Keith Graham Athlete case study

Keith Graham on the podium of a USA Triathlon race.
August 28, 2023

Jim Hallberg



Progression and marginal gains

I began coaching Keith Graham in May of 2017. At the time, Keith was in the 45-49 age group. He lives in Texas and had received some prior coaching but did not have a long history in triathlon. Our work was across the board improvement in all three disciplines and the importance of setting up a routine for consistent growth and improvement. Keith had good access to an on-deck swim masters coach as well. 

That year we had a short build up to USAT Nationals in Milwaukee. And in a sense, it was a baseline for what would be to come.

We improved run performance without huge mileage; a focus on getting done what was needed without extra miles on the legs.

This article is not necessarily about improvement through training, but what changes in lifestyle, nutrition, and advancements in aerodynamics he has made to help further increase his gains. 

I will rank this based on most substantial gains first.

First and foremost, Keith is a consistent athlete. He does the work week in and week out- he gets nearly all the requested training in.  He knows my style, and rules, my expectations and better yet, he knows what works for him.

Second, and likely the biggest major factor was that he reached out to Megan Forbes for nutritional consultation. After a few months, Keith reported his weight was down to college levels. His nutritional plan was a sustainable lifestyle change. 

He was feeling great because of these lifestyle and sustainable changes!

Third, Keith upgraded his chainring to a 56T ovalized 1x chainring this past year. Thanks to his recommendation, I did as well. We are both loving the way it feels and how easy it is to remain at high speeds with sustained power.

Along those lines he took my recommendation and upgraded his TT bike front end with Tririg TT bars with a tilt kit, improving front end aerodynamics. 

The big picture is Keith has been working with me for 5 years, he is also 5 years older- now in his 50’s- and yet, he’s not slowing down. His swim speed is up, indicating good technical changes. His bike power has improved and his W/Kg has increased. His weight loss also helps dissipate heat in hotter races. His run fitness has improved and although the 10K was not a PR off the bike at nationals, it was ranked as one of his best off-the-bike 10K’s ever and his PR runs off the bike all came in the last 1-2 races seasons. 

Do we have more work to do? Yes!

This is where the coach-athlete relationship comes in. We come up with a game plan and execute it each season.

Keith actually thrives better with a little negative TSB for races. He thrives better with a slightly higher run mileage and not running in 108 degrees ;). 

The idea here is that the marginal gains are not being wasted, and in fact they do provide benefits. Swim, bike, and run is about 90% of your fitness gains. However, the keys to maximizing performance should also include good nutrition, reduced stress and improved sleep - these are obvious choices along with mobility and stretching. However,  a clean aero bike using the best components for the most comfortable setup should be next on your list. 

Where can you make changes, where are your marginal gains? If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at my email. I’d be happy to chat with about the changes you can make to improve your times. Happy Training, Coach Jim

Coach Jim Hallberg notices that some athletes spend too much time focusing solely on their strengths or just on their weaknesses. As a coach, he believes you should work on both. Your strengths can give you a competitive edge in one or more of the disciplines but spend an inordinate amount of time on them and you can forgo progress in other areas. Not enough time and you’ll see them diminish. Same with your weaknesses.  Coach Jim works with you to build a plan to balance the two and make you the best overall athlete you can be!

Coach Jim is a 5X USA Triathlon National Champion, a USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach and USA Cycling Level II Certified Coach.

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