Picture above: me swimming from one of Richard Branson’s private islands to his other one, with a person greeting from Sir Richard himself.   I highly recommend that “vacation workout”  next time you are in the British Virgin Islands 🙂

One of the biggest challenges as a triathlon coach is dealing with unrealistic expectations, such as athletes thinking they can achieve a personal best in a race even if they took a long vacation with a big gap in their training in the middle of their race build.   

The fact is, if you are a busy triathlete on a minimalist training plan (such as a 10 hour per week Ironman plan or a  1 hour per day “new dad” training plan) there is only one rule you can’t break– CONSISTENCY.  (TriForce Rule #1).      “Basic” consistency for most people means that you do 2 or 3 workouts per sport per week, virtually every week.   Any less than that (especially if you are on a minimal training plan) and your fitness will take a hit.  E.g. if you go away and barely train for 2 weeks, you will lose 33% of your fitness.   (Your fitness is pretty much a reflection of your last 6 weeks of training).  

Don’t forget to pack your jeados when you travel!


I always work out on vacation

It’s part of how I experience a city and training makes all the food and wine taste better.  I don’t “follow the plan,” but training gives me energy and keeps me feeling healthy and in a good mood.  All play and no train makes Coach Coady a fat, tired and grumpy boy.   Sometimes I just squeeze in workouts as easily as possible (e.g. hit the hotel gym bike), but sometimes the workouts are the highlight of the trip.

Create Some Vacation Training Memories (here are some of mine):

  • running on the bike paths and among the old windmills in the Netherlands

  • hunting for sand dollars swimming in Turks and Caicos.  

  • running up the hiking paths in the Swiss Alps, as the tourists hiking down looked at me like I was nuts (then I got to take the funicular back down)

  • Swimming from one of Richard Branson’s private islands to his other one and getting greeted by Sir Richard himself (OK, maybe that one isn’t normal)

  • experiencing the “interesting” pool rules and customs in just about every country (using the locker room in Amsterdam was a little puzzle to solve).

  • taking a crazy taxi to a pool in the Rhineland, where the old German ladies seemed angry I wasn’t doing the official pool stroke of Europe (head out of the water breaststroke).

  • seeing beer gardens as I biked along the Isar River in Munich

  • getting lost in just about every country 🙂   and trying to ask for directions in my pidgin Spanish or French.

The memories go on and on…    

So, hopefully I convinced you to keep up some basic consistency (maybe 2 or 3 workouts / sport / week)  while you are on vacation.  So without further ado, we present:

12 Tips For Triathlon Training on Vacation

1.__Short vacations (1 week) can be used as recovery weeks. 

Just squeeze in some short workouts in all 3 sports while you are away and you should be able to resume good training when you return.  Plan ahead with your coach. 

2. Schedule your key races so they don’t get in the way of your vacations. 

(Or, schedule your vacations so they don’t get in the way of your key races).   If you schedule a long vacation during the last 8 or 10 weeks before your “a race”, you’re going to have to continue to do relatively “real” training while you are away if you want a peak performance.    If you barely bike for 2 weeks, e.g., you’re going to lose a large amount of bike fitness. (and, no, you can’t really substitute running for biking). Some athletes detrain very quickly.   I love to schedule our long vacations after my last race of the season so I don’t have to worry about losing my fitness.

3. GOLD STANDARD: stay at a hotel with a gym with a bike and a treadmill.  

Yes, this rules out the cute B&B and the trendy boutique hotels that my wife loves. But if I can squeeze in some quick morning workouts in the hotel gym, it makes both of our lives better for the rest of the day.    Make this a must.  Then you can roll out of bed, do a solid workout and be done and ready to enjoy the day.  Any crappy gym bike (although preferably not recumbent) can work well. Short, hard intervals tend to work well on crappy bikes (with the legs pumping hard, less weight is on the saddle).  This makes life easier for everyone and sets you up to succeed. 

4. bonus: stay at a hotel with a pool where you can tether yourself (or, huge bonus if you can actually do laps in the pool). 

Yes, it looks goofy, but it makes it very easy to get in a quick swim.  Swimming with a drag suit, ankle bands and/or closed fists can make a smaller pool more of a workout.  See coach Andrew below, adding to the ambience of his hotel.

Some hotel pools are nicer than others.  

Coach Andrew ruining the ambiance at the hotel pool.

5. Research swim, bike, run routes/ venues ahead of time.  

Find the pool, gym, running routes, bike path, etc, BEFORE you go.  Make it as easy as possible to succeed!

triathlon training on vacation

If you visit Switzerland, rent a mountain bike, stuff your pockets full of delicious soft pretzels from a local bakery, and bike to a glacier.

6.  Be willing to pay exorbitant day use fees at the gym.   

It’s the price of excellence.  It costs something like $50 to train at Chelsea Piers, but I still did it to “hit the trifecta” (see below) then enjoy the rest of the day

7. Use a city bike or hotel bike.  

Some hotels have free bikes for getting around town.  Or, if they have a bike share program in the city, use it.   All you need is a hill or little loop in a park for intervals.  Of course, you could also find a random bike route or river path and see where it goes.  The slower and clunkier the bike, the better!

Hotel Bike at the Fairmont Orchid, Big Island.

8. Take a spin class. 

This is always fun.  If you are in a country where you don’t speak the language it’s even more fun– just imitate the instructor and the people around you.   One time an instructor in Spain  started talking to me and asking me questions in Spanish.  When I told her I didn’t speak Spanish she had a laugh and told me in English that she can’t believe how well I’m following the class without knowing the language.  

9. Hit the trifecta: go to a gym with a pool + bike + treadmill.

Most of the time I prefer to squeeze in short workouts, but if you have a good block of time (perhaps while you are treating your partner to a spa day), go to a gym and do a “mini triathlon.” Do a nice and hard swim, some bike intervals on a spin bike, then hit the treadmill for a tempo run. Boom! 3 workouts done.

10. Pack swim cords

Swim cords can help maintain your swim muscles and work on your press & push.   

11. Be flexible!  

I recently rented a mountain bike on vacation.  It was 40 degrees in the morning and I didn’t have any warm bike clothes.  So I biked with jeans and a casual jacket over my bike kit. The trails from the hotel weren’t very extensive but I just did loops of a 30 minute course on the resort roads and the short little trails four times.

12. Be committed! 

Make continued consistency a MUST.  Even if you have to run laps around a parking lot, or do some swim cords when you get back from a long day.  DO IT!  

It’s easy to maintain consistency on vacation with a little bit of planning and determination. In fact, getting in some short workouts in vacation should enhance the experience. You’ll be in a better mood, you’ll enjoy the food more and you’ll have more energy through the day.