3 Training Secrets From an Ironman Tri Age-Grouper

Whether you're embarking on an Olympic-distance event or readying for your first Ironman, hearing from somebody who's "been where you want to go" can be an invaluable way to maximize your training and help you avoid costly mistakes in your preparation.

Sandy Cranny has been a competitive age-grouper triathlete since 1999, completing seven Ironman events in her career. She's also a physical therapist, and with three daughters knows all too well the challenges of having to juggle family, career and triathlon training.

We recently spoke to her to find out what training secrets she feels she learned over the years that have been the key to the success of her elite triathlon career.

Training Secret No.1: Go for Intensity Over Duration in All Areas

As a mother of three, Cranny doesn't have a lot of free time to squander on training workouts. "I'd love to go on a four-hour bike ride," said Cranny. "But it just isn't going to happen all the time."

Instead, Cranny finds the secret sauce to her training lies in her ability to get the most out of her workouts. "I find I do best when I emphasize intensity over duration. This prepares me for race day, and lets me get more done in less time."

This was a lesson, however, she learned the hard way, by struggling with early lackluster swim workouts.

"I came from a running background. So I knew the value of tempo runs and interval runs and speed workouts," said Cranny. "But for some reason I forgot that when I got in the pool. I would just do my laps, but I didn't get much done because my intensity wasn't there."

"I kinda had to remember how to train. And that was, train hard."

It was only when she "remembered to turn up the intensity" in her swim workouts that things started to click for her in triathlon. (And she was able to make sure she "didn't miss any soccer games or dance recitals" in the process.)

More: 2 Brick Workouts to Add to Your Training

Training Secret No.2: Group Workouts

Triathletes can be a solitary bunch. But according to Cranny, this can sometimes be a detriment to training.

"I think there's a place for solo training. I like putting in the miles on my own," said Cranny. "But I think my number one tip for triathletes is to get some group workouts in."

Because, for Cranny, group workouts do far more than just motivate you to show up and rack up the miles. They actually get you to train harder, longer.

"You really push yourself with group workouts," said Cranny. "And it can really break up the pattern of training. I've got a regular swim in Boulder. And I don't know where I'd be without it."

And then, for Cranny, a magical thing happens.

"Training doesn't feel like training. And that's a good place to be."

More: Group Ride for a Faster Bike Leg

Training Secret No.3: Learn Your Bike Maintenance

Cranny admits bike maintenance isn't an area she particularily enjoys or is rather adept at. "It took me awhile to figure out how important bike maintenance was," said Cranny. "And I'm still learning how to change a flat tire faster."

Knowing your way around your bike may not sound as exciting and fun as perfecting your swim stroke, but Cranny does believe it can make a huge difference to triathletes. (Especially for beginning triathletes.)

"I wish I had picked up on how important this was earlier. But as a triathlete you've got to learn your way around your bike."

"If you don't, you'll be in serious trouble."

And avoiding serious trouble, sometimes, is the best thing a triathlete can do with their training.

More: Bike Maintenance Tips From the Pros

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