'Zinc Out Loud!' with Ironman Champion & Coach Matt Hanson

Welcome the newest pro to Team Zealios, Matt Hanson! In 7 years Matt has built an impressive triathlon career with several trips to the top of the podium. And he’s secured his 2019 Kona spot.

To keep us motivated and moving in the right direction this new year, Matt shares strength and mobility tips to compliment your base training.

Zealios: We are stoked to introduce and sit down with professional triathlete and newest Team Zealios athlete, Matt Hanson.

Matt, welcome to the team and thanks for taking the time to share what you have going on with our followers.

Matt Hanson: Thanks, I’m excited to be part of Team Zealios and for a great 2019 ahead.

Z: To kick us off, just this last month, you took second place at Ironman Argentina which qualified you for the 2019 World Championships in Kona, congrats. How did it feel to end 2018 on that high note and a Kona qualification?

MH: It’s definitely a big relief. There haven’t been many years that I’ve been heading into the off-season on a positive.

I had some good races early and mid-season, but struggled a bit in Kona and didn’t have the race I wanted.

Now to have complete control over where I race and to race where I want instead of where I have to race is nice. It’s a good situation to be in and gives me the ability to adjust my schedule how I want and around family which makes it a lot easier.


Matt Hanson takes 2nd place at Ironman Argentina in 2018


Z: Why did you choose Ironman Argentina? Were you chasing some demons from Kona? Or looking for the 2019 Kona qualification?

MH: I definitely raced Argentina to qualify. That was my number one priority.

Honestly, Ironman Arizona would have been a better course for me, but I like racing championship races, which Argentina was the South America championship. I wanted to go down and hopefully find a bigger field. There were a few guys expected to do really well and some didn’t have great days, which we’ve all been there.

I’ll be targeting the championship races again in 2019. Focusing on Texas as the first big race of 2019.


Z: With Kona qualification secured and the pressure off, how does that change your race planning for 2019?

MH: I don’t think it’s going to change my anticipated schedule. I haven’t set my full schedule yet, but for sure I’ll be racing Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston, Ironman Texas and Chattanooga 70.3.

From there we’ll see how the body is feeling. I’m considering racing another big race.

Matt Hanson pro triathlete on training run


Z: What are your thoughts on the change back to the old slot qualification system for the pros? Are you for the change?

MH: Um, not entirely. I do think there is some merit to the slot classification. I don’t love that they gave away so many slots early in the season. And I don’t love that only the top 3 Kona finishers get an automatic qualifying slot.

If you win a race the day after Kona, you’re better off than if you’re 4th in the world the day before. I don’t think that’s the best approach.

I get that it allows new blood and many of the people who received the early spots would have received those slots anyways. It's not who got them, but how. And It’s just how the whole system works.

I think there are a lot benefits especially on the women’s side. Where before you could win a few 2000 point races, like Jocelyn McCauley, who won 2 Ironmans and still hadn’t qualified for Kona. It helps sort out that situation.

I think we’ll see some adjustments come through in the next year or 2 and hopefully they allow us a voice in that moving forward.


Z: With a Kona qualification sealed and a later than normal 2018 season, did you allow yourself to take a longer off-season?

MH: No, not really. My off-season goal is to lose a little bit of fitness, which I have definitely... just to let the body recover a little bit.

I had very low run miles going into Argentina, which was nice to see I hadn’t forgotten how to run, ha!

I think I only ran once over 90 minutes between Kona and Argentina, which I’m typically doing multiple days a week. I really draw a lot of confidence on the long runs I do leading into races like that, but it was good to see I could run without that.

I’m feeling healthy and getting bored so it’s time to get back to work. I think this year I’ll change things a bit and put a swim focus in early on. Especially when it’s freezing cold here (here is Iowa, currently a temp of 28 degree Fahrenheit)


Matt Hanson pro triathlete on indoor bike trainer for winter training


Z: What does an “off-season” look like for you? Are you the type of person who is able to shut things down 100% or are you always looking for something active?

MH: I need to be in the pool. I can’t go 2 weeks without being in the pool.

I’ve done the whole shut down everything in the past and it takes forever to get back into a good swim routine. I didn’t start swimming until I was 26 and I don’t have the time in the water to give up 2 weeks without swimming.

Matt Hanson professional triathlete swim training


After a big race, weeks 1-2, I swim 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week during a break and 3 days in the gym trying to help the body recover. Now, I’m getting back into a gym routine. Week 3 is getting back into a gym routine with a heavy swim focus and structured swims and I’ll start biking and maybe running.

Most of the off-season I’ve spent on my computer catching up on admin stuff, like coaching and team stuff that tends to get away from me during the Kona build.

Matt runs MHRacing, a coaching service providing customized training plans and staffed with various coaches.

Matt Hanson professional triathlete training on indoor treadmill


Z: As we’re all thinking about how to “get back in it”. What advice do you have on where to start?

MH: Depends on how much time you have until your next race, but you’ll want to start with an aerobic base first.

Fine to bike and run, but keep the volume low. Then if you have time, spend a good block on your limiter whether that’s swim, bike or run. Put a lot of focus on the area where you can improve on the most and build onto that throughout the rest of the season.

A lot of my Texas athletes who race Ironman Texas, will do the Houston marathon which is in January as part of that build. It’s nice to have a run block and build into the race. So find that race or event that might help you build upon your limiter.

Z: You mentioned you’re in the gym 3 days a week doing strength training. Should there be a bigger focus on strength training earlier in the season with fewer days and more maintenance work later?

MH: I typically start the season training with 3 days a week in the gym. Late March or April I switch to 2 days.

I focus on a lot of mobility and balance single leg activities that engage the entire body. Cable machine is really the only machine I use. I try not to isolate and again use the whole system and not one specific muscle group.

Z: What’s a good gym activity we should consider using in our workout?

MH: I’ve been working with Erin Carson at ECFit Boulder and after a really hard training days she has me going to the gym and lifting really heavy upper body which is not what most people would see as the common sense approach. But what it does is it releases a lot of hormones that help the recovery process. Long bike rides and runs actually hinder testosterone release where heading into the gym to do a heavy bench press won’t affect your legs and will help release testosterone for recovery.

Z: Wow! That’s a pretty crazy approach, but makes sense to help in testosterone release. Cool stuff.


Being a coach, do you find that triathletes tend to overlook strength training and just focus on swimming, biking & running?

MH: Some people do and some people don’t. It’s a ‘like versus able’ agreement.

Yeah, we’d like to be able to incorporate this 2-3 times a week, but with many athletes they have families, full-time jobs, kids and a lot going on in life. So what we like to do is not always what we get to do.

There a lot of strength things you can work into your actual swim, bike or run workouts. For athletes that don’t have time or access to the gym use different cadence work or swimming paddles or run hills.

Here’s an example:

You have 3 swims plus 3 bikes and 3 runs in your workout for the week. You don’t have time to do those workouts and go to the gym so you decide to knock 1 workout off each discipline so you’re only swimming, biking and running twice. May seem like a fair tradeoff, but most people are going to get the most benefit from the time on the swim, bike or run workout.   

I do however, think quick 10-15 minute mobility work is important and can be done first thing in the morning. So this more about being disciplined to make the time and make it a routine.

Z: What’s a good mobility tip?

MH: The biggest in my opinion is keeping the hips and shoulders open.

We spend so much time scrunched forward on our bike and sitting at our computers which isn’t great. Finding ways to open the hips and shoulders is important because if you don’t it can create tight hip flexors which is really going to affect the run including your stride and cadence. Number one thing on mobility is to counteract and reverse what we do 8 hours of a day at work.


Z: Any specific moves we can take away?

MH: Most of what I’m doing is routine developed by Lawrence van Lingen on YouTube. It’s really hard to describe, so you just have to watch it. He does a good job of explaining the moves and you even get to meet his cat! Ha!

He helps people develop a daily routine and explains why. Which when you know the ‘why’ it makes it easier to dedicate the 10-15 minutes each day to do it.     

Z: We’ll check that out.


Is there a standard rule of thumb period of time to get your base training in?

MH: There’s no general rule of thumb time period that everyone is going to fit into because everyone adapt at different rates. But if you’re a coach and watching the efficiency factor, the heart rate to power ratio or heart rate to pace ratio and you have different data points from previous years to reference, your body will tell you when it’s ready.

This time of year athletes start to get frustrated because they want to be working harder and think harder is always better, but you have to develop the aerobic phase first or else you won’t adapt to the other work and put yourself in a place where you could be injured.

This time of year should be the easiest time of year for coaches, but it’s often the most busy because you’re having discussions on why it’s important go back and build the base.

I’m no different. My coach does the same thing to me. We get impatient and always want to be moving forward, but you have to let the body build a foundation first.


Pro triathlete Matt Hanson running with heart rate monitor

Z:  Awesome advice, thanks Matt.


We are very excited to have you as part of the team and would love to know why you’re excited about joining Team Zealios and which products are your favorites.

MH: So my local pool has about 3x the chlorine it needs to, which is awful for swimsuits and which also causes my hair to turn green, especially in the summer so I’d been on the lookout for a way to not have green hair, ha!

I first saw and met the Zealios crew at Ironman Coeur d’Alene 70.3 and tried the Swim & Sport Shampoo & Conditioner and my hair has stopped turning green!

Also, I’m not freckle challenged in the least bit which leads me to easily burn, so the Sun Barrier works great. All of the products fit what I need.

Z: That’s great to hear. It’s important to look and feel good, ya know.


MH: It got to the point where I had to plan my haircut the day before anything where I was going to have my picture taken. It was getting ridiculous!

Z: Ha! It’s great to hear we’re helping keep you chlorine and green-free!  

Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us. We look forward to seeing you out there in 2019 and cheering you on!


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