Winter Warrior

Three Winter Training Game Changers

Greg Tayler, MD, a family practice physician at Heber Valley Hospital, is no stranger to endurance sports. As a student at East High in the 80s, he was a gifted cross-country and track athlete — but all that changed when he landed a job at Guthrie Bicycles in Salt Lake City and traded his track spikes for bike spokes.

Guthrie Bicycles sponsored the 1983 East Canyon Triathlon and encouraged its employees to participate. At the time, triathlons weren’t as well-known as they are today — it was a burgeoning sport that combined running, biking and swimming for the ultimate endurance test.

Tayler was instantly hooked by the multi-sport aspect of triathlon training. “I was always getting injured doing the same thing day after day when I was just running,” he says. “Triathlon keeps you in great shape with fewer injuries because you’re constantly cross-training.”

Since that first East Canyon Triathlon, Tayler has become a seasoned triathlete who’s competed in over 110 events during a 30-year love affair with the sport. He participates in three to five triathlons each summer, but admits he limited that to one or two per summer during medical school.

He regularly finishes in the top two or three spots in his age group in major races and also boasts a finish in the top 25 percent in his age group at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, last October — the pinnacle event for any serious triathlete.

How does Tayler — a triathlete and beloved family doctor, husband and father from Heber, a town that spends five months a year under a blanket of snow — compete on the Ironman world stage with competitors who can train year-round in much less harsh conditions?

Tayler says over the last 30 years he’s figured out a thing or two about winter training. He calls them “game changers” and says they leave him better conditioned and primed to hit the pavement running — pun intended — even before the snow melts.

Game Changer #1

Weight training

Tayler weight trains three to four days per week for 30 to 45 minutes. “We start to lose muscle mass after age 40,” he says. “The key to maintaining endurance is strong muscles and nothing does that better than a consistent weight-training routine and actively working to build muscle.”

Game Changer #2

Cross-country skiing

“Cross-country skiing is fantastic exercise,” says Tayler. “It’s easy on your joints and a perfect activity to do every day. We’re lucky enough to have access to a world-class course right in our backyard at Soldier Hollow.”

If you’re just starting out, Tayler recommends taking a lesson or two before venturing out on your own. But if cross-country skiing isn’t your thing, Tayler says to get outside anyway. Snowshoeing or backcountry skiing are great ways to get your cardio in without trashing your joints.

Game Changer #3

Smart trainers

Indoor bike trainers have been around for quite a while and make it possible to ride your bike while it remains stationary. More recently though, smart trainers have come on the market. These new trainers sync to an app on your phone or other smart device and adjust the resistance while you ride.

Riders can create an avatar, compete against other riders and even go on famous rides like the London Olympic course. “The trainer adjusts based on the course you’re on. If you end up in the peloton, you can actually feel the resistance decrease because you’re drafting off the other riders. It’s really fun,” he says with a sly smile. “It’s really pretty incredible how far these trainers have come.”

Finally, Tayler says in addition to weight training, cross-country skiing and using the smart trainer during the winter, he also swims year-round to maintain his fitness. “We have really terrific facilities in the valley that are under-utilized,” he says. “At the Wasatch Aquatics Center you can swim with a Masters certified swim coach who can help push you to meet your goals.”

And the result of his winter game changers? Tayler gets two great rewards — he’s a world-class triathlete and he gets to live in one of the greatest places in the world.