​​​​Join world triathlete Paul Huyer
Triathlete Paul Huyer has been involved with Joe’s Team since 2008. (Photo: Paul Huyer)​

It can be difficult to maintain fitness-based New Year's resolutions. 

Schedules get busy; energy can wane during the cold gloomy months.

To combat these obstacles, many people find motivation by signing up and training for a challenging event.

World triathlete Paul Huyer couldn't agree more.

Most recently, Huyer competed in the 2013 World Olympic Distance Triathlon Championships in London, England.  Huyer finished in 13th place as the first Canadian in his age group.

But Huyer wasn't always an experienced triathlete and traces his success back to Joe's Team. 

Joe's Team is a triathlon/duathlon founded by patient Joe Finley in support of cancer research at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  The annual event takes place in July at the CNIB Lake Joseph Centre in Muskoka, Ontario. 

"I was personally intimidated at the thought of competing in a triathlon, especially since I was a very weak swimmer," said Huyer.  Huyer became involved with Joe's Team in 2008 as a spectator.  "But when I saw people with various levels of fitness and abilities competing at Joe's Team, I thought, 'I can do this.'"

Huyer participated in his first triathlon at Joe's Team the next year.

Expert advice for all levels: ​tell people about your goal

"I've done numerous triathlons, and Joe's Team is a great triathlon to do as your first one," said Huyer.  "It's a welcoming environment, it's not restricted by all the rules you'd find in a more competitive triathlon, it's a flat course, and it's at a beautiful location." 

Huyer's first experience with Joe's Team as a spectator was different from his initial expectations.

"I expected Joe's Team to be like the running races I had entered before that—essentially, a number of people racing to win the race.  I was surprised that most people at Joe's Team were there to participate and have fun while supporting a great cause."

For additional motivation, Huyer recommends telling people about your goal.

"When I tell people about my goal, it motivates me to train so that I'm not just blowing hot air," said Huyer.  "It took me a while to do this at first because I was afraid of admitting failure.  Now, if I do my best I'm happy.  But it definitely motivates me to have that goal."

Joe's Team: a lasting legacy

Joe's Team has raised nearly $9 million over seven years.  With participant and donor support, it expects to reach its goal of raising $10 million with the 2014 event. 

Once these funds have been raised, Princess Margaret will be able to establish the Joe Finley Head and Neck Translational Research Centre.  The research centre will be the lasting legacy to Finley who passed away in 2010 from his cancer.

"Joe's Team is much more than a race," said Huyer.  "What makes it really special is that people with all levels of triathlon ability—many who are beginners—are inspired by the story of Joe Finley.  They're out there to have fun, and more importantly to raise money for head and neck cancer research at Princess Margaret."

The benefits of a triathlon

As a seasoned runner, Huyer found that training for a triathlon actually improved his running.

"I replaced some of my running volume with cycling, pilates, and weight training," said Huyer.  "What those sports do, particularly pilates and weight training, is isolate muscles specific to your running that take a hard workout when you run—like your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves.  Working different muscle groups strengthens them, and also allowed my running muscles and tendons to rest between workouts because I wasn't using them repeatedly."

"So as a result, I was having better quality runs with that and improving my performance," said Huyer.

Starting right, set small goals

"My advice for beginners is to just get out there.  Don't stress out too much about it.  Start slowly," advised Huyer.  "The rule of thumb is to start off fairly easily and build up your distances and volumes about 10 per cent a week."

"Too many people start off their training at too hard an effort, and they end up hurt and they don't enjoy it so they give up after a short while."

Huyer advocates starting with an effort that allows you to enjoy what you're doing.

"Do a run/walk—as in mix up walking with your running. Go cycling and enjoy the scenery and explore neighbourhoods.  Set small goals.  For example, you can say you want to bike 20km by the end of May."

When training for your first triathlon, Huyer recommends working on the sport that you're the least confident with.

"For most people, that's swimming," said Huyer.  "That tends to be a triathlete's weaker sport.  If you're not a great swimmer, you may want to take swimming lessons.  There are many opportunities and great coaches out there."

Staying motivated – mix it up

"For me, what made it more enjoyable was joining a group.  I like to do group training sessions with other people.  You meet all kinds of other people that way, and you have common interests with them," said Huyer.

"It keeps you honest too, and keeps you motivated to keep going," he added.  "If you said you're going to meet at a certain time to train, and your friends are counting on you being there, that motivates you to get out there."

Huyer also believes in flexibility to stay on track for your goals. 

"My advice is to mix it up.  Sometimes I don't feel up to a hard workout, so I'll change my schedule and go for a nice bike ride with my wife or a friend instead," he revealed.  "I try and keep it fun to recharge my batteries.  The key is to do something and to be active, and to have a flexible enough training schedule so you don't give up on it if you miss a particular session or two."

"Make the fitness program flexible enough that you're not stressed about it, so that you can fit it into your regular routine," said Huyer. 

Breakfast of champions

Eating right is a critical element of being healthy.

"I'm a proponent of eating a big breakfast to get you going throughout the day," Huyer said.  "I'll start with some whole grain cereal and granola with milk and an orange.  That's followed up with a banana and some whole grain toast or a bagel with almond butter."

Huyer also has a ritual breakfast before big race days.

"I've had a set routine for a long time—something digestible that has the carbohydrates that I need.  That's a whole grain bagel with either almond or peanut butter, a banana and coffee." 

With a laugh, Huyer added, "I do have to have my coffee in the morning."

Of course, Huyer knows how to indulge on occasion.  "Chocolate is definitely a weakness of mine." 


Joe's Team takes place on Saturday July 5, 2014 at CNIB Lake Joseph Centre in Muskoka, Ontario. 

For more information about Joe's Team, please visit www.joesteam.ca or call 416-946-4579. 

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