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Training Tips for Triathlete Couples

with Radka Kahlefeldt (Vodickova)

We sat down with Radka and Brad via Skype from their home in Noosa, Queensland, Australia. The newlywed couple tied the knot in early December, just after wrapping up a busy triathlon season. Returning to their training grounds after a relaxing honeymoon, reportedly the only change in everyday life was the change of Radka’s surname (and the subsequent change of her racing jersey)… oh yeah, and the extra ring!

Although Radka and Brad may not be a “typical” couple – it’s pretty rare that both people in a relationship are professional athletes – their own experiences and experiences coaching other athletes give them a unique perspective to give a little advice. So, whether you are in a relationship with a triathlete or cyclist, you are a triathlete or cyclist, or you want to be in a relationship… listen up!

Radka and Brad after a Race

Liv: What is a normal day like for you two?

Brad: Every week is similar. Certain days we go to swim club, other days we will run or ride. We have ride days were we ride with groups, sometimes we ride alone, or both of us together.

Although we do a fair bit of the work together, we try to avoid training all of the time together just because we are with each other 24/7! So, the easy stuff (like recovery days) we will try to do alone or with friends just to break it up. But, for the bulk of our sessions, we’re together. It’s great for Radka because I’m a little bit faster and she can follow and push quite hard.

Radka: So, I don’t know if you know, but Brad is also my coach! He has to be pretty good, because sometimes I’ll try to tell him, “You’re my husband, I don’t want to talk to my coach! Don’t be too strict!” But, he is really good at knowing when to push me and when to back off and take it easy.

I love training with Brad. But, like he said, he is a little faster – he is much faster! He pushes me a lot. If we were to ride together all the time, on our easy days his “easy” would still be my aerobic, so I would be working hard which is also not good or correct for my training. It is nice to enjoy the group rides or swims, or just be by ourselves sometimes.

Training Prep

Liv: Does it ever get competitive?

Radka: No, I think that would be stupid!

Brad: I think some of the girls and guys are quite competitive at training and I think that’s a way to improve as well. But with Radka and I, when she comes out with me she might want to sit on my wheel for a little while and then come out and do a couple of turns at the front when we are cycling, but we are just at different levels. She’s got her training and I’ve got mine.

One way we train together is for time trial. I will let her go and then I’ll time it so I can catch her. It’s good for me because I have someone to chase; it’s good for Radka because I’m pushing her from behind – I’m trying to catch her and she’s trying to hold me off. You can sort of play games like that, but I wouldn’t say we are competitive toward each other.

Training as a Couple

Liv: What are some tips you could give to couples that both race?

Brad: Structure the week so you can try to get other people involved in your training. Like for us, we don’t ride together all the time. Find a ride group or a swim squad, just so you don’t spend all day every day together. For us, it’s our job and we are working together, but it’s still important to have that balance. Sometimes you have to wear different hats – the coaching hat or the husband hat – and sometimes you have to talk things out.

Don’t let yourself get discouraged if you are not at the same place in your racing or riding career either. Like, my mom is faster than my dad and they don’t worry about it. They just have a laugh and go out there and enjoy it because all they want is to meet up with their friends on a weekly basis and have a good time.

I think that is a big lesson, just enjoy it and support each other.

Radka: Also, know your own personality and use your own experience as an athlete to help you understand each other.

Sometimes if you do a really long ride and you’re tired towards the end, your mood can be easily distracted. When I’m really tired, I know I have to keep quiet and just keep going, because we could start fighting when we wouldn’t normally fight. For us, we both know how an athlete feels when we are tired or just need a rest. Because we know how each other feels and the demands of training, we can better understand each other.

I think if I worked another job, it might be different. I might see Brad coming home from a ride and going to take a nap or whatever, I might think that is weird and be mad. But, because we are both athletes we know that an afternoon nap is actually a really good thing!

Triathlon Training with your Partner

Liv: So, what about relationships where one person races and the other doesn’t? What if he/she wants to get into racing? How does that work?

Brad: First of all, you have to understand why your partner wants to get into the sport. Is he/she competitive? Do they want to do an Ironman? Lose weight? Or, just get out of the house?

You have to help your partner get out there and meet people that have similar goals. But, they have to get out of the door first. You have to teach them proper technique without having a negative impact. So many people push too hard at the beginning (either by someone else or themselves) and they hate it because they are tired all the time.

Take your partner out for your easy sessions. You have a lot of recovery time, so it is a good idea to bring your partner out for those. Help them by just exposing them to the sport.

Sign them up for some clubs and get them some friends if they don’t already have friends that are involved in the sport. Having that “girl” or “guy” time where you get together and ride for an hour and then sit at the coffee shop or grab a drink and then ride home, they will enjoy that a lot more. It is a nice mix; if they train with you for your easy rides and then have fun by going out with their friends while you are doing your hard ride for four or five hours.

Maybe after a couple of years, they will decide they want to get more into it. It’s all about communicating what you want. There are plenty of races out there.

Radka: And that’s Brad speaking from his coaching experience; because he is not just my coach, but he also coaches age group athletes of all levels.

I think the worst case would be if a good competitive athlete (or even a professional) would be racing and their who partner wants to get into racing joined all of his sessions. He would be angry that she is slowing him down. She would be angry that he is going faster and not waiting for her. And, that could cause the whole relationship to end. You have to understand and respect each other’s goals and find a group of your own level to train with. Starting riding with someone that is much faster than you is a bad idea because you can lose the appetite for the sport and you can lose the good friendship or relationship.

You can go to any pool and ask for their swim squads and you can find groups that are the same level as you. Then, maybe you find a lady who is already doing a triathlon and you can schedule to meet up for a ride. Then, suddenly you have a group of friends to train with. That’s how you meet everyone! And, nowadays, you can find any kind of group on Facebook!

Find Balance

Liv: What are some things you should never say or do when training with your partner?

Brad: I don’t know… maybe saying, “You’re too slow!” That’s negative feedback. You know, maybe a couple years down the road you can start to give constructive criticism. But for the first year or two, it is all about giving positive feedback every time you go out.

Radka: From my experience, if you are trying to coach someone who is just starting out in the sport – if you give too much advice in the beginning – the person will get overwhelmed and just hate it and they will feel bad. So, don’t give too much advice all at once.

Like Brad said, in the beginning, encouragement is so important. Appreciate every little improvement.

Want more inspiration to get out there and train with your partner? Follow Brad and Radka on Instagram!

Radka Instagram