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Introduction: ♪ [music] ♪ This is the Tri Swim Coach Podcast where the most difficult leg of the triathlon becomes your friend; leaving your struggles and your competition behind you. TriSwimcoach.com helping you to laugh at the water.
Facilitator: Welcome to Tri-swim Coach, this is Kevin and this is episode number 60. Today I have a special guest on the show, his name is Jason Houston and Jason is a performance coach and owner of a personal training business in New York City and a triathlete looking to turn pro in the near future. I met Jason virtually over Twitter and I thought he could shed some light on a few topics concerning triathletes of all levels. His website is organichealthfitness.com. Jason, welcome to the show.
Jason: Thank you Kevin, thank you for having me.
Facilitator: Yes, sure. How did you get started in triathlon?
Jason: My first race was back in 2009 and I knew what triathlons were then but I never really knew though, so Ihad a client of mine who was a friend and he and a group of his friends always did a triathlon out in Long Island. It was a short one, it was a sprint distance and he was like, ‘Why don’t you come and try it?’ And I was like, “Why would I want to?” I was like I’m fit, I run, I predominantly participated in road races. A lot of 10ks, half marathons things like that and I have the gym rap obviously being a personal trainer it sounds like what’s the point of me doing atriathlon and he’s like, ‘You know what, I will bet you that you can’t beat not a single guy in my group.’ And so, me being very competitive I took him up on his dare. Now back then in 2009 I was 29 years old and every guy in that group, there was five of them, they were all in their late thirties and early forties so for sure I thought I was going to beat these guys no problem.
The problem was I didn’t have a bike, I didn’t own a bike at the time and I wasn’t swimming at all. I actually haven’t really swam like any kind of laps or any kind of program for swimming for quite some time even though I grew up swimming in Nebraska and I was in the summer leagues and I grew up swimming before school and after school up until Middle school. In your head though I you remember that and I go I’m a good swimmer, I remember I was a really good swimmer back then, swimming should be no problem right?
So what I did was I really didn’t train the swimming, continued to do my strength training and my running which I thought I was pretty good. I was running maybe in the seven somethings for 10ks and the day before the race I rented a bike at a local bike shop. It was a basic Hyper bike, no clips you know regular tennis shoes and a helmet that they rent you and then I went for it and I roll up and I see you know guys on these like crazy looking bikes and at the time I had no idea what aerobars were and I had no idea what carbon wheels were any of that and these guys with these crazy bikes and I’m like, “Holy cow, what did I get myself into?” And so for the swim I pop into the water, I have my board shorts on, you know my surfing board shorts?
Jason: So I nearly gave up on the swim and with a sprint triathlon swim’s about a half mile usually and I couldn’t give up. There’s no way I could live it down if I ever gave up so I finished the swim. I actually went back recently and looked at the time it took me 31 minutes, just over 31 minutes to finish that and then I placed like 650thplace out of the swim out of like 1100 people and you know I did a horrible time on the bike obviously with my Hyper bike and then I did a reasonable, like a 740k for the run and I think I finished last out of the group. All the guys beat me basically and so I was a little demoralized and that’s kind of how the fuel of my triathlon fire got started because I got my butt whooped during that first triathlon.
Facilitator: Right by the old guys right?
Jason: By the old guys yes. I was supposed to be this young healthy, fit stud personal trainer and all these guys, some were doctors, some were into marketing, bankers and they all kicked my butt.
Facilitator: Yes it’s amazing…
Jason: And so…
Facilitator: Oh I was just going to comment on your talking about open water, you jump in the open water and it feels like you’re drowning, but I came from a competitive swimming background and I remember my first open water[00:05:00] swim. Even I was in great shape for swimming 200 yard freestyles but jumping in open water I was dying even being in great shape and it’s a tough transition at first and it’s really…
Jason: Absolutely, no absolutely and swimming in board shorts is never really a good idea either.[laughter]
Facilitator: [laughter]That’s true, that could really drag you back.
Jason: But no, you’re right because now that I swim regularly in the pool it’s still much different than swimming in open water. It’s the whole siding and all these other different things you have to worry about, and I really used that lesson in that first race to get myself into a training regiment because like I said in your head you grow up, you’re an athlete and I was like 4 year varsity track, I swam growing up, I played football. Years and years removed from that but still in your head you still have that in your head like. “Oh I’m an athlete, I can do this!” but if you don’t practiceit’s like, what’s that saying, ‘If you don’t use it you lose it’ right and then that’s true that’s totally what happened to me but that’s how my fuel fortriathlon got started. I got my butt kicked and I wanted to kind of come back and redeem myself, prove myself.
Facilitator: Cool, cool. Well one of the reasons I wanted to chat with you is because you’re a personal trainer and there’s a lot of people that listen to this show and that are part of my audience that they get started because they’re looking to lose some weight or just maybe get into shape in general. What do you think about triathlons being a good way for the average person to get into shape like losing maybe ten or 20 pounds?
Jason: I think that triathlons are definitely a great way to get in shape, no doubt about it. I don’t know if I would recommend triathlons as a way to specifically lose weight. I mean, getting into it and being into it for the past three years now going on you know about my fourth year of triathlons I know that I’m in phenomenal shape. I put in the time but if you feel like this is a sport for you and you want to put in the time, then absolutely, I think it’s a great way to get in shape. The most important thing that I tell people when they’re wanting to get in shape and lose ten or twenty pounds is it’s, “Yes you’ve got towork out but it’s a combination of things. It’s diet it’s rest, it’s the working out. It’s all that combined.” So whether it’s triathlons, whether you’re a Yoga fan,whether you’re a running fan whether you’re a biker, whether you’re just a gym rat, whatever it is you’ve got to have a good balance of everything. But definitely if triathlons are your sport and you love it then it’s a great way to lose some weight or keep fit because of all the different cross training that you have to do and all the time that you have to put into it to be good at the sport. Does that answer the question?
Facilitator: Yes, yes absolutely. Yes I think you’re right. It’s got to be something that you love doing or that you at least like doing because I know people that just hate running and they want to get in shape and they think just because they look outside, here at the beach they see people running like, ‘Oh if I want to get in shape, I have to run and I hate running,’ so they don’t bother with it but there are so many other things they can do and as you said it’s not just the exercise, it’s more your diet and other factors.
Jason: Yes, but you know the great thing about doing triathlon like you said people hate running, but you’ve got to do some cardio, but the great thing about triathlon is you have the three different disciplines and actually for me I tell people it’s actually four disciplines in my opinion because you should incorporate strength training into it so you have the swim, the bike, the running and then the strength training so it has all different areas and you don’t get bored so that’s the great thing about triathlon training.
Facilitator: Yes, so let’s talk a little bit about strength training. How can strength training help you in triathlon and specifically swimming too, and what should a beginner or kind of intermediate level triathlete focus on in the gym if they’re just getting started with strength training?
Jason: That’s a great question. With strength training and triathlon training you need to build a good base right, and especially with swimming as you know having a strong core is very important. So building that base having a good foundation to build on is the best place to start with core training, total body movements, nothing crazy, you don’t need to go and throw on a whole bunch of weight or anything like that but just building up some sort of a foundation of strength. Then from there you can build up on the underarm muscles, working on doing it all and maybe doing more sets and more reps with lighter weights just to build up the endurance on top of that base, and then from there you can evolve into improving your strength or your power. [00:10:00]
So let’s take for example, swim so in the beginning especially in triathlons you want to get out the pack. No one wants to be stuck in the pack because you get kicked and punched in the face and so if you can have a strong enough base where you have these powerful muscles that you can use in the beginning to get away from the group, strength training can really help to do, that to explode out of the group and then you have that endurance based built on top of that to get into your form and get into your rhythm and then the last phase of strength training would be just to kind of like maintain, because in the off season you want to do all the stuff. You want to build your base you want to build you endurance, you want to build power and then during the season you still want to maintain your strength, so you don’t want to give up the strength training and just focus on racing, but you don’t want to just maintain it so that’s when you do, you might do once or twice a week just to keep those muscle fresh and strong in between your races.
Facilitator: Okay. Have you done anything with elastic tubing or bands?
Jason: Yes absolutely. You know the therabands and the resistance bands yes, absolutely. You know with swimming I know that I’ve noticed especially when my form was bad, I would do a lot of improper strokes movements and so my shoulders would get really sore and so with therabands and resistance bands they’re great to help to keep the shoulder joints and the shoulder muscles really strong to help prevent those shoulder and overuse injuries of the shoulder. So I recommend people to do different shoulder exercises bands. And they’re great to travel with too so they’re easy, throw them in the bag when you’re travelling and you can take them with you to do your strength training.
Facilitator: Yes I did that I actually got back two weeks ago from Vietnam. I was there for two and a half weeks.
Jason: Oh! That’s awesome.
Facilitator: Yes, because I knew I wasn’t going to get to any gyms and I wasn’t going to be doing any running so I brought these bands and yes it was pretty cool. I do a lot of the shoulder rehab exercises because I’ve got some bad shoulders but even doing bicep curls and you can do triceps extensions, and it’s not an ideal workout but it definitely for me, I hate taking several weeks off from doing strength training because I feel like I get too skinny, so that was like a perfect solution for me.
Jason: Yes I know those bands will fall right into just helping to maintain the muscle strength while you’re travelling.
Facilitator: You were featured in a Bloomberg article I guess it that pretty recently, it was on The Real Cost of Triathlons.
Facilitator: The article it was several parts and they interviewed a few people and they put it all together and had this crazy amount that was supposed how much you spent on triathlons.
Jason: Right, right.
Facilitator: Do you have any tips on how people can save money with looking at it that way as I was, as real expensive sport?
Jason: Absolutely, yes. If you look at that kind of slide show presentation that Bloomberg put together, the cost of triathlon could get astronomical if you wanted it to, but it doesn’t have to. When I first started … I don’t make a ton of money. I barely make enough money to pay my bills and I live in New York City but I can’t go out and buy a $10,000 bike now and all this other tech stuff, but my main tip that I give people is buy the stuff in the off season because that’s when you get your best deals when no one’s doing triathlon races during that time, bike stores are struggling for business, everybody’s struggling for business in the winter and so you that you get tons of deals so I remember my first bike I bought. I went into my local bike shop and I bought a Cannondale Caad 9 and it’s a pretty good bike but I bought it in the off season and I bought last year’s model, so it was still a brand new bike but as last year’s model they’re trying to get it off the racks so they can get the new models in and so I saved myself a few hundred bucks just for buying last year’s model and in off season. And also what I like to do is scout out the products that I want in the store, maybe it’s shoes or whatever, I’ll go try them on and then I’ll go online and I’ll buy them. So I’ll find different sites online and I’ll save myself anywhere from 20 to 30 percent just from buying online. So I’d say those are two suggestions I would give people to save money.
Facilitator: Yes, that’s awesome. I was actually I was looking for a pair of shoes, not running shoes, but dress shoes and I can go and shop around here but then there’s that site Zappos.com, there’s no sales tax so I’m like okay I’d save a few bucks that way too.
Jason: Oh absolutely, I’m all about Zappos, Amazon or Trysports, all those websites.
Facilitator: Sure, sure, now you’ve done quite a few triathlons at this point and you told me that you’re looking to go pro[00:15:00]. Can you talk about some of the obstacles you have overcome to get to where you are at this point?
Jason: Yes. Although I haven’t been in the sport that long, I’m one of those guys that’s kind of like once I set my mind on something I go at it like 200% so, just to give an example. I’ve failed miserably at the sprint distance and then my next race after that, after I put in some training and bought a bike and started swimming and running more and getting into some sort of a tri program I was like, “All right now I’m really fit, let’s go do a half iron man.” That was my second race ever, was a half ironman. So not a smart choice on my part but I finished and I’d done all this training and this process of learning too big obstacles I’ve overcome. One was injuries and a lot of it was over training injuries because I didn’t really know how to train for triathlons.
I knew how to train the body to be strong and fit and look good because I’m a personal trainer, but I didn’t really know how to program for triathlons and so I‘d get stress fractures. I had a stress fracture in my foot and that took a good six to eight weeks to heal and that’s during the season so six to eight weeks you can’t really train especially the run discipline and sometimes the bike discipline too so and I’ve been in numerous bike accidents. You know one time I cut up my foot real bad I’d get ten stitches. That put me back another three months and that was in season and just this past year I was riding on a bike path along the Hudson River and this skateboarder cut me off. I was going pretty fast, I was going like 20 miles an hour and I saw him and I knew something bad was going to happen but I just was like, man I hope he sees me, and I hope he stops,but sure enough he didn’t. I yell at him stop, he stops, but he kicks the skateboard out or the skateboard into my front tire and I go sliding and so I have all this road rush on my hands, my forearms, my leg, my hips so you know thankfully I didn’t break anything but I don’t know if you’ve ever had road rush but it’s really painful and it takes a while to heal as well so injuries have been some real big setbacks of mine, getting to where I want to be and where I’m at now and the second is my lack of training properly.
I could have saved myself a lot of time, I don’t know at least six months to a year of circling round and round with overuse injuries and not letting myself heal and hurting myself gaining my speed and endurance because I was like, awe like most novices do, you know I’ve got to train harder, Oh I‘m not fast enough, I’ve got to train harder. It can’t be that I’m not getting enough rest and let my body heal right? No, it’s I’m not training hard, I’m not training hard enough. I was like I want to be like ChrisMcCormack I want to be like Chris[00:18:05] I want to be like these guys, they must train all the time right? So if somebody would have told me and showed me, ‘Hey you’ve got to let your body heal, let it rest, let it adapt,’ I could have made much better gains quicker.
Facilitator: Yes, yes, it seems like it always comes down to rest. I think people err on the side of too much training and they just need the rest to bounce back from even the little annoying injuries.
Jason: Yes absolutely, absolutely. So it’s been challenging but I’m one of those people that learns the hard way, but once I make a mistake I don’t usually repeat those mistakes and so those are the two biggest setbacks I’ve had trying to reach my goal, trying to go pro.
Facilitator: So let’s talk about the swim since this is a podcast about swimming.
Jason: Yes, absolutely.
Facilitator: What do you recommend so that people that are non-swimmers and are getting involved in triathlon and you came from somewhat of a swimming background, but you have an idea of what they’re going through. What do you recommend to these people?
Jason: My biggest regret and now that I know is that I can recommend to anybody that wants to get into triathlon and especially swimming is invest in either a coach or somebody like you that has programs to help guide people because for me, even though I grew up swimming every summer and summer leagues before school and after school until way up into middle school, through middle school I was like, “No I don’t need a coach, what do I need a coach for. I don’t need anybody to tell me what to do.” Just hop in the water and swim right? Well, wrong because when I first started, man I could barely do 25m without stopping and gasping for air and I’m like. “Whoa what’s wrong? [00:20:00]I can do marathons, I can do half marathons, how come I can’t swim 25m without feeling like I’m going to sink and gasping for air.” So my recommendation would definitely, definitely be to invest in either a coach or somebody that’s got the knowledge that can put you on a program and show you proper technique because man I mean I know firsthand. I broke down the time, that first sprint I did my hundred meter average was something like 313, right, that’s abysmal, that’s slow. Now I can cruise at 130/135 pace you know.
Facilitator: Wow! 100m?
Facilitator: That’s really a big improvement.
Jason: I mean with a wet suit but still.
Facilitator: Sure, sure.
Jason: But it makes a big difference right nearly half the time but it’s not because, I mean yes I am more fit but it’s not because I’m working harder actually it’s the opposite, but you’re working smarter. Now I know how to glide and I know how to get the most out of each stroke and I know hey, maybe I shouldn’t drag my left legs through the water , maybe I should learn how to kick properly and rotate and all these things that you don’t know unless you have somebody to teach you or guide you as to how to do these techniques because swimming is all about technique and if I can’t stress it enough for people getting into the sport is find somebody who can teach you how to do the proper technique.
Facilitator: Yes. That’s awesome. That’s exactly what I talk about too so yes. The tough thing is that’s not an easy task to find because there’s a lot of coaches out there but a lot of them, they’re not exactly teaching people how to swim for triathlon. They’re kind of just general fitness or maybe it’s like an age group coach that’s coaching kids for 100m freestyles and things like that.
Jason: Yes. No you’re absolutely right there because I swim at a college, a [00:21:48] college and I see those coaches. And these kids are fast for 100m they’re putting out like 50 seconds for 100m, 55 seconds, not a time I could reach but triathlons we’re swimming like 1000m/1500m or even more and I see these guys doing drills and before I got coaching and before I did my research I was like, Ah, I’m going to follow these guys,” So I do my kick board drills with them and I do all these flip turns drill and all this other stuff and I was like I don’t think this is really what I need and low and behold after doing research. I actually knew about you a little bit before we connected on Twitter because I saw your videos online and it’s a really different kind of swimming. And knowing about body positioning and rotating and kicking and breathing and all those drills that you guys have on your website, those are very beneficial and they’ve helped me tremendously, tremendously.
Facilitator: Awesome, that’s good to hear. How are you setting up your races this year?
Jason: That’s a good question. You know I am, like I’ve mentioned before, my first race of the season is going to be ITU San Diego and I’m going for a good time there, I want to try to place top 10 there and from there I’m going to, you know that’s in April, and then in June I’m going to do another Olympic distance, it’s another fast race here in New Jersey and if I don’t get my pro card out in San Diego, then I lined up this other race that’ll allow me to get a fast time and hopefully get my pro card in this race. From there I want to go into more of the longer distances so I’ve set up a half iron man in Syracuse a month after that and then just to challenge myself and kind of give myself a little bit of a vacation time I’m doing at the end of the year, at the beginning of December I’m going to do iron man [inaudible].
Facilitator: Oh nice!
Jason: Yes. So I also want to challenge myself because with 70.3 Syracuse and iron man [inaudible] you know top level pros will be there, so hopefully I’ll be racing next to them but if not I know that they’ll push me.
Facilitator: Oh yes, for sure. So in terms of getting your pro card, what exactly does that mean, how do you do that?
Jason: That’s a good question. USAT has some guidelines that they want you to meet so that you can classify yourself as an Elite. They say it’s not really a pro card, I guess they don’t classify it that, they say it’s your elite card so if you look at your USAT card now and it says amateur, or [inaudible] or something like that and one of their criteria is the main reason I’m going out to San Diego is you have to place top ten [00:25:00]at an ITU sanctioned event and you have to be within eight percent. If you’re not the number one finisher you have to be within eight percent of the top finisher’s time. So that’s how they classify you at least in that race to get your Elite card and if it’s not that race then you have to enter into another race that has at least a $20,000 prize purse and place in the top 3 in that or top three in a World Championship so they don’t make it easy on you, but I narrowed it down to a couple races that I think I would have a chance of doing.
Facilitator: Well best of luck to you. I hope to meet you when you’re out here for sure in April and I’m sure you’ll have a great race and hopefully you get that pro card then in a few months.
Jason: Thank you, thank you. Yes, hopefully I can see you out there maybe you could give me some pointers.
Facilitator: Yes, yes there you go. Yes, I’ll try. It’s always tough at races. You can’t really see what’s going on from anywhere.
Facilitator: There’s a bunch of splashing so, but yes, it should be a good time. So I just want to mention that Jason’s website again is organichealthfitness.com so if you’re in New York City area and looking for some top notch training just check him out and anything else you wanted to add Jason?
Jason: No, just that I really appreciate you having me on and I think it’s great what you’re doing with the podcast and the videos and like I mentioned before, if you’re listening to this and you’re new to triathlon, swimming is definitely one of the harder events in the sport, go out and go on to triswimcoach.com and check out the videos and if you can try to invest in a worthwhile coach or somebody that can help you improve your stroke.
Facilitator: Absolutely,yes. I appreciate you mentioning that.
Facilitator: Yes, again thanks for coming on the show and yes, good luck with everything this year.
Jason: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Narrator: ♪ [music] ♪ Thanks for listening to another episode covering swimming and triathlon mastery. To get your free online swim clinic just go to triswimlessons.com give us your name and email and we’ll have session number one off to you right away. Begin your process of befriending the swim and laughing at the water now.