Triathlon professionals are often more approachable and helpful that beginners expect, but pro Andy Potts shines especially bright after a long career in triathlon. His passion for the sport has brought many newbies to the starting line. In triathlon, our pros are often more relatable. Maybe it’s because they race on the same course with us age groupers, and rack their bikes in the same transition area with ours. Potts, an Olympian and 7-time Ironman Champion, has a special gift for relating to beginners. “It gets easier as I get more experienced. To put myself in the mind of a beginner,” said Potts, who spoke with BeginnerTriathlete for this article. “I try to think, ‘How would my mom relate to this?’” That question is not entirely hypothetical. Potts’ mom and dad have both completed triathlons, for a total of 11 family members Potts has inspired to do everything from a sprint relay all the way to an Ironman.
Potts says the requirements for beginning triathlon training are quite simple: “The one requirement is desire,” he says. “That’s all you have to have.” “The desire to put yourself out there, try something new, and the desire to learn,” says Potts, are not unique to triathlon beginners. “Those things are paramount when you’re exploring something foreign. Whether that be a new language or travel or a triathlon. If you have that innate curiosity and desire to explore your boundaries you’ll go further than you think.” Potts says the second thing he recommends is just enough correct gear to keep first attempts at training and race from being miserable. “You want to lower the barrier to discomfort. A good trisuit and being comfortable on your bike are important,” he says. “Get a really nice trisuit. You’re going to be hanging out in it all day. You’re going to be pushing your body to its then-current limits. If you’re comfortable in your suit, you can focus on the task at hand, rather than your arm is chafing.” Potts recommends Wattie Ink triathlon apparel as his favorite for comfort and performance. “They make the best trisuits I’ve ever put on,” he said simply. A properly fitting bike also made the short list. “You’re on your bike for the longest segment of the race – over half of the race. So you want to have a good bike fit,” Potts said. “Being comfortable on the bike will make you more likely to train on the bike.” Potts advises beginners to start slowly, for reasons of time and fitness. “Time is finite, as well as energy. When people dive in both feet into the deep end instead of slowly getting their body used to some different routines and their mind ready to handle what’s coming next, people get burned out on it,” Potts said. He advised new triathletes to allow themselves the time to become fit and become used to the gear and workouts. It’s not love at first sight, nor instant fitness. His advice for keeping it simple is to locate the resources and start with short training sessions. “For triathlon, you’ve got to find a pool and find a body of water. And find a bike,” he said. “The first workout would be, go ride your bike for 20 minutes and change into run shoes and run for five minutes. That’s a half hour, and there’s value in it.” Potts advises setting a goal, such as completing a sprint triathlon, and then taking small, manageable steps. “Even a small act can compel you towards your goal,” he says. “If you follow that recipe, you’ll stay engaged longer and there’s a chance you’ll stick with it longer.”
Potts’ own career and training regimen has changed with experience, age and family commitments. “This is my 16th year as a professional triathlete. I started racing short course and now I’m doing long course stuff and I’m over 40. So I have to be a little judicious with my time and my schedule,” he said. Potts started his 2018 season in Taiwan. “I’ll race about 8 times this year,” he said. “My big goal is to perform well in Hawaii at Ironman World Championships.” Potts, who is married with two school-aged children, lives and trains in Colorado Springs. Asked if his training habits have changed as he ages, he says he’s been more conscious of recovery routines. Sleep has always been something he guarded carefully, even as a younger athlete. Some of his recovery strategies including dry needling and massage. He also uses e-stimulation for muscle activation and blood flow. For older athletes just beginning triathlon, he had some words of wisdom: “A big thing for people who are negotiating their first foray into the sport, they may find their body is starting to talk to them a little bit more as they move. They have to learn to interpret the way their body is communicating with them because they haven’t moved that way since maybe their teens.” “The movement increases blood flow that brings more nutrients to the muscles that helps them repair,” Potts says. “You’ll recover from a prior workout faster if you get back out there and move again. Get out there. Stick with it. Good things will come.”
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