit without day one!  

Fast forward a year to the following January.  Thirty pounds lighter, normal cholesterol levels and a much better mental state, I crossed the finish line of the Walt Disney World Marathon in three hours, fifty-nine minutes and thirty-seven seconds, thirty minutes ahead of my goal! I still did not look like Craig Alexander but I wasn’t Elmer Fudd either!  I was me, happy to be alive and in the best shape of my life. As I started that race, I thanked God for giving me the ability, discipline and motivation to change my life but I also realized one other very important thing,   enjoy the journey and the process. 

The race at that point was merely a formality, the real success came from enduring the process of setting, working towards and reaching a set of goals.  I was hooked and I changed my life for the better. For me, getting in shape took the form of running a marathon and other assorted endurance goals.  But that is me, the beautiful thing about getting into shape is you make it what YOU want it to be, and the motivations and direction will be different for everyone.  It’s YOUR life, YOU take control of it.  How Bad Do You Want It?

While I started this adventure in running, the triathlon bug would soon bite.  Not too long after taking up running as a means to get back into shape, I was watching the IRONMAN World Championships from Hawaii and was in awe of what these athletes were accomplishing.

I turned to my wife and said, “I’m going to do an IRONMAN triathlon!”  She looked at me, smiled and said, “I think that is a great idea, but you don’t swim!” Well that was one glitch in the plan but at 44 years old it was time to overcome my fear of the water and learn how to swim.  We were trying to have a baby and I didn’t want my daughter to be afraid of the water and I certainly didn’t want to be “that dad” that could not get into the water with his daughter.

I signed up for swim lessons at the local YMCA and began the arduous journey to conquer not only my fear of water but the daunting prospect of covering 2.4 miles of nothing but wetness.  Slowly but surely I kept at it.  Many days I left the pool with tears of frustration running down my cheeks.  All the other people made it look so easy and here I was, looking like I was wrestling a bear 25 yards at a time.  I would not be defeated and just like Dory said on Finding Nemo…..”just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

As I write this I have done two half IRONMAN races last year and today, March 12th, 2014 I completed my first 4200 yards ever!  Albeit in a pool, I am thrilled to have conquered this distance and actually look forward to my time in the water.  Although I learned to swim as an adult, the experience in training for triathlons, swimming in particular, made me realize the importance of strength training.
Always wanting to be the best I can be, I hired a personal trainer to work on my overall strength and conditioning. While enjoying my time with my trainer, I had a thirst to learn more about training and conditioning and my trainer recommended I get my personal trainer certification.  “Well, why not?” I thought to myself so I began studying in earnest and successfully completed my CPT certification, Group Exercise Certification and Spin Certification with the American Aerobics and Fitness Association.

While these certifications helped me improve my overall strength and conditioning, it allowed me the opportunity to help others improve their fitness and conditioning.  While helping many others get off the couch and get in shape, I have also had the good fortune of being the coach for The Running Princesses, a running club for women in Columbia, SC. Their goal is to introduce running and triathlon to all women, especially those that have never done anything of a physical nature and are looking to get into shape and be a part of a special community.  I have also been fortunate to have a weekly fitness column in the local paper as one more way to help reach and inspire others to get into shape and to introduce them to triathlons and other endurance events.

I have enjoyed sharing my story with you and my goal is to help others on their journey to fitness: from getting started, to competition in triathlon and endurance events and everything in between. I am in the best shape of my life at age 48 and I encourage others to do the same thing, regardless of where they may be in life.  

I have my first IRONMAN set for June in Coeur D Alene and plan to do REV3 Knoxville, Anderson SC and Venice in addition to IRONMAN Raleigh and Augusta 70.3 events in 2014. I will never be on the podium, but I do work hard to be the best I can be while supporting others to do the same. I strive to be a great ambassador to triathlon and encourage others to join our community hope to educate and inspire others as well as be inspired by many of your stories as we embark on this journey together.  My goal for 2015 is to make the REV3TRI Team as their mission and values align perfectly with mine, attracting new people to triathlon in a fun and family friendly environment. 

I am passionate about fitness, triathlon and endurance sports and use my enthusiasm and energy to draw others to join us on the journey.  My blog – Chris Vokaty – How Bad Do You Want wms13It (– is dedicated to the everyday warrior, encouraging them to get off the couch and make a life choice to get into shape and who knows, maybe one day complete an IRON distance triathlon.  

Just remember you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to, it all comes down to “How Bad Do You Want It?”  Here is to being fit for a lifetime!

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.

Follow him at: