For young U.S. triathletes with goals to compete in future Olympic Games, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced them to adapt their training.
With the racing season suspended, members of USA Triathlon’s men’s elite development squad, Project Podium, lose the benefits of competing in an international field and gaining valuable racing experience — but the disruption also has given them extra time to focus more on consistent individual training.
Project Podium, a program designed by USA Triathlon to train top young male triathletes in the U.S. to achieve medal performances in international competition and ultimately the Olympic Games, has partnered with Intermountain Healthcare for sport performance and sports medicine support. The team typically trains out of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, but is spending time in Park City, Utah, this summer as a temporary training base.
The squad’s training is enhanced by one-on-one consultations with members of the sports performance team at Intermountain Park City Hospital — including sports medicine physicians and physical therapists, certified athletic trainers, accredited sports dietitians, exercise physiologists and performance coaches.
“Normally, during the summer, we're racing all over the world, but given the circumstances with COVID-19, races are canceled,” said Parker Spencer, a USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach who leads the team. “We were looking for a temporary home base to train, and the Utah Olympic Park and Park City Hospital came highly recommended.”
“The altitude training is key, and Park City is an ideal location that provides world-class triathlon training. At Park City Hospital, we have access to everything from recovery components to sports performance to sports medicine,” said Spencer.
“The team comradery is at a level I've never seen before,” mentioned Spencer. “Because of COVID, we're just all in this together. Since we're not competing, we’re able to use our teammates to gauge our successes and motivate each other more than ever.”
The Intermountain team uses a methodology that emphasizes the importance of a fine-tuned human engine to help athletes reach peak performance.
“At times, athletes get distracted trying to lighten the weight of their bike or become more aerodynamic, yet they forget to check their ‘engine’ and implement quality training that affects the running of that engine,” said Max Testa, MD, a physician with the Intermountain sports performance program. Trained in Europe in exercise physiology, Dr. Testa has worked for 29 years with professional cycling teams as a team physician.
“I love seeing the data, and the science behind the training is incredible,” says Chase McQueen, 22, a two-time ITU Junior World Championships competitor and upcoming Olympic hopeful training with Project Podium.
“Working with the Intermountain team of experts has helped me dial into my cycling to better understand how I train at altitude, how I adapt, and what is different when I return to training and competing at sea level,” added McQueen.
The physicians and physical therapists help ensure athletes stay healthy through training — evaluating injuries that arise and helping athletes increase their strength and fitness to avoid injuries in the first place.
“By utilizing the team approach, we can assess and manage injuries, but also devote a great deal of time to preventing those injuries through proper warm-ups, customized workouts, proper nutrition, and time spent focusing on recovery,” said Marlene Hatch, sports medicine manager at Park City Hospital. She and her team provide therapy to many local winter Olympians and professional athletes as well as everyday athletes of all abilities.
In addition to sports medicine physicians and physical therapists, the sports performance team includes certified athletic trainers, accredited sports dietitians, exercise physiologists, and performance coaches. For more information visit: