Winter is the season we all declare we’ll get fit but many of us don’t actually hit the gym until summer arrives…or later.
We spoke with three current and former Silicon Valley triathletes about how they keep their workouts fresh and fun and what specific exercises they recommend for getting back into shape.
Max Fennell, a professional triathlete since 2014, recommends starting a new exercise routine by focusing on the core.
“Strengthening your core is the foundation to everything,” Fennell says. “A strong core leads to a strong posture, which will reduce the chance of injury.”
Pull-ups (with some help)
While upper body strength is less necessary for triathletes than core and lower body, it still remains prevalent in their workouts. Yu Hsiao, another Silicon Valley triathlete and mechanical engineer on the side, believes that strength training should be a staple in everyone’s life.
“Strength training is extremely important, especially because modern life is so sedentary,” Hsiao says. “A lot of people are active in high school but not in college, and when they pick it up again, that’s when a lot of injuries happen.”
For people who only have time for a quick workout, Hsiao likes pull-ups because they work out a wide range of upper body muscles, including shoulders, biceps, deltoids, and forearms. Try to engage only your upper body and core muscles to avoid your body from swinging — keep pulling up until your chin clears the bar and don’t strain your neck to do so. Many gyms have assisted pull-up machines for those of us who aren’t yet able to pull off Hsiao’s recommended three sets of 15 reps (yeah, you’ve got a ways to go).
Lunges and lower body
“Your gluteus maximums, hamstrings, and quads are the most important,” Hsiao says. “The walking lunge is great because it works all of those muscles but really, any variation of the lunge works.”
The walking lunge can be done anywhere. Stand upright, take a step forward with your right leg and lower your hips by bending both knees to a 90-degree angle.
Do not let your back knee touch the ground and make sure your front knee is directly above your ankle. Press your right heel into the ground and push off with your left foot to step into a lunge on the other side. This completes two reps. Start with three sets of 20. Once the bodyweight lunges become easier, you can increase difficulty by holding dumbbells in both hands.
Lowell Sears is a 65-year old amateur triathlete and chief executive of Sears Capital Management, a venture investment firm that specializes in life sciences. Since 1994, Sears Capital Management has provided financing to science companies, especially in areas of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and has helped bring about life-saving therapies around the world.
Sears says the key to cardio success is to keep doing something different to maintain motivation and maximize strength building.
“If you do just one cardio exercise you will hurt yourself or get bored,” Sears says. “Your body reacts to the stress of exercise by adapting and if you keep changing what you’re doing, then your body has to continue to adapt and that strengthens you overall.”
The rotation of running, cycling, and swimming keeps Sears motivated each day. For younger triathletes such as Fennell, a little more variation is required. Fennell often goes surfing, aqua jogging, and longboarding to complement his triathlon training. Depending on your age, cardio should be done three to five times a week, according to Fennell, but never for more than an hour at a time.
In 2000, Sears ruptured two discs in his back and turned to yoga instead of surgery. He now follows his yoga routine with religious conviction.
“Having yoga as a part of your weekly routine is great and it works best if you can do it every other day,” Sears says.
One of Sears’s favorite poses, because it stretches the lower back is the cobra. Relax on your stomach for one minute. Then rise onto your elbows and hold for 30 seconds before lying back down. Repeat. Next, rise up onto your hands so that your arms are fully extended. Hold for one minute, lie back down and relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.
So get cracking, but our triathletes want you to take it easy as you get started.
“It’s best to do a little every day rather than go all out at once,” Hsiao says. “Sometimes you just have to remember that less is more.”