By Marty Gaal

The end of February ushers in longer days and a much shorter time until spring arrives. Around this time of year I know I have just a few weeks of cold outdoor or indoor rides left, and that makes me happy!

It is also a good time to make sure you are ready for the race season, which is now just around the bend.

Your bike chain. Is it worn out? Is it lubed up? Is it going to make it through your first race?

Your bike tires. These are easy to miss but dry rot and multiple gouges from rocks and rough roads will make your tires much more likely to fail while riding. Remove and replace them before that happens!

Your bike fit. When was the last time you had a real professional take a look at your position on the bike, if ever? A good bike fit is critical to your enjoyment of cycling as it will make you more comfortable, more powerful, and less prone to injury. A local bike shop can help with your fit as well as replacing your chain and tires if you would rather not do it yourself.

Your running shoes. How old are they? Running shoe life varies due to the shoe make, your size and running style, but 300-400 miles is the typical range. Running in worn out shoes is a great way to hurt yourself.  Mizuno has a more in-depth article on this subject at their site The expert representatives at your local running store are also a great resource for helping you find a good pair of shoes.

Swimming. For those of you who used the winter as your reason to lay off swimming because a) it’s cold, b) it’s early in the morning, c) you dislike swimming – It’s time to get back in the pool. Having a good swim coach take a look at your technique and getting some feedback is not a bad idea around this time. You could spend a few weeks swimming easy and working on your form.

Nutrition. If you went off the rails over the holidays and are having some trouble getting back into a good routine, ease into it. Make sure that one meal a day is made of good choices. In a week graduate to two good meals a day. In a few weeks, most of your meals should be on the ‘healthy’ side of the dial. No one is perfect so having some less than great meals here and there is OK. It’s the overall trend that matters.

Your mental game. It is easy to lose focus and be deterred by all the obstacles that life can put in your way. Take some time to remember the big picture and your reasons for involvement in your sport. It could be health, competition, being social, self-improvement, or purely for bragging rights. Whatever that reason may be,  remind yourself on those days and weeks where things just don’t seem to go right.

Like I tell my athletes every week, half a training session is better than no session at all.

Go have a great rest of the winter and spring, and I’ll see you at the races!

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Coach Marty Gaal is a USA Triathlon Coach and NSCA certified strength and conditioning specialist.  He has been coaching long distance athletes since 2002.

Early Season Tune Up’s

Sampson County Super Sprint Triathlon

March 28 – Clinton, NC

Not ready to get up at the crack of dawn for your first race of the year? You’ll love the 9:00 am start time of the beginner-friendly Sampson County Super Sprint. This triathlon features a 250-yard pool swim, a 7-mile out and back mostly flat bike course with a few rolling hills. The 2-mile run is mostly flat on a course that travels through the scenic downtown and surrounding neighborhood.

For more information, please visit Sampson County Super Sprint Triathlon.

Angels Race Sprint Triathlon

April 26 – Lynchburg, VA

The Angels Race runs high on emotion and will be sure to inspire you to new heights in 2015. Created to honor a teen who died in a car crash, this race has a tradition where participants write the names of lost loved ones on their arms just prior to racing.  Located in the heart of Lynchburg, VA, this triathlon starts with a 300 meter pool swim. It features a 25K rolling bike course along the James River and finishes with a 5K run.

For more information, please visit Angels Race Sprint Triathlon.

University City Duathlon

May 2 – Charlotte, NC

Not ready to confront the cold of early spring mornings by riding your bike in wet clothes and hair? Start your season with the 5th annual University City Duathlon. The event features a 5K run, a 19K bike, then finishes with a 3K run. The run will be a mix of roads and greenways (packed gravel). The Bike will be all on roads.

For more information, please visit University City Duathlon.