"Have you ever pushed yourself to your limit? Do you remember how much that hurt?"
When 36-year-old Andy Potts turned to triathlon in 2002, after a swimming career that included a fourth-place finish in the 400-meter individual medley at the 1996 Olympic trials, he realized immediately that he would need to be a quick study to catch up with the younger, seasoned pros. Together with Mike Doane, who coaches Olympic and Ironman athletes, Potts developed an exercise-monitoring program that he and Doane call feedback training, which examines each day’s workout according to three variables: power (measured in watts or speed), distance (measured in length or time), and heart rate. That data is then used to generate the following day’s training routine. If Potts’ wattage is low or his heart rate is high, he could be overtraining, so the next day he’ll back off. The approach enabled Potts, who lives in Colorado Springs, to qualify for the Olympics in 2004—only his second year in the sport. Here, he shares with Gordy Megroz the training wisdom that helped earn him multiple Ironman-distance wins:
I use motivating cues when things get rough on the course. I’ll say things like “Push, push, push” or “Go, go, go.” It could be “Make Dad proud.” I’ll also compliment a guy I just passed, tell him he’s doing great. In my mind, if I just passed somebody who’s doing great, then I must be doing awesome.
Eat like a little kid. If you watch young children, they eat whenever they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. They never overeat. Eating that way helps with sustained energy.
Your core is imperative for everything, and it’s often the first thing that fatigues. If mine is strong, I can use all of my energy to propel me forward, rather than using some of it to stay upright. Three days a week I’ll do 20 different kinds of sit-ups and back raises on a physio ball, targeting the core in 360 degrees—20 to 30 reps each.
If I’m close to bonking, I eat a PowerBar. I stash them everywhere. They have a lot of glucose, and that’s the sugar the body burns first. I’m a double-chocolate guy.
Water doesn’t get it done. What you need is an electrolyte drink with sodium, potassium, magnesium, and carbohydrates, so the fluids absorb better.
I don’t drink alcohol. My race weight is important to me, so I’m calorie conscious. I can’t afford to consume those unnecessary, empty calories.
I take every Sunday off. We do a family breakfast with chocolate-chip pancakes, go to the pool, and that’s it. I do as little as possible. The mental change of pace helps me get fired up for the coming week.