Hello Recovery Workout! Why training less than TP is beneficial

If science shows us that we should spend NO MORE than 30% (at the very most) in anaerobic training on a YEARLY basis- then logically, you can understand the stress (albeit good stress) that it puts on the body and mind. 

On the flip side of the coin- that means our body DEMANDS recovery...

How do we in Playtri define recovery (not aerobic effort but true recovery efforts)= <TP OR <ZONE 1/2...  what, when, why, how is <TP beneficial???


1- "Why the HELL am I/ are you wasting my time doing this easy of a workout?"

We are looking to increase mental, metabolic, and muscular recovery.

There is plenty of research that has shown that easy sessions will increase performance/ quality of harder/longer workouts + stimulate fat efficiency (esp digestive health, which as we have previously discussed equates to IMMUNE FUNCTION- huge as we age!) + relaxes the body to maintain balance and psychological well being.

2. "If it is about recovery, why am I just not taking the entire day off- Aren't these just crap miles?"

Easiest visualization of the body= IT IS ONE MASSIVE PUMP- blood flow, oxygen/ carbon dioxide exchange, digestive tract....

It craves and operates at its HEALTHIEST when it is PUMPING consistently and for the most part steadily.

That said- active recovery workouts at the very least= increase blood flow and pushes "FRESH" oxygen throughout the entire body.

The athlete that likes to ride the line RIGHT UNDER where their aerobic efforts begin (TP or mid Zone 2)- these are the athletes are the ones who later in the year start to breakdown and many times lead to injury, lower immune function/ illness, or lack of motivation to get even a short workout in...

In other words, not worth it in in the long run!!!

3. "But is there a time when taking off an entire day might be more productive?"

FOR SURE!!! More bc we need or crave just a day... if you are like me I need to run errands, go to brunch, sleep in, family/ friend fun, travel :)...

We need to keep a balance, This is why I have recently / strongly encouraged athletes to give me specific day(s) of the week that they would like to have off when doing their schedules.  Ideally we would see 5-6days/ week of consistent training, dependent upon the individuals goals and commitments (even if it means only 30min/day- my job= maximize your time and energy so that you may live a healthy and active lifestyle).

Again, workouts should be A PART of a fun and fulfilling life!

4- "What does EASY really mean- how fast should I go?"
Bike: <TP/ < Zone 1-2= both heart rate (the effort you put into the workout) AND power (the efficiency your effort- reminder, low heart rate but high power/ fast pace means you are either recovered OR your fitness has elevated- these are simple internal factors. 

Yes, you may need to be in your easiest gear- GREAT work easy gear/ high cadence- this is a recovery workout!

Run: <TP/ <Zone 1-2 heart rate AND at least 2min SLOWER than your threshold pace.

Ex: 7min pace on 10k at 160bpm, EASY= at least 30bpm below TP heart rate AND no faster than 9min pace

(Hr rates discrepancy may vary based on testing)

(***Also could also vary based on different terrain, lower winds, more shade, lower temps... tons of outside factors. Partly why pace and hr rate are used)

Yes, you may have to walk- GREAT work form and staying relaxed- this is a recovery workout!

5. "But I can go faster than this and it seems too easy!"

Consider these:

A. Check with your coach/ consider retesting- they/ you should absolutely be able to review multiple files that will reveal whether or not this is necessary.

B. Think BEYOND today / look beyond your nose- if you or your coach has scheduled an easy day- most likely, a harder day is around the corner.

C. No one cares how fast you can go on your EASY DAYS. Let everyone comment on how slow you were going, you will show them when it counts :)

D. Again, consider the goal of the workout- you should simply feel and be completely REFRESHED after this type of workout!!!

Here's to staying healthy both in mind and body through the easy days~

Happy Training!!!

Metabolic Testing and the Bonk

Metabolic Testing and the Bonk

As many of you know, I spend a few hours every day getting to interact with retail customers at the Playtri Store. It’s a great experience for me as a coach, because I get to hear and consider all the questions that athletes have regarding the sport. It often leads to quality conversations that hopefully have a positive impact on the athlete’s training and racing.

A common question prior to every big Ironman race is “I’m trying to figure out my nutrition – what should I do/use?” I always hope athletes are asking for a race months down the line, but more often than not, they’re asking for a race in a week or two.

First, know that nutrition is king in Ironman. It isn’t a last minute consideration. All the quality training in the world can fall apart in a blink on race day with the wrong nutrition strategy (I’m not even going to get into hydration here – see the last email article on hydration and electrolytes).

Let me explain. Athletes who have been training or racing long course have likely all experienced “the bonk” – that dreaded sensation of suddenly hitting a point where either the muscles stop firing, the brain stops thinking, or, you know, both. It will quite literally stop you in your tracks. It happens reasonably often in triathlon, and exponentially more at the Ironman distance. Note that bonking is NOT the same as cramping (another evil villain of endurance sports), though they can definitely happen concurrently!

Bonking occurs due to a lack of carbohydrates available to brain and/or muscles. Why does this happen? Without going too deep into the science, carbohydrates and fats are both potential energy sources for the creation of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), a chain of three molecules that split to create the energy that causes muscles to contract (allowing us to swim, bike, run, etc.). Of the two potential energy sources (fat and carbs), carbohydrates are easier for the body to access for the process of creating ATP, so the harder we work (swimming, biking or running faster/harder), the more our body moves towards relying on carbs instead of fat. This would be great, except that, while our bodies have massive stores of fat (that’s not a comment on the reader’s weight – even the leanest athlete has enough stored fat for days at any given time), our carbohydrate stores are much more limited – perhaps 500g (2000 kcals), give or take 100g.

This is where we run into a problem. Some athletes may burn through 1000 kcals or more of carbohydrates in an hour at high intensities, meaning they could easily burn through their stores before their event is completed (fun fact – the average Ironman finish time is 12:35:00 – significantly longer than 2 hours, which is approximately how fast you’ll burn through your carbs at 1000 kcals per hour). You likely have two questions for me now:

1. Can’t I just replace the carbs I’m burning? Isn’t that what gels are for?

Yes, thank goodness. The challenge is that, on average, women can only absorb 100-200 kcals of carbs an hour, and men can only absorb 200-300 kcals an hour, at moderate intensity (yes – the faster you go, the more carbs you burn, and the harder it is to absorb carbs that you are consuming!) So if you’re burning 1000 kcals of carbs an hour, and can only replace 200 kcals – you do the math, but you’re still not making it to 12 hours and 35 minutes before you bonk.

2. If I burn through all my carb stores, won’t my body just slow me down and start using fat stores instead?

Unfortunately it isn’t that simple – aerobic metabolism requires some carbohydrates, even at very low activity levels, so if the carb tank is empty, you’re probably not going anywhere, slow or otherwise.

3. But the pros are going super-fast – aren’t they burning through 1000’s of carbs on the bike?

Yes, the pros are going super-fast – but we have to remember that our super-fast is their moderate. It isn’t that their bodies just have more carbs to burn, they just maintain higher power/speed at lower heart rates.

Many athletes take the trial and error approach – while doing progressively longer workouts, they test different nutrition strategies and track successes and failures, hopefully narrowing it down to something that works. Of course, that means if you don’t have many successful experiments before race day, you may or may not have a solid plan going into your event. There’s definitely a “hope for the best” element to this strategy that isn’t my preference, but has certainly worked for plenty of athletes, so I won’t knock it.

calorie test.jpg

However, at Playtri we utilize a form of performance testing that takes a good deal of the guesswork out of nutrition strategy for Ironman, which we call “Caloric Expenditure Testing,” or “Metabolic Testing.”

 I just about require all of my 70.3 and IM clients to complete this 15-20 minute test, which gives me a data chart that looks something like this:

Athlete Name: Edna Example

Test Date: May, 2017

Test: Bike

1st image.png

Let’s say this chart was completed for the athlete on the bike. If the athlete wanted to do her IM bike in 6 hours, and could average 19 mph on the bike on race day at 130 bpm, she could take 100 kcals of carbs an hour and come off the with carb stores essentially intact. So let’s say she isn’t quite that strong, and her heart rate will be at 145 for her to maintain that pace – taking 100 kcals of carbs an hour would now mean that she burned through 900 kcals of carbs prior to starting the run. Well, if she had 2000 kcals in the tank to start, that means she may have 1100 left for her run (not counting kcals burned during the swim), which, if she has the same chart for her run calorie expenditure, it could then be determined if that was enough to achieve her goal for the day.

For many athletes, doing the test and understanding how much they burn at different heart rates is enough – they or their coach can take the information, and formulate effective plans for training and racing.

However, what if the chart looked like this:

Athlete Name: Edna Example

Test Date: May, 2017

Test: Bike

2nd image.png

Even if the athlete can hold 19 mph at 130 bpm, and absorb 100 kcals of carbs an hour, she would still burn through 1800 kcals of carbs during the bike, leaving her with next to nothing to run her marathon on. Assuming she has done this test some months prior to her race, she has three options:

1. Change her goal (go slower than 6 hours on the bike)

2. Improve her ability to utilize fat instead of carbs at 130 bpm

3. Improve her power/speed at a lower HR

If she is doing the test a week before her race, she has one option:

1. Change her goal

This is why we recommend doing this test twice during long course training – once at the beginning of training to assess the situation, and help the athlete or coach effectively plan their focus for the coming training block (instead of just hoping for decent numbers prior to race day), and then once right before the race, to re-check numbers going into the event, and finalize the nutrition strategy.

Hopefully, this gets your gear spinning on long course nutrition. Of course, it isn’t just a numbers game. Other considerations, like what type of nutrition to take in, how to time it with hydration, what you personally are able to absorb, etc., are also part of the planning process. The most important thing is to start planning nutrition NOW, and make sure you have as much data as possible to do it efficiently. If you have questions, feel free to reach out to me, or any of the other Playtri coaches.

Learn more about Performance Testing at: playtri.com/testing/





Running Equipment Checklist

How To Choose Running Shoes

 Photo credit: Saucony

Photo credit: Saucony

There is no “best” or “great shoe” that will make every runner happy.  Every major running brand manufactures all different types of running shoes (cushioning, stability, minimalist, racing, trail, among others).  Therefore, you will have a good pair of running shoes and a lot of not-good ones from any brand.  What determines a good running shoe for a runner is to know the running form.  Also, distance or surface will determine the type of the shoe. It’s recommended to get help from a “fitter”, preferably after knowing the running form.  The shoe “consultant” should be able to match the perfect shoe based on the runner’s form.  A pair of running shoes which was a miracle for a particular runner may be the cause for injury for another one. 

Why Do We Need to Replace Running Shoes?

While most of the visible wear to a shoe occurs on the upper fabric and the “outsole,” the hard rubber bottom of a running shoe, the wear that most affects biomechanics (and thus, the wear most likely to have an effect on injury risk) occurs inside the midsole.

While EVA foam is quite resilient, research shows that it still breaks down over the course of thousands of foot-strikes.  The wear will be more if the athlete is running every day versus every other day, so we recommend having two pairs for everyday runners.  Also, the surface (concrete vs. dirt), weight of the runner, and running gait (over-striding will wear the shoes) are some of the other factors that determine wear and tear.  As a guidance, it is recommended to switch to new running shoes after 500 miles (250 miles for racing shoes).

What to consider when buying a running shoe:

 Photo credit: Hoka One One

Photo credit: Hoka One One


Outsole Characteristics

The outsole is the bottom of the running shoe. A quality running shoe will have two types of rubber on the outsole: carbon rubber and blown rubber. Carbon rubber is a stiff and heavy material, while blown rubber is lighter-weight, cushioned and flexible.

Good running shoes have flex grooves and a split heel. Flex grooves are cut horizontally across the forefront of the outsole. They allow your foot to flex at the ball and roll more naturally when you are running. A split heel creates an outer and inner piece of the outsole. The split heel makes heel-to-toe running more efficient.

Midsole Characteristics

The midsole is the shock-absorbent material between the outsole and the upper shoe. This is an important part of a running shoe because the construction and materials impact cushioning and support of the shoe. There are usually two types of cushioning found in good running shoes. EVA is a lightweight cushion with limited stability and durability. Polyurethane is more dense and stable, making it heavier. Try shoes with the different types of midsoles so you have a better idea of how they feel.

When looking for overall stability in a running shoe, look for stiff materials used in the midsole. These materials are in the inner or medial part of the shoe in order to prevention excessive inward rolling. Heavier-dense materials may also be in the medial part of the shoe to increase stability. This could be a big plus if you choose a running shoe with EVA cushioning. If you’re not sure what materials are in the running shoes, ask a salesperson.

Upper Characteristics

The upper is the outer body of the running shoe. The materials that make up these running shoes are lightweight mesh, which provide stability, comfort and a snug fit.

A last is the shape of the running shoe. Running shoes will come in three different shapes: straight, semi-curved and curved. These different shapes will vary in comfort depending on how they conform to your particular foot. The toe box is the front part of the shoe that should allow your foot to flex. Never wear running shoes with a too-small toe box, which can cause pain and cramping. Allow about an inch (or a thumb’s width) space between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. Heel counters are a material that reinforces the heel and promotes stability. They may come in different degrees of stability and stiffness.

Let's Talk Socks

 Photo credit: @Swiftwicksocks

Photo credit: @Swiftwicksocks

Every runner should have a good pair of them. Running socks are specifically designed with synthetic fibers in order to help give you the added comfort and support you need. Running socks also help to protect your feet. They can reduce your risk of developing painful calluses and blisters. One of the most important features is “wicking” which means the running sock literally pulls the moisture away from your feet and transfers it to the outside of your shoe. The fit is also important, the sock should be snug, comfortable and supportive on the arch and Achilles areas.

Compression Sleeves/Socks

Compression technology has been provided to limit swelling, especially in the calves, where a substantial amount of blood volume can pool while running.  Good compression product should help better circulation, hence oxygenation and recovery.  But what’s equally beneficial about compression is the fact that they reduce muscle vibration, which results in muscle fatigue.

Increased blood flow is going to help improve your performance and decrease the rate of fatigue of your muscles. It will also help you to recover quicker, meaning that you will be ready for your next workout, so you can train harder.


Shop Playtri for all your running needs ~ our expert sales staff will set you up with the right gear to achieve your running goals!

Consistency is Key

Coaches and athletes,

I wanted to take a moment of your day to highlight an athlete and topic that I am extremely passionate about.

The athlete is Amber Motsney - many of you know Amber already, and that she is a mom of three with a full-time job, and a husband (Mike) who also has a full-time job. In 2017, Amber completed the Galveston 70.3, and she told me 2018 would be her year to do Ironman (she had selected IMTX for her race due to travel logistics), and we began an individual coaching relationship in November, giving us six months to build to IM. I'll get back to Amber in a moment.



The topic is consistency. Consistency creates cumulative load, which is something I often talk about in reference to athletes. In my mind, there are essentially two types of load: short-term (load from a single workout) and cumulative (load built over weeks, months, years, etc.)

Athletes tend to enjoy focusing on the short-term load - that super hard, super long or super fast workout that they did that they're really proud of. It looks cool on social media and sounds cool when they tell their friends/training buddies about it. These workouts can be great, but only if they are a part of a larger process, meaning that the athlete can:

  • Successfully complete the workout as planned (the one exception here is workouts at the end of key load workout chunks - 2 to 3 days - when athletes may struggle to get HR up)
  • Successfully recover from it (i.e. not get injured or sick, and still able to successfully complete the rest of the workouts/load planned for that week/month)

Cumulative load, on the other hand, is what actually results in improved fitness. Cumulative load results from day in day out getting the workout done as planned (consistency) - this can (and usually should) include faster/harder sessions, but it also includes long/slow and short/easy sessions. There are a few key components to being successful in maintaining consistency and thus building an athlete's cumulative load, aka fitness:

  • Workouts that fit the athlete's schedule (i.e. that will not be impossible to do due to work, family or other commitments)
  • Workouts that push the athlete, but not beyond their current abilities (i.e. that will not be impossible to do because they are demanding something that athlete is incapable of)
  • RECOVERY RECOVERY RECOVERY (the unsung hero of elite and high level age group athletes) - going to the chiropractor, getting massage, rolling with the foam roller/ball, eating and timing nutrient intake properly, hydrating properly, getting sufficient sleep (7+ hours/night), taking advantage of compression and cryo therapies, etc.
  • Communication between Coach and athlete about how athlete is handling workouts, so adjustments can be made before the athlete digs a hole that results in one really great, hard workout (or one week, or one month of really great, had workouts), but prevents workouts for the foreseeable future, which are crucial to cumulative load built over time.
  • A little luck - I won't lie, ideal training conditions require a little luck at times, but there is so much the athlete and the coach can do to control outcomes that this is not something I feel it is very useful to focus on, though we do have to acknowledge it.

So, getting back to Amber - Amber is one where we have really gotten to see the "magic" of cumulative load. She has been extremely consistent in communicating availability so realistic workouts can be assigned, and then doing the workouts she has committed to doing (or asking for substitutions if things go sideways the day of the workout). She has communicated when areas are unusually tight or sore, or when she is feeling fatigued so we could make minor (and sometimes major) adjustments that allowed us to still get the overall load we needed, without digging a hole (we once rescheduled a key workout weekend based solely on her feedback that likely would have derailed her training if she had tried to "push through"). She has taken advantage of compression boots, chiro and massage to keep her body mobile and activated following hard sessions. All of this has required a lot of discipline and focus from Amber, but the magic has been in the improvements we have seen over 5 months of training.


Amber is now one of the most fat efficient athletes I have ever coached. She will be able to replace every calorie of carbohydrate she burns off during the bike on race day by eating 1.5 gels an hour. We have almost zero concerns about bonking on the run.


  • Her power in Training Pace (Zone 2-3) has likely gone up by 30-40 watts (unfortunately we did not have power when we started, but based on speed we were estimating she was around 100-120 in this zone, and she is now comfortably holding 140-160 in low TP (Zone 2).
  • Amber was recovering from a long-term run injury when we started, which she has now not only overcome, but has really crushed as she is now running 3-5 hours a week at faster speeds than she had previously.

As we can see - this isn't actually "magic," but it feels pretty magical when everything is finally coming together!

Great work, Amber, and to everyone - consistency is king! Take care of your body, keep your focus, and stay the course!


Learn more about Playtri's various coaching options at: playtri.com/coachinghome/

Unlock the Open Water Swim: 5 Keys to Success

Don't just survive your next open water swim. Here's how to nail your swim when it takes you outside the (chlorinated) box.

Transitioning from the pool to the open water is one of the toughest—and most important—lessons a triathlete must learn. Swimming back and forth in the pool, alone or with your fellow Masters swimmers, simply isn’t the same as toeing the line in a full field of competitors. Whether the race features a mass or wave start, the outdoor environment brings unexpected anxiety and requires different skills. The good news is that knowing what to expect can help you remain calm and cool in the great washing machine. 

Austin-based Playtri head coach Ahmed Zaher is an eight-time IRONMAN World Championship finisher with a 52-minute Kona PR swim. Zaher developed these five keys to open-water swimming in 2000 and has been perfecting their execution with clients for the last 18 years. Hop on board and watch your lake/ocean/river time get faster than ever.

Key 1: Warm-up and visualization

Research shows that athletes will not perform to their potential, and are even more likely to panic in the water, if they don't warm up properly. Warming up allows your body to get used to the water temperature, get a feel for the water and get your core muscles nice and loose and ready to move. 

Studies also show that visualization enhances your performance greatly. Be sure to take a look at the course map before the race, then spend a significant amount of time in the days leading up to the race visualizing yourself swimming the course and executing your strategy.

Key 2: Start position

Zaher always says that where you start on the swim won't help you win the race, but it can make you lose. One of the most important things he teaches triathletes in regards to the start position is to stay away from the "washing machine," or area where all of the athletes are on top of one another. This is usually the spot athletes think is the shortest distance to the buoy. The best thing to do is to start up front on the outside of the start line, on the opposite side of where you breathe. Doing this will allow you to take advantage of the other swimmers, but stay clear of the chaos.

Key 3: Sighting

Your first sighting target is right next to you: other swimmers beside you. Sighting off a swimmer next to you allows you to maintain the natural, in-line, swim position and minimizes the amount of sighting you'll have to do to the front. Sighting from the front forces your core and hamstrings to engage as you try to maintain your body position, which can negatively impact your bike and run.

If you cannot sight off of another swimmer, then sight off a bigger object behind the buoy markers, such as a tree or building. If you cannot sight off another swimmer or landmark, sight off the buoy marker.

Key 4: Continuous swim

Even if you bump into an athlete or a buoy, keep going and do not stop. You might have to adjust your stroke a little, but definitely avoid stopping. At a recent Playtri swim clinic, athletes reported saving anywhere from two to four minutes in a 700 meter swim by maintaining a continuous stroke during their race.

Key 5: Drafting

Drafting can be a huge advantage during the swim. The general rule is to position yourself behind the feet of another swimmer in clear water. In water where visibility is low, the best position is to the side, off the swimmer’s hip. When you are drafting, you don't have to waste energy sighting, which allows you to maintain a streamlined, efficient position in the water.

Zaher says an average triathlete can save several minutes off his/her swim time by following these five pillars. However, at the end of the day, practice is the most important tool in your arsenal.

Playtri hosts Open Water Swims at Lake Lewisville throughout the warmer months...get info to sign up at: https://www.facebook.com/events/182722515836704/

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