Training for a triathlon can be a challenging balancing act of swim, bike, and run sessions. Travel, for holidays, family time, or business, can further complicate this. Join us as we share top tips for training while traveling. Know when to skip a session, what sessions to prioritize on the road, and how to find the best places to train away from home.
TriDot Podcast .08
Top Tips for Training While Traveling
This is the TriDot Podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We'll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let's improve together.
Andrew: Welcome to the podcast. May I be the first to say that all of us at TriDot are glad you are listening to us and not some other less triathlony podcast. We've got some great stuff for you today. With me in studio is coach Elizabeth James. Elizabeth is a pro triathlete and four-time Ironman finisher. She's a Kona and Boston Marathon qualifier who has been coaching athletes for TriDot for over four years. Coach Elizabeth, thanks for coming on.
Elizabeth: Thank you always great to be here. I am especially excited for today's mindset.
Andrew: As am I. Also joining us is coach John Mayfield. John is a five-time Ironman finisher who has coached athletes to finishes at literally every US Ironman event. His TriDot duties have him on the go maybe more than anyone else on our team making him the perfect person for today's show. John, what's up?
John: Hey guys. On another trip so here we go.
Andrew: On another trip indeed. Today we are going to warm up by talking about the totally weird ways we as coaches have motivated our athletes to give their all, then we'll get rolling on our main set which is all about ways of getting your training in even when you're traveling. Coach John and coach Elizabeth both travel quite a bit for TriDot, and have tips and tricks of getting it done on the go. And for our cool down, I have a special treat. With us in studio is a member of the TriDot team that is making his podcast debut. I'll be talking with him for a few minutes about his role at TriDot. Spoiler alert, he's not a coach, and I'm going to be asking him about his rock star life on this side. So, lots to do. Let's get to it.
Time to warm up. Let's get moving.
Andrew: Recently I saw an Instagram post from Ironman with a quote from Pro Triathlete, Lucy Charles Barclay. For some context, Lucy is coached by her husband Reese and was a strong bet to make the podium in Kona. After leading through the entire swim and bike leg, she had slipped to third place during the run, before rallying to finish second. When asked what gave her the motivation to claw her way back into second place she said, “Reese promised that if I won we could get two dogs, if I came in second we could get one dog and if we came in third, no dog.” So, it was all for the dog, guys, this led me to wonder, John, Elizabeth, what are maybe the weirdest promises that you have made to motivate your athletes?
Elizabeth: Okay. Weirdest promise, I'd have to go with promising to take a whiskey shot at the top of the mountain at the end of Alaska man. I very rarely drink alcohol, but I had promised Andrew, one of the athletes I was coaching-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Not me, not me Andrew.
Elizabeth: Yes, different Andrew. Although you might want to put this on your bucket list too, awesome event. I had promised Andrew that at the end of his first extreme tri, we would cheers and take shots to celebrate this accomplishment. Just kind of a reference, Alaska man is a full distance tri that ends with a marathon kind of up and down a mountain in a ski resort in Alaska. And athletes are required to have a Sherpa for the last part of the run course. So, I had the opportunity to join Andrew through those last and final miles of this event to the finish line. And then true to my word and the days before the race, we had purchased shots that I carried in my pack during the marathon and we did indeed cheers.
Andrew: I feel like since it was something he wanted y’all to do, he should have carried the whiskey shots up the mountain instead of you, but I guess that's the Sherpa role.
Elizabeth: Exactly. Yeah, part of the Sherpa responsibilities there.
Andrew: All right. Hey, like if you're gonna if you're gonna drink when you don't normally drink like that's the time to drink.
Elizabeth: Yes, exactly.
Andrew: John, what about you?
John: So, speaking of promises, my wife claims that I promised that I was going to be one and done with Ironman, which I think is a pretty, pretty common misnomer. Perhaps maybe that promises made in haste are-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Pretty common broken promise, yeah.
John: Yeah. So, I'm coming up on Ironman number six, so sorry, babe. But I was wrong on that one.
Andrew: Yeah, so that wasn't to motivate one of your athletes, that was to motivate your wife to buy into you racing your first Ironman.
John: Yeah, sign off on that first one.
Andrew: Many Ironman's later. Well, I know for me, I had a season where I was helping with a youth triathlon program. And I particularly had a lot of 8, 9, 10, 11 year old entry level kid triathletes, right. They just wanted, you know, parents were trying to get them exposed to the sport. And so like, man between their attention span and their newness to the sport, I had to find all sorts of creative things to keep them motivated for running and biking and swimming workouts. And so I found out that they loved the Jelly Belly sports beans, right? Because to them it’s candy, right? And to me, it's like, oh, here’s electrolytes. So, it's not that you know, whatever. And so I literally would go into practice with the Jelly Belly sports beans in my pocket and like toss them out like I was training seals at sea world. And kids would finish a lap around the track and they would run to me, and I would just toss them a sports bean and they would just pop it in and go again. And it was literally the best way I found to motivate young triathletes. And so yeah, so this is Charles Barclay, she was motivated in Kona by getting an addition to the family with the dog. And I guarantee coaches out there have made crazier promises.
John: Well, I'm 40 and I think Jelly Beans would work for me too.
On to the main set. Going in 3, 2, 1.
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There are some lucky triathletes out there with plenty of time to train and flexible schedules that have them posting those training Instagram pics while the rest of us are stuck at work or out and about getting things done. For most of us, balancing training with life is an ongoing thing that never looks the same week to week. So, today we are specifically going to talk about ways to get in our training even when we're traveling. John, Elizabeth to get us started, can you each kind of tell me some of the things month to month you find yourself traveling for?
John: So, several of the things that I do within TriDot required me to travel and I love to travel so it's really a perk of the job. So, we're here in Dallas area today working with the team. I live in Houston, so it's about a five hour drive for me to come up here and be face to face with the team, which is always great to do so I'm doing that at least once a month as a rule. And then the other main thing that gets me on the road is our at the races events. So, TriDot is at every Ironman event in the US, which I traveled to the majority of those. So, those are multi-day trips out of state generally. So, there's several things that take me away generally, anywhere five to 10 days out of the month I'm on the road.
Andrew: Elizabeth, what about you?
Elizabeth: Month a month, I would say I have some travel kind of in the Dallas area and then outside of that as well. So, within the Dallas area, I lead some race clinics and attend some local events. And then on top of that, have some travel to leads and training camps or participate in training opportunities for my personal preparations. And then attending events that kind of further my education in the sport. John already mentioned our TriDot at the races events, I've had the opportunity to travel out of state for those as well, fantastic time. Again, another opportunity to connect with our TriDot community but has me on the road. I guess kind of on top of that, my husband and I have family that is spread across the United States, so we travel frequently to see family as well. Honestly, there's probably hardly a weekend when we are at home.
Andrew: And I think so many people relate to that statement right there, right? Like you get to the end of a month and you're like when were we home?
Elizabeth: Yeah, on the go.
Andrew: And so that's exactly why we want to cover this today because races are still coming up, races don't care how many weekends you were able to get your training in, you still have to prepare for the event. So, when both of you find yourself on a trip, typically about how much of your training schedule, do you find yourself able to get done?
Elizabeth: I'd say for me, I'm still able to get in 80 to 90% of my training. Now it does take some pre planning and sometimes involves a discussion with John to just some, make some adjustments to the sessions earlier in the week to accommodate.
Andrew: For just clarity for our listeners, John Mayfield, coach sitting with me right now is actually Elizabeth James's coach.
Elizabeth: Correct, yes.
Andrew: So, John on our staff, has a lot of different roles, has a lot of different hats but he's also kind of the coach of the coaches. We have a lot of coaches that serve with TriDot and work for TriDot and are coaching other athletes and John is the one with the experience that when we want a quality coach to bounce questions off of, John is there for us. So, when Elizabeth is talking about her coach John, she's actually talking about John Mayfield, sitting right here with us. So, go ahead, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Yes. Yeah. And I mean, that's just an incredible value is that John was able to work with me and make some adjustments to the sessions that I have, maybe earlier in the week if I'm going to be traveling later in the week, and kind of prioritize what needs to be done and consider how close we are to the upcoming race and kind of our goals that we want to accomplish coming up and how that fits with the training. But I'd say 80 to 90% of the training still gets done. It's possible to train while traveling. Sometimes these sessions become my favorite memories from the trip as I have an opportunity to explore a new place or meet other athletes.
Andrew: Yeah. So, you're able to get quite a bit in which is really encouraging to hear. John, what about you, do you usually get most of your training in like Elizabeth?
John: Not quite as much as Elizabeth. I think Elizabeth and I are kind of in different seasons of our own triathlon career. Elizabeth is still very active, still very competitive. Recently, she’s raced in Kona.
Andrew: She’s fast y’all, she’s fast.
John: Yeah, she's on the track back to qualify for Kona, whereas I'm somewhat in the twilight of my triathlon career. I think probably a lot of my best results and my most busy seasons are probably behind me. Whereas now I really enjoy investing in athletes, investing in our coaches, and my triathlon experience is a little bit more on the sidelines than on the road than it used to be. So, for me, I still enjoy the training. And I still want to get in as much training as I can. But you know, for me, it's not as a high priority. So, when things aren't as high priority, they don't always happen as consistently. So, it kind of depends on, I think where you are when you’re in your season of training and racing. But the good news is, as Elizabeth mentioned, when it is a priority, it's certainly feasible to do.
Andrew: When traveling somewhere new, one of the first things an athlete has to figure out is where to go to train. What are some of the things y'all have done to find a good spot to bike or run?
Elizabeth: Local bike shops are a great resource. When traveling to a location that's unfamiliar to me, one of the things that I'll do is reach out to the local bike shop, not only for the possibility of a bike rental, but also the opportunity to join in on a group ride or just get some suggestions of a route where to go.
Andrew: That's really great. I know, something that I've done is I go to Strava and Strava has their heat maps, right. And so if I know I'm going to San Diego, for example, or when you know, I've been in Washington DC, I'll pull up those cities and see one, where the Strava segments because those are the routes that people are tagging a lot. And then just the heat map of the city like where a lot of people are riding, where a lot of people are running, and that's a resource that I found. I've never asked a bike shop, so I've never considered that. So, thanks for that one, Elizabeth. So, running and even running, you can walk out of your hotel room, walk out of your family member’s house and go running, so that one's a little bit easier. But the swim is a whole different animal. I mean, it usually requires finding a nearby pool, that pool’s gotta have hours allotted for open swim. Elizabeth, what is the best way to find a good place to swim?
Elizabeth: The greatest resource I have found is our I Am TriDot Facebook group. I know that I have personally reached out to the group to ask them about places to train specifically, facilities to women, for locations that I've been going. And I've seen other athletes reach out and ask the same question. I am always happily surprised with how many responses there are from the athletes that are in that area where I'll be traveling, complete with the facility and the hours and just tips on where to go.
John: Oftentimes, YMCAs are a good resource for off-site swimming. I was recently at Ironman Chattanooga, and I know the Chattanooga YMCA was open to anyone whether you're a Y member or not. So, I know there are memberships that include all facilities nationwide, but from time to time, I found being on the road that sometimes the Y will even open up to non-members.
Andrew: And the Y is everywhere, so that's a great resource, you’re right. So, once you found a location like the Y you found the local track, you found something on Strava or through a bike shop. The next challenge that you have to sort out is finding the time. John, do you find yourself switching up the hours you train while you're traveling or you’re able to kind of keep that consistent?
John: Again, I think it kind of depends on where you are in the season and for me, it's also what is available within the trip. There have been times where I've been on the road where I've got a race pending, and so those sessions are incredibly valuable. So, generally I get my training in, in the morning. For me, if I set the alarm, get up, do the training, I know it's absolutely going to happen. So, if it's a real important session that's at a time of the season where I know I need to get in the session, then that doesn't change. So, it's still getting up early, getting in the session first thing, so I know what happens. Other times, it may fall to the end of the day, where if it gets in, great, but if not, there are things that sometimes are more important to get in the training session. So, I think it just kind of depends on the time of the season, the importance of the session, what's pending, what are you training for, is there a pending race or is it just kind of general training? And I think that kind of depends on whether I'm setting the alarm to get up early or getting it in after the rest of the day is done.
Andrew: Yeah, that's a great point. I know for me, I'm not a morning person at all, right? I think a lot of triathletes and runners are, like I did not get that gene on triathlete day, right? I just didn't. And so for me, I begrudgingly get up early in the morning for sessions that require me to do so. So, I try to get in as much of my training as I can later in the afternoon or the evening, if it permits. So, when I'm traveling, like, I found exactly what you just said, like you kind of, if I take that approach, there's no guarantee I'm going to get it in because if it's a family vacation you might get into family things and you feel bad like “Oh, guys, I’m gonna go for a run. If it's a work trip, like you might get through the day, things might go longer than you thought and all of a sudden at the end of the day, you're exhausted, right, and you don't get it in. Like I found exactly what you said, if I want to guarantee that I get in my run, or my swim or my bike while I'm somewhere else, you've got to get up in the morning, right? That's just for me, it's an unfortunate truth. But I mean, that’s exactly what you just said and I think that's very, very wise. Because if you have a race coming up, like it's simple, like you need to probably go through the effort to get up. And then if you don't, maybe you can be a little more relaxed and hope you get it in in the afternoon. So, I get that. The next thing people face, pass the time. Okay, so you’ve committed, okay, I'm gonna get up in the morning. I want to make it happen. All training still takes equipment, you know, goggles, shoes, bikes, nutrition, etc. Elizabeth, what tips do you have for getting what you need where you're trying to go?
Elizabeth: Yeah, great question. And as you stated, it does, it takes equipment. I travel with enough equipment to get in a swim, bike run or strength workout at any time, especially when I am in-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: So, you try to future proof yourself?
Elizabeth: Yes, exactly. If there's time, I'm getting it in. And especially like when I'm in a race preparation phase, I will devote an entire suitcase to my training gear and I really don't find that to be excessive. I will pack my workout clothes, shoes, swimsuit and goggles. If I'm driving, I will bring my bike and trainer. If I'm flying I'll just pack cycle shoes, but I do make sure that I have all of my gear with me, and really just prioritize that so that I can continue my training calendar. Traveling does require me to adjust my hours and be very flexible but I'm always prepared for those sessions. On the nutrition side of things, I travel with several blender bottles and single packs of nutritional products, plenty of snacks. I know that recently both John and I use the hotel coffee maker to heat some water for instant oatmeal and I'll bring some protein powder to mix into that, some homemade trail mixes, fresh fruit. So, not only do I bring with me the training equipment, but I'm making sure that I have you know some nutrition as well to make sure that I hit those quality sessions.
Andrew: Yeah, you gotta-- if you're going for a long run at home and you would take gels, pack those gels, pack what you would use, pack those electrolyte tablets. It's still hot where you're going, your body still needs that fuel that you would need just like if you're training at home.
Elizabeth: Right, exactly. It’s still another opportunity to practice your race nutrition plan, and so I want to do as much as I can to keep that consistent even while on the road.
Andrew: Yeah, I love the blender bottle trick. I always just like you said I always pack my-- whether it's protein powder or if it's just stuffing gels like instead of putting the gels in a Ziploc bag I’ll stuff gels inside of a blender bottle and I literally at an airport one time like had the guys-- I had all my blender bottles in my backpack going through the security and they made me take all of them out because they thought they were full of water, which obviously you can’t have going through the airport. And so they were looking at me like I was a weirdo as they were pulling all these blender bottles out of my backpack and finding them stuffed with gels and salt pills and all sorts of odds and ends. So, you can get some funny looks but I mean like you said if you want to be prepared, like you need to take everything whether that means a spare suitcase or not. Tell me specifically about the bike because I think that's traveling-- I mean, like you said, if you're driving you're going somewhere an hour or two away, yeah, you throw the bike on the car like you normally would. But if you're flying somewhere, what's the best strategy to get a bike to practice on?
Elizabeth: Again, this is where I will reach out to a local bike shop. Because oftentimes, you can rent one for a very small fee. And if I'm able to rent a bike that's similar to one that I'm riding and training on, then all the better. And I find that that works a lot better for me than just relying on you know, a hotel spin bike that might be available in the exercise facility. You know, push comes to shove, I’ll hop on there and maybe do you know, an aerobics session, something nice and easy. But you've got to be a little bit careful as well with fit and how you're stressing yourself with different positioning. So, there's a little risk there as well. So, if I can find a local bike shop then that's kind of my first go to. If not, then you make it work.
Andrew: And this isn't a scripted question at all but I am curious while we're talking about it because I've seen several athletes on the TriDot page in the TriDot community post pictures of, “Hey in a hotel, but getting it done.” and they'll be on a treadmill or be on a spin bike in a local gym somewhere and they're happy that they're able to get a workout in even if it's not ideal conditions. What advice John, do you maybe have for somebody in that scenario? They found a treadmill, they found a spin bike, they want to make the best of it, what kind of workout should they try to get in in that scenario?
John: Generally, the treadmill is a pretty safe bet especially if you have that mental strength tenacity to do the treadmill session. Which if you're not used to them, a lot of times that can be a bit of an acquired skill. But yeah, if you need to get in the session and the treadmill is all you have generally, you can get that in. One recommendation that we give is utilizing heart rate for gauging intensity as opposed to pace simply because generally, the treadmills are measuring in miles per hour and not particularly-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Miles per hour isn’t as helpful right?
John: But your heart rate is a probably more objective, accurate measurement of your intensity level. So, a good opportunity to get in a good zone two aerobic session especially on the treadmill. You do run into some different issues with the higher intensity stuff one, does the treadmill go fast enough, is the pace accurate, those kinds of things. So, treadmills are great for just easy aerobic runs if that's the only thing that's available. And like Elizabeth said, the spin bikes serve their purpose, they are what they are. They allow you to spin out your legs. I would not recommend doing a whole lot of high intensity stuff, or long sessions on those simply because they're not going to be fit properly to you, even if you try and get comfortable. Bike fit is such a-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: The risk of tweaking some things becomes not worth it.
John: -- nuance. Yeah. So, and kind of like the treadmill speedometers, the power meters are not particularly accurate as a rule.
Andrew: That’s so true.
John: So, another opportunity just to follow heart rate and oftentimes, your best bet is just an easy aerobic spin just to get the heart rate up, flush out the leg. Especially if you've been in the car or on a plane for a long time, it's a good opportunity just to get the heart rate up, get the body moving, blood pumping, that sort of thing.
Andrew: So, sometimes we just can't logistically take a bike with us or find a pool to train in. What is maybe the most creative thing that you have done to get in a workout when you didn't have everything you need?
Elizabeth: Oh, that's a good question. I think the most creative thing that I've done to get a workout in was using resistance bands while on a layover in the airport. I know I got plenty of funny looks there, but I still got in a strength workout that day.
Andrew: I've seen pro triathletes like Instagram, like in the Doha airport going for a run. And then some airports just have so much space that they're able to get at least a zone two something in, right?
Elizabeth: Right. Yeah. Make it work. I mean, to that same extent, I've run hotel flights of stairs, I've done yoga from the hotel room. You can, you can get creative, you can still get something in.
John: And that's kind of where Elizabeth and I are different athletes at this stage. I don't do resistance-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: That’s why she's qualifying for Kona.
Andrew: You and I are not qualifying for Kona.
John: Among many reasons. Yeah, I've never done the resistance bands in the airport, but I applaud those that do, especially Elizabeth. But one of my favorite things to do is just go kind of do some urban exploring in these different cities that I'll visit where I'll just head out the front door of the hotel and run for a period of time and pray, I don't get lost or mugged or anything like that. But generally, I'll just kind of scope out the city, have a vague route. And it's just kind of a cool way to see the city that you're in and kind of experience something new, see the sights in a little different way than you would doing the normal touristy stuff or wherever your business travel takes. So, that's something that I enjoy doing is just kind of going out and turning wherever the wind blows kind of a thing. I've had some great sessions just going out and not much of an agenda or a map, just going for time and enjoying seeing a new city new run route that way.
Andrew: Now, I realize in some instances, it might depends on where you're at in your season, right, if you're close to an important race, it's probably a little more important that you try to get workouts in. If you're just in a development season where nothing's really come up on the calendar, you might be able to just relax a little bit more. Elizabeth, can you kind of talk to us about that, what should our mindset be based on what events we have coming up?
Elizabeth: Yes, of course. So, I mean, we've already discussed other factors such as availability of facilities. But the race calendar also really determines what your expectations should be for training while traveling. So, as race day approaches, there are certain sessions that should be prioritized, such as the long sessions before a half or full Ironman distance event. So, I know that when I'm traveling and the weeks prior to a race, those are the sessions that I really want to plan ahead and make sure that I get in. Those long sessions are very important as you're continuing to build endurance to get yourself through the duration of the race day. And so those are ones that you would really want to prioritize, especially as you know, those final weeks start to wrap up.
Andrew: So, Elizabeth, going off what you just said, so if someone has maybe a half Ironman or a full length Ironman coming up, they should probably try to make sure they're getting in longer training sessions. Whereas someone who has a sprint or Olympic or a shorter distance like they probably need to be prioritizing their higher intensity sessions, right?
Elizabeth: I would say so, yes. And I mean, this is where it gets very athlete’s specific. And one of the things that I would say I visit with very frequently with the athletes that I coach as we talk about their travel and what adjustments need to be made for their training sessions. But yes, an athlete that's racing a longer course event will definitely want to prioritize those longer sessions. You know, somebody that's not racing a full distance Ironman, really concentrating on their speed and strength for sprint distance, that would be their priority.
Andrew: So, with major events, like family vacations, the big holidays or even a super intensive work trip, is there a point that it just makes more sense to take the time off?
Elizabeth: Yes, I do think so. And I think here kind of an important distinction is, what the purpose for travel is, and then again, going back to the timeline of your next event. So, are you traveling for work and you're still training for an event that's coming up? Are you traveling for a vacation? When is that next upcoming race? I have, I've taken a weekend off to spend time with family, I've also taken a full week off of training for vacation. There are times where it is okay and even encouraged to take a step back from the training calendar. Your body and your mind will probably enjoy a little bit of a reprieve as well.
Andrew: Very true.
Elizabeth: And you’ll be chomping at the bit to get going again, once you're back in your usual routine.
John: So, I agree, I think it's really important to have that flexibility and that even ability to take a step back and be okay with missing a session. And this is really where consistency becomes important as even a reward where that's something that we preach. It's not perfection, it's consistency that's going to produce your best results. And when you train consistently, you can, you can take a couple days here and there and really have no negative impact from missing a couple sessions or a week, whatever the case may be. So, it's just another reason to prioritize consistency in your regular training so that when these inevitable occurrences come along, they're not a bad thing. It's not something you have to stress over, it's not something that has to be perceived as a negative. There's absolutely nothing wrong with taking a couple days off from training to enjoy a holiday, to enjoy the family. In fact, I often encourage it with the athletes that I work with, even if they have the opportunity to get in a training session but they're on a family vacation. Those family vacations are rare, that's highly valuable time. Training is going to be there when they get back. So, even sometimes I would say I have the opportunity to train but I'm also on family vacation, I would say hey, just wait till you get back. Training will be there when you get back. Enjoy the family vacation. It's not going to impact you really at all on race day. In fact, oftentimes it can be of benefit as Elizabeth said, just the mental refreshment, the rest to your body; all those are real important too. So, really the important thing is consistency and training, not perfection.
Andrew: John, you said something earlier and I think we'll close our main set today with this. You talked about how training when you're traveling can be just a great way to explore a new place and just get to know it, get to see it. When you run those streets somewhere, when you bike somewhere, it really gives you just a different perspective than being in a hotel or commission center somewhere, right. So, Elizabeth, I'll start with you, but can you maybe talk me through like what is just one of your favorite memories from a place you've explored on a training session somewhere?
Elizabeth: So, to this day, one of my most favorite rides is the West Maui loop. And this route was, oh my gosh, just beautiful, had some challenging elements with a couple climbs and the strong winds coming off the coast. And then just some great memories like stopping at Julia's Fresh Banana Bread Stand along the way.
Andrew: You can't do that just everywhere, right.
Elizabeth: No, definitely not. So, I mean beautiful views, just a long ride. I was just kind of out there by myself exploring the island, and it is still one of my most favorite memories.
Andrew: I like want to eat banana bread right now just from hearing her saying the word banana bread. John, how about you, where was somewhere you went?
John: I'd have to say one of the most interesting was probably the French Quarter in New Orleans.
Andrew: Okay. A little different from Hawaii.
John: Yeah. It was a Sunday morning and I just went out for a run around the French Quarter. And I'll say that the sights, the sounds, the smells were a little different than you might experience on Saturday night than Sunday morning. But yeah, that was a fun one and lots of interesting things to encounter in the French corner on a Sunday morning.
Andrew: Yeah, one that I remember to this day, I was on a work trip to Melbourne, Australia. And Melbourne is just a really, really cool city and there's just a fantastic pathway that just goes all the way down the river and back in. I grew up a big tennis fan. I grew up playing tennis and so if you run down the river, you pass by like Rod Laver Arena where the Australian Open is held every year. And you pass by the Melbourne Cricket grounds and there's just so many that the Melbourne Botanical Garden-- there's so many interesting things you see right from the riverbank going down that path. People rowing, rowing teams doing practice in the river and we don't really get that in Texas, right - rowing teams out there. And so that was just a run that on a work trip like just seeing a new city in a new country was really really cool for me.
Great set everyone. Let's cool down.
Andrew: On our cool down today, I wanted to take a little time and introduce the podcast audience to a key member of the team that you haven't heard from yet. Joey English serves as our UX designer and is the man responsible for the user interface every TriDot athlete interacts with on a daily basis. So, we'll spend a few minutes hearing from him as we cool things down from today's main set. Joey, welcome to the podcast.
Joey: Hey, Andrew, thanks for having me.
Andrew: So, Joey, you are not actually a triathlete, but through your work for TriDot, you have learned a tremendous amount about the sport and gotten to know its athletes. So, as an extremely knowledgeable non triathlete, tell me what is your impression of the sport of triathlon?
Joey: Well, it's an extremely impressive sport, that's for sure. Its athleticism at its peak in multiple disciplines, which is amazing to see. And especially seeing the wide range of people that participate in the sport, everyone from young to old, male, female, the demographic is very, very wide and the level of performance, it just completely baffles me. I've been in the health and fitness industry for a long time as a product designer as a designer and front end developer and I've worked with a lot of companies in a lot of different verticals. And triathlon by far is the most impressive aspect of sports I've ever come across. There's a passionate group of people and an unbelievably high performing level of individual out there that does this really, really crazy sport where it's just intense at all times, there's no let up, there's no cool down to some degree. And everyone that participates in these races completely blows my mind.
Andrew: You did use the word crazy in your response, but it was crazy in a positive way, whereas some people just think that we're just straight up crazy in general. So, thank you for stroking all the triathletes egos.
Joey: Absolutely. You guys are insane in the best way possible.
Andrew: So, Joey as TriDot’s UX designer, you do a ton of work behind the scenes to help athletes have the best experience possible. Can you kind of give the people a short version of what you do?
Joey: Yeah. So, just of the gist of what I do on a daily basis is just looking at interface design from the athletes perspective. I tried to use different personas in different individual experiences to craft an interface and an experience that each individual athlete will appreciate and be able to navigate easily and effortlessly. The idea is to make as little friction as possible happen between the user and the interface. And getting things done should be simple, straightforward, and highly efficient. So, we want to as UX designers and product designers, we want to try and make that overall experience as easy, simple, straightforward, as best as possible, and ensuring that there's no problems, there's no kind of hiccups that happen when the user is in the actual application. A lot of that's going to come down to researching trends, researching how to do something better like XYZ item might be done better this way or that way. So, we'll make changes, we’ll test those changes, we’ll optimize, but overall, that's sort of what you're doing. You're just trying to reinvent the wheel until it turns into a circle and can be used properly.
Andrew: I want people to understand what we're talking about is you design and you help craft and perfect the interface that when an athlete is looking at their TriDot workout, and they are interacting with that information and uploading their data, you design that platform that they're interacting with on the TriDot app, whether it's on the phone, whether it's on the actual computer website, that's what a majority of your work goes into designing, correct?
Joey: Yeah, exactly. So, we end up having a discussion, having a conversation about what the particular feature, or the addition that we're going to make to the interface and then we start at the square, square one, right. We start by wireframing that we turn that wireframe which is usually a piece of functionality or feature, particular thing that our athletes are looking for, and then we start to flesh that out through the wireframes. And then we eventually go into doing the interface design. So, for instance, we just launched the genetics. And so we had to decide how best to let users get the information on the page and interact with that page, and what data we wanted to display to them in an efficient way. So, in this case, we used a tab structure for the page and that’s an interface element and also a UX decision that we had to make to make sure that experience was very simple and straightforward. It was easy for people to navigate using some common UX standards, some ideologies that sort of work really well, and people understand. I tap on this or I click on this and I get this response. So, it's all of that sort of all the mechanical stuff that happens behind the scenes in the design process. And implementing it is just a matter of following our design standards and making sure it looks like the rest of the app and functions like the rest of the app. And there you go, you have a new feature that comes to market and gets shipped out. And hopefully, people enjoy it and use it and there's no bugs, which is always the good thing.
Andrew: Yeah. Joey, what I love about you and your team is that you're never 100% satisfied with the app, you're never just complacent, sitting back saying we did it. It's a great app, it's perfect. You know, you're always looking for ways to improve it. You're always looking for ways to help the athlete interact with that data and information as best as possible. And you mentioned the launch of Physiogenomix. But can you maybe share one more example of a feature on the UX that you're proud of, and kind of how that feature came to be?
Joey: Yeah, so this is kind of a tricky question because all of it’s sort of my baby but at the same time, there are definitely areas-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: What part of your baby do you love the most?
Joey: What part of my baby do I love the most? I would say honestly, we wanted to keep very similar functionality and similar usability as the old application, which we sort of replaced this last year. And we had a lot of athletes that actually still enjoyed using that application, it was slightly outdated. There were some definite issues with how that interface worked. And so we wanted to make improvements. And we wanted to redesign it to bring it up to current standards and make sure it worked and function well for everyone, including our new and older athletes. And I say new as in new users and older users. And so in this case, we kept a lot of things similar, but just looking a little bit different. So, the weekly schedule, certain things are the same, the daily workout page, but for me, the biggest, really, I guess, the gem in the treasure chest I coveted the most was the onboarding process.
Previously, the onboarding process was so long and drawn out. And although it wasn't entirely unintuitive, there were areas of it that were just very clunky and difficult to get through and we noticed especially from testing, the athletes would just stop at certain places. They just tire of either filling out all the information or they hit a blocker somewhere. And when we looked at the the entire process, it was just a little too, not tedious, but a little too unengaging. So, we went back and looked at that and tried to improve it dramatically. As far as I'm concerned, it's a complete turnaround from the old onboarding process in that it gets people into the app and engages them in an intelligent way. And as triathletes very well know, this is a very, very in depth sport with a lot of facets and as a result, athletic profiles and all the data we need to collect to create the right type of workout for specific athletes because that's what we do. We don't just throw out a prescribed plan, all of our athletes get something that is specific to them.
And so getting their data in an intelligent way and in a way that they want to give that data to us was really important. We want them to fill out every piece of that information, but different than signing up for another app that is maybe just about doing a run or doing a bike workout, where very minimal data is collected, that experience is very low friction on those other apps because there is very, very little data requirements. But for us, we need all of that info. And by the time you get into the application, the backend of our app is taking your first assessments and basically creating an entire season of workouts for you, and it is very specific to you. And a lot of people don't understand how in depth that process is. So, when you first get into your daily workout page, you're not even going to see a workout yet on that day, you're going to see the workouts coming in the next few days or next week because we're generating that schedule and it's taking some time to get that done. So, that whole process is a little bit longer than it might be for a more, I don’t want to say less refined app, but I would say just less dynamic or less complex application.
Andrew: Yeah, for a simpler app.
Joey: Yeah, definitely. So, that is the thing I probably am the most proud of. And like you said before, we're never sort of resting. I work in my sleep, as I like to say. So, there's a lot of thought that's going into it constantly. We're constantly updating and constantly iterating and improving. And I think over time, the idea is for us to make as many of our users happy as possible, not just in the efficacy of their workouts and how they perform at their races, but also in the experience of using the application because that's how they interface with those workouts. So, yeah, we're never going to stop there, which is great for job security.
Andrew: Now Joey, many of us on the TriDot team have worked with you for years, and only recently found out that you are a hardcore Rock enthusiast, even playing in a few bands yourself over the years. So, just real quickly, tell the people about your rockstar side life career.
Joey: Yeah. So, actually, weirdly enough how I transitioned into design and development was through music. I played in several bands, some of them more popular than others. I won’t name drop, but I had a few very successful bands in the late 90s, early aughts that got me a lot of connections and allowed me to kind of delve into the industry.
Andrew: You also don’t want to age, I’m sure.
Joey: Absolutely. Definitely. Ironically, as a designer and now a musician, I remember the first job I got, I reached out to small bandmates, and I said, “Hey, this is the person I'm working with.” And they're like, “Oh my gosh, that's amazing” because it was somebody that was very well known in the Rock industry but ironically, I was again working with them as a designer. So, I transitioned strangely from music because my first band sort of needed a website. So, I started to learn how to code from music into design and development full time. But it still runs deep, I still have a lot of connections in the music business. And I know a lot of personalities in Hollywood and Los Angeles, where I lived for some time and it's been a fun ride. But I definitely have had a deep rooted passion for the health and fitness industry for a very long time. So, it was a great move for me to transition to this industry.
Andrew: For all my athletes listening in who maybe have a long run, or a TriDot trainer ride workout coming up on their training plan, what is an under the radar Rock album or Rock band that you would recommend we check out on our Spotify, iTunes, wherever we stream that kind of stuff to keep ourselves entertained; what is a Joey English recommendation for a next tough workout?
Joey: Man, that's a hard question. You're asking a music person to nail down one album. I could sit here for hours talking about music. One of the things I've been doing recently is going to just doing searches and going to like Spotify or Apple Music and finding really good playlist because I am such a curmudgeon when it comes to finding new music and finding new bands. Because I'm just old school and I don't really, really follow new music the way I probably should. And I also really love Classic Rock. So, it's hard for me to find good new musicians that I really enjoy without somebody saying, “Hey, listen to these guys specifically.” So, I usually use Spotify or Google music and just find great playlists or radio stations that are playing some stuff that I can sort of dig into. But recently, I will tell you, on my last run, myself, I was listening to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, a little bit of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and probably some Creedence Clearwater Revival, which makes me sound ancient, even though I'm kind of a 90s. Kid. But yeah, I'm bending a classic rock binge recently.
Andrew: All right. You guys heard it here. Go find some nice Classic Rock. Go pull up some Fleetwood Mac or Creedence Clearwater Revival on Spotify and get that going during your next workout, and give a little shout out to Joey English as you rock your way through those zone four to five efforts listening to Classic Rock. Hey, Joey, thanks for taking some time to come today.
Joey: Yeah appreciate it, Andrew. Thanks for having me.
Andrew: That's it for today folks. I want to thank coaches John Mayfield and Elizabeth James for sharing some great advice on training while on the go. Shout out to our friends at Garmin for bringing us today's show. Next time you are looking to upgrade your tri tech, head to Garmin.com to find what Garmin device can take your tri gear to the next level. Enjoying the podcast, have any trifling questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Head toTriDot.com/podcast and let us know what you're thinking. We'll do it again soon. Until then, happy training.
Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot Podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great Tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today. TriDot, the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.