by Jeffrey Stern
Sep 08 17

Coach Jim Lubinski's Journey from the Ice Rink to Triathlon

“It’s funny what goes into the pot and what comes out,” former professional hockey player turned professional triathlete Jim Lubinski said in an interview earlier this week.

An athlete his whole life, Lubinski grew up just outside of Chicago running the mile, winning the state championship in junior high before graduating to the baseball diamond and eventually the ice hockey rink in high school.

After playing Division I hockey at Fairfield University, he toured the North American minor league circuit for a season before deciding to put his college degree to work in the real world, moving to Los Angeles to start a career and new chapter in life.

During his competitive hockey days, Lubinski always maintained the passion he had for running as a young kid by running during the offseason and even between matches. Once he landed at a desk job in California, the abundance of cyclists, runners and swimmers he met on weekends naturally pushed him into the sport of triathlon.

FROM HOCKEY TO TRIATHLON

For a few years Lubinski dabbled in the sport, joining the local tri club and competing in a few races before deciding in 2008 to tackle his first Ironman in Arizona. Although he didn’t follow any true training regime for the race, he completed it in ten hours. He felt the foundation of fitness he’d built over the years as a hockey player contributed greatly to his success, “On the ice, it’s VO2 max effort after effort, a huge intensity that is constantly rotating with line shifts,” he continued, “it really developed my ability to push hard time after time and recovery very quickly.”

Following Ironman Arizona, Lubinski wondered what he could achieve if he developed and focused his training, so during 2009, “I trained like the ice hockey player in me and made some huge gains leading into the peak of the season.”

It was at the Vineman 70.3 race that all his hard work paid off and he qualified to get his pro card. He hasn’t looked back since, trading in his office job for full time training as well as coaching athletes of all levels.

COACHING APPROACH

Dozens of races and nearly a decade later, Jim coaches based on his belief in building strong foundations in his athletes, the same strength, resiliency and endurance he learned on the ice rink.

“I have a big emphasis on strength and building a huge foundation before adding in any other type of intensity, tempo or VO2 workouts. Without foundation you can only build up so far, that’s how injuries and burnout happen,” he said. “The higher the skyscraper you want to build, the bigger the foundation you need. Before you can build up, we need to lay the groundwork with functional strength training, big gear training and more.”

Lubinski believes it takes patience to get to that point in training, but being able to push through hard blocks week in and week out over the course of a long season while staying healthy and fresh is most important.

He designs many of his workouts for his triathletes so they finish feeling strong because of the muscular endurance and foundation groundwork they’ve laid over the season. “That’s how I realized my personal gains so quickly,” he continued, “definitely training quality over quantity.”

Consistency day in and day out is his main goal for an athlete, “Because when you have that muscular strength and resiliency you can recover; you’re depleting your muscles, but not to the point that you need a week off to go hard again.”

FINDING THE EDGE

Lubinski’s found that Amp Human Performance has not only helped him, but his athletes push through barriers they've dreamed of breaking. “Their heart rate says they should probably dial it back, but their legs want to keep going. I see it in the files and power numbers they send me, especially on the high intensity, quality sets.”

He also said he has them not use Amp Human Performance in certain workouts so they can not only feel, but see the difference in their performance. “When they add the lotion back into their next workout the lactic acid buffer allows them to push longer at their threshold.”

“Once race day arrives, they’re confident in the added benefits, boosting their morale and giving them the mental fortitude to push way beyond their limits. It’s exciting to see my athletes achieve their goals.”

Despite dealing with a couple injuries to start off 2017, Lubinski has lofty goals for himself as well. “I want to be on the podium at Ironman Arizona in November, where it all started,” he said with excitement.

“This year was a blessing in disguise, with the first half being slowed due to a knee problem, but now I feel on point. It’s a good feeling and I’m glad to be going strong into the final few months of the season.”

What’s his number one Amp Human Performance secret?

“I apply one packet per leg at 90 minutes to go until race start, then another packet per leg at 60 minutes and finally one more 30 minutes before the gun. I know where my limits are, but when I’m using Amp Human Performance and loading in that method, I can keep pushing and not fade late in the race.” Enabling him to drive deep into the pain cave in search of the top step of the podium.

After all, we know pushing hard is one of the things Lubinski knows how to do best, whether around the track, on the ice hockey rink or the pedals on his bike.