A Day in the Life of a Pro Triathlete

By Allen Gardner

Allen is in his second year as a professional triathlete and trains out of Boulder, Colo. Pharmaca recently agreed to sponsor Allen, 26, who competes in 12-14 triathlons around the country each year. You can hear him speak next month at our North Broadway and Table Mesa stores in Boulder (check back for dates and details).

First, let me give you a brief overview of my training week—then I’ll talk about one of the days I consider the most challenging. During a given week I’ll train 25 or more hours (unless it’s a race week, when it may be slightly less). My training “blocks” are arranged around races, where one block comes to a close as I approach a race and the next starts the day after the race.

I spend an additional 10 hours a week on recovery techniques such as massage, acupuncture, ice baths, stretching, myofascial release (i.e. foam rollers), etc. I also coach swimming at a local club for about 15 hours per week.

Training at this level takes complete devotion to my task, whether it’s training, recovery, sleeping, nutrition, racing, etc. Each one adds something to the others. I can’t train fully if I’m not getting enough sleep, fueling my body with the right nutrition or recovering fully. Lack of attention to any of this will inevitably affect my racing.

Add all that to a thing called life! Racing for a living requires me to keep it all in perspective, and being mindful of the life around me has kept my training and racing in its proper place. It is a privilege for me to race and I feel blessed every day that I have the opportunity to train and enjoy the sport I love.

Tuesday: Track day

There are three days each week that are the most challenging—not necessarily due to time, but to the overall effort I have to put forth. Tuesday is one of those days.

The day begins at 6:25am. Breakfast is light, but packed with what I need—a bowl of oatmeal, toast, some type of fruit and my favorite, chocolate milk. I try to eat no less than one hour from the workout to let my body digest the calories.

7am. I hop on the bike and head to a local high school for my track workout. Riding to the track is a good warm up for me and lets the body slowly get to its “happy place.” It gives me 30 minutes or so to think about the workout and breathe deep, so that when I began running, I am relaxed and ready to do the work.

8am. Track work begins. Workouts are different each Tuesday, but there is one common theme: they hurt. Running is my weakness in comparison to the other two sports, so yes, track days are challenging, and yes, I love them! Over about an hour and a half, I run 11 miles, including a variety of distances at different paces.

9:50am. Ice bath time! After a hard track workout, Boulder Creek and its icy waters call my name. Depending on the temperature, I’ll soak for 8-15 minutes. It helps decrease inflammation and relaxes the muscles, so that Wednesday my legs have the power to perform another day.

10:15am. Swim…straight…for 30 minutes. Following the track and ice bath I go to the pool and swim for 30 minutes, getting in about 2,500 yards. The purpose is to keep my stroke intact from Monday’s to Wednesday’s swim workouts, relax the body from the previous workout and most importantly, relax the mind. Prior to the swim I drink a Mix1 nutritional shake for the extra calories to get me through my 30 minutes of swimming.

11 am. Breakfast number two: My favorite time of the day! On the menu, pretty much every day, are:

  • Three large chocolate pancakes
  • Three eggs
  • Two sausages
  • One avocado
  • Fruit
  • Large glass of chocolate milk

Noon. After breakfast number two it’s time for a short nap. I’m tired, full of food and to be honest, I don’t really need any extra motivation to sleep—it’s all there.

1:30pm. Playtime on the bicycle. To round out the training day, I spend an hour or so riding my bike. Nothing too strenuous, just enjoying the scenery.

2pm. Lunchtime. My food for lunch varies, but it’s always around 900 calories.

2:45pm. Complete work for my sponsors.

5:30pm. Evening swim coaching. My first group is middle school-aged kids that compete year round. I enjoy teaching them everything I have learned from training, and watching them apply it during practice or at meets is very rewarding.

6:30pm. Next up is the masters group. These adults come from many backgrounds, from just learning to swim to post-college swimmers, all of whom are looking for a great time and an even better workout.

7:45pm. Dinnertime. Again, it varies in food type, and ranges from 1,500-2,000 calories. The calories I’m taking in for dinner are my fuel source for the coming days workouts, so this is definitely an important meal. (I also snack in between meals, but I left out those times of the day because you probably don’t want to read about every time I eat!)

9:30pm. Bed time.

That’s pretty much a “normal” Tuesday.  Next I’ll be talking about my other two challenging days: cycling and swimming workouts.

Photo of Allen Gardner by Nicholas Steinwachs