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WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Laurel Wassner

Laurel Wassner is the younger half of the triathlete duo, the “Wassner Twins”— two professional triathlete women with an incredible story. Laurel and Rebeccah Wassner began swimming and running at a young age, going onto compete at the collegiate level. Laurel swam competitively at George Washington University while Rebeccah ran Cross Country at St. Mary’s College. A year after their college graduation, Laurel was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Rebeccah moved in with her sister to nurse her through chemotherapy, all the while channeling her emotions into training: first for marathons, then triathlon. Rebeccah’s training efforts translated into success in racing. Soon, she was competing against the world’s best. Laurel vowed to join her sister on the podium once she was able to train and compete again.
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The Wassner twins. Photo: Patrik Giardino

These women have now been racing for over a decade with a few goals in mind:

“The twins race to win championships, but also to raise awareness for the fight against cancer, particularly among young adults. In 1998, about a year after college graduation, Laurel was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After six months of chemotherapy, Laurel spent the next few years battling fatigue and nausea while recovering her strength and rebuilding her life. Meanwhile, Rebeccah morphed into a professional athlete, competing first in marathons, before turning to triathlons in 2004.

In 2006, watching her sister race against the world’s top-ranked athletes at the ITU Elite World Championships, Laurel vowed to one day join her sister on the podium. With the help and support of friends and family, this dream became a reality when Laurel turned pro in 2008…and started chipping away at Rebeccah’s lead. ”

-Wassner Twins

The Wassner sisters have earned a spot in the heart of the triathlon community with their performances, but also in community involvement. Their food blog, Athlete Food, provides nutritional advice and recipes to other athletes, and Laurel’s Instagram account, Athlete Style, gives an insight into how endurance athletes eat, sleep, and live every day.
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Laurel’s Instagram: @athletestyle gives insight into the everyday grind and lifestyle of being a professional triathlete.

How does Laurel prepare for a big day of training and what is her favorite sort of workout? She let us know:
What is a typical day of training like for you? 
I typically do some combination of swimming, biking, running and strength training.  On the rare occasion, I will do all of these on one day, but usually it is 2 or 3 of the 4.  That could mean a 5000yard swim, a 3 hour bike ride with intervals and a 45 minute run, or when I’m deep into ironman training then the ride could be 5 hours and the run 1 hour.
I also make time to see my physiotherapist Carolyn Mazur at Fusion in NYC.  It’s so important to have “your person” when it comes to strength training and injury prevention.  Believe it or not, her hands are just as strong as the R3 – so when I am traveling I take it with me and pretend it’s Carolyn!!
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How do you fuel up before you start your training? How about between training sessions? 

Fueling is so important for performing at my best. If I “misfuel” I’ll bonk, but if I eat nutritious meals, I feel motivated and strong. My sister and a good friend and food writer/culinary school grad founded the food blog Athlete Food to document what meals and fueling strategies work best (and also those that don’t!). The site includes plenty of interesting original recipes for pre and post workout fuel, plus easy to cook healthy dinners. We’re pretty adventurous eaters and don’t sacrifice flavor to make a dish nutritious. My favorite meal to cook is: our Athlete Food stove top fajitas.  It keeps well as leftovers so I can have something savory after my last workout the next day—Athlete Food.
My favorite pre-workout breakfast is a bagel with peanut butter, and banana, drizzled with honey.
My favorite post-workout smoothie is this one made with XRCEL, a glucose based nutritional supplement – I make it into a bowl so I can get in more calories and nutrients.  https://secure.xrcel.com/blog/rebeccah-wassner-shares-race2rebuild-recovery-smoothie-bowl-recipe/

Are you able to fit in much recovery between workouts? 

I make it a priority to fit in some amount of recovery.  It’s not always possible to take that nap in the middle of the day that I often dream about, but even if it’s a few moments to catch up on emails or social media, I relish in it!

What is your go-to routine for getting ready for your next session?
First and foremost, I think about what I’m going to eat and drink to get ready for the next workout.  If it’s a swim, I can eat whatever I want, but if it’s a run…that’s not a good idea.  Whatever the next workout is, it usually involves having a coffee or nespresso. Also, as I said above, take a few minutes to decompress, sit down and tune out.  Then, I look at my next training session and mentally prepare.

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How do you mentally prepare for a tough workout?

Ha! I didn’t even see this question while I wrote the response to the last one.  I think about the times I need to hit or my wattage goals, but instead of thinking about how hard they seem, I have faith in my coach and tell myself if she thinks I can do that, then I can!  Overthinking is never a good thing and can lead to self-destruction.  No self-destruction allowed!

What is your favorite hard workout?

I love hard treadmill workouts.  I get in my zone and can crank out my paces.  Usually this is at a gym with an audience so I tell myself I have to be strong and can’t crack in front of my fans!

What are your goals for the upcoming season?
My goals are to consistently put together solid swims, bikes, and runs in races.  If I do that, then I will find myself on the podium and amongst the world’s best in triathlon.  That perfect race has eluded me for awhile and I’m aiming to get it back! Fortunately, I am on a new team this year, Maverick Multisport,  with a huge amount of support and the best equipment on the market.  I am riding a new bike this year, an Argon E-119 Tri (https://www.argon18bike.com/en/bikes/triathlon/e-119-tri)  and I love it.  I’m looking forward to where it will take me!

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How did you get into triathlon? 

I joined the local summer swim team when I was 5.  I wasn’t a superstar swimmer because I was very, very small.  But, I kept at it and when I got to high school realized I could be small and do well at distance events. Also, I did my first running race in 4th grade and was a natural.  I was undefeated through 8th grade and then focused on swimming.  The strong running and swimming background was a good platform to getting into triathlon.  I just had to learn to ride a time trial bike!  I bought a used Schwinn for $400 with money I saved from working for my grandfather’s CPA firm in college.  I never got to race it in a triathlon because I got sick, but I gave it to my sister who raced in my place… and the rest is history!  She became a very successful triathlete and when I got my health back I decided to join her on the starting line.

Which sport do you feel is the hardest on your body/requires the most recovery afterwards?

Running is the hardest on my body, but swimming tires me out the most.  I find that running requires more active recovery, like using the roll recovery on my quads.  The foot roller is also essential after all of the pounding.  It hurts so good!

How does nutrition play a role in your recovery?

See above…very important!  I make sure to have my recovery smoothie and then a really nutritious meal for dinner.  That’s when I get most of my nutrients after a long day and before another day of training.

 

 

Photos via Triathlete.com and Wassner Twins