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Coaches Blog

Knocking Off the Rust for Race Season

As it's beginning to get closer to spring in some parts of the country and races are beginning to start up again, it's time to knock the rust off our open-water swimming, outdoor cycling, and road running. Let's look at a few things we can do to switch our brains and muscles to remember what it's like to do each discipline outdoors again. 


Although it may not be realistic for some of us to get into open water yet, there are still things we can do to prepare. I have listed these with "pool" or "open water" designations below:

Eyes Closed swimming or floating (POOL): Often, open water visibility is limited, and this leads to anxiety. Start training your mind for these conditions early by swimming or floating in the pool with your eyes closed. This helps your brain adapt to these variables.

Additionally, swimming with your eyes closed can help determine whether you tend to pull more toward one side or the other (which will help you swim straighter in open water). 

High Hand Recovery Drills and Sighting (POOL): In open water, there is a need for a higher hand recovery. Practicing the high hand recovery drills will help get your brain used to modifying stroke slightly for open water. In addition, practicing sighting and alligator-eyes swimming drills will help condition your upper body to endure longer periods in a different body position. 

No lane swimming and bunch swimming (POOL): Swimming without lanes and with others around will create rougher water and increase your comfort swimming in crowded conditions. If you have a group, swimming in a bunch will greatly help you mentally and tactically once you get to open water and race time.  

Underwater Breath Holding (Open Water): The first few times in open water will most likely be cold, increasing respirations and anxiety. Before going anywhere, start in shallow water by submerging your head and getting yourself to relax in the new conditions. Reminding yourself, "Everything is going to be alright; it's just water, and you are just swimming like you have done thousands of times."

Start Close to Shore Before Going Out (Open Water): The first few times back into open water, it helps to start off by staying close to shore, getting your body used to the water conditions, getting your mind settled, and also swimming at different speeds to ensure you don't have anxiety when you are working harder. 


When getting off the trainer and back on the road, you may need to knock the actual rust

off the bike and not just refresh your body. You may want to start by taking the bike in for a tune-up or signing up for an introductory bike mechanic class if you are not already bike savvy. Here are a few recommendations once you do get back outside riding. 

Start in a Neighborhood with Stop Signs: Start riding around a neighborhood where you know there will be stop signs or multiple areas where you must start and stop. Some of these should be unpredictable stops so you can get very efficient at quickly clipping in and out of your pedals. 

Parking Lot Drills: Find an open parking lot with medians or poles to use as turn markers. Curved medians are the best as this will help guide you to take quick, efficient turns. You can set up a course in the parking lot where you have to take turns right and left and at all different angles.

This is an excellent refresher on safe and efficient bike handling skills. Parking lot drills are good at any time and for any level of rider. Check for gravel or glass every time you do parking lot work.   

Varied Terrain:  Try to find a route that has some variation in incline/decline and the type of road so you ensure you are comfortable climbing and going at higher speeds descending. This is best done in a safe area the first few times instead of busier roads. 


The run is the discipline that may mostly stay the same from winter to spring and summer since many of us run outdoors year-round. Still, here are a few things to think about for those who spend many winter miles on the treadmill or are just preparing specifically for a race. 

Getting Your Legs Used to Pavement: Many of us don't run on pavement because it's

harder on the joints, but most races are on pavement. This means we must condition our joints to tolerate and thrive on pavement. Get back to running on pavement, and increase frequency rather than just duration on pavement at first. 

Run hills: Running up and down hills is a skill that requires practice. Many of us brake ourselves on downhills rather than using the free speed given by gravity. This will be even more relevant if you've been running indoors for the winter months.  

Parking Lot Skills: Just like on the bike, working on running around turns and technical areas for the run can be beneficial. Find a parking lot and run around the medians as you would in a race.

Setting up a course and working on finding the shortest line to the next turn will help you optimize your run performance in the race. This is especially important for those doing sprint distance or draft-legal events where there will be more turns and more people around you. 

In conclusion, race season is just around the corner! Make sure you mentally and physically prepare yourself for all aspects of each discipline you may encounter outdoors. Nothing is worse than something going wrong during a race that you know you could have prepared for in the months leading up to the event. 


Coach Aaron Scheidies is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach and licensed Physical Therapist. A graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Exercise Physiology, Aaron has coached World Champion Paratriathletes as well as Ironman World Championship qualifiers. Aaron is an 11-time World Paratriatlhon Champion and has set the World’s fastest time for anyone with a disability at both the Olympic (1:57:24) and Ironman 70.3 distances. (4:09:54).


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