Triathlete’s Gift Guide

By Stephan Schwarze – December 3, 2012
Foto Hogg Photography

A lot of triathletes are obsessed with gadgets. There is always the latest, “coolest” gear and technology coming out, and we want to have it. Why? The thought that each one of these toys makes us faster is wishful thinking. In any case, we still want to be in on the latest, and that makes gadgets great gifts for triathletes. But I’m going to challenge you: When you think about gift ideas for your triathlete friend or spouse, think differently this year. Pick those things that help in training and help in getting faster, not just looking cooler and faster. Here are some ideas for gifts which I have found very useful in my own training.

For the triathlete who travels frequently…

Stretch Cordz – While traveling, it’s always easy to get some runs in. Cycling can often be done on spin bikes in hotels or gyms. Swimming, however, is more challenging. I have found that just 5-10 minutes of Stretch Cordz exercises a few times a week really helps me to maintain my swim fitness, even if I travel for ten days or two weeks.

Trigger Point Kits – Massage therapy is most effective when you get it regularly. But it can get expensive and, if you travel frequently, it is hard to find the time to fit it in. A lot of the same benefits can be achieved with the use of Trigger Point products. My favorite ones are the TP Massage Ball and the Grid—perfect for traveling, as they easily fit into my luggage. A few minutes of rolling on the TP Massage Ball or Grid per day helps me prevent injuries and keeps muscles loose after a full day of meetings.

For the Beginner Triathlete…

GPS Watch – Most training can be accomplished without the use of technology. But a watch, ideally one with GPS, is a great way to track your running progress. For most training purposes, the “bells and whistles” of high-end watches are not really needed. There are excellent choices available that cost only a fraction of other models. Soleus is a great choice for a GPS watch. It is available for less than $100, you’re supporting a local Austin company, and for a new triathlete, it provides all the functions needed to advance in training.

Nutrition Seminar – Beginner triathletes often think that spending more time swimming, cycling, and running will get them to achieve their goals. This is not always the case. There is more to triathlon than swim, bike, and run. The longer the distances, the more important additional other aspects become. One of the key factors to successful training and racing is to have a good nutrition plan. A nutrition consultation or seminar can be a great gift for your triathlete, and Austin has plenty of great choices for this.

For the Advanced Athlete…

Coaching – When new athletes get started in triathlon, the first successes often come quickly. If you put in enough time, you will get faster. Once athletes reach a certain level of fitness, however, getting faster becomes a lot more challenging. Just putting in more time or buying new wheels, shoes, helmets, or other “toys,” is not going to help any more at some point. This is when guidance from a coach will make a huge difference. Most coaches offer gift certificates, which are a great gift to help your triathlete friend shave a few minutes off his or her finish time.

Bike Fit or Sport-Specific Clinics – Riding a lightweight bike and wheels as well as having aerodynamic equipment helps cyclists get faster. But the most important help to getting faster on the bike is to have an optimal fit and setup. This is very individual, depending on the athlete’s body dimensions, flexibility, experience, etc. As I get older, I also find that the perfect bike setup changes over time. At age 45, I don’t feel comfortable with a very aggressive (low) bike setup anymore, though that worked very well for me ten years ago. Local triathlon shops do bike fittings. The Retül Fit at Jack &Adams Bicycles is excellent. If your triathlete friend has not had a bike fit in the last two years, this is a great gift, and scheduling this for January after the holidays is perfect timing for the next racing season. Similarly, a stroke clinic is a great gift for struggling swimmers. T3 Austin offers clinics every six to eight weeks throughout the year. Improving swim stroke efficiency is a great way to achieve faster swim times without spending more time in the pool.

Lastly, a “Triathlete’s Gift Guide” is not only about giving TO a triathlete. My final thought is about gifts FROM triathletes. So, as an athlete, think of the following:

A lot of us train long hours throughout most of the year. We sacrifice other things to make room for training. We often spend less time with family and friends than we should. So, some of the greatest gifts you can give as a triathlete are those where you spend time with others. Give your spouse a Weekend Getaway (which does not involve any training!) and just spend time together, or give a weekend/evening class to friends or family that you will attend with them (a cooking class at Whole Foods Market, for example, is a great choice).

During the winter off-season is great timing for such gifts. You should not be too occupied with training, able to enjoy other things, and your friends and family will be excited to spend some more time with you. Give them more of your time!

Stephan Schwarze has been active in triathlon for over 20 years as an athlete and coach. He raced his first triathlon in college in Germany in 1988. Since 1990, he has finished 45 Ironman races, winning his age group seven times. Schwarze has raced at the World Championships in Hawaii eight times, finishing on the age group podium there twice.

Over the last ten years, Schwarze has worked as a coach with many Austin-area athletes. He passes on his experience, sets up training schedules, and works with them toward specific goals and target races. Schwarze is married to Illiana and has lived in Austin since 1996. As an amateur athlete, he has a full-time job with a local technology startup company.

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