Interview with Keren Miers, Triathlon coach in Tokyo, Japan!
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Keren Miers, and I am Tokyo's only triathlon and running coach serving the English speaking community in Tokyo.
When did you arrive in Japan?
I landed in February 2002, spent six months living in the countryside of Fukushima-ken, and I moved to Tokyo in September that year. Planned to live in Japan for a year or two, but am still here 15 years later. Life is like that!
Where are you from?
Born and bred in Australia. Grew up just south of Brisbane near the Gold Coast, and moved to the beautiful Sunshine Coast in the early ‘80s. Spent a year and a half living in London and traveling and surfing around Europe in the mid 1980s. The Sunshine Coast is a triathlon Mecca. Great for training and for racing with some world famous iconic races such as the Noosa Triathlon.
Before Japan, I lived and worked on Saipan in Micronesia for 5 years. It's a tropical island paradise, but I had to work very hard in a busy hotel.
What is your background?
Was a hotelier for most of my working life, except for a two year stint at a movie theatre. It was a nice change and I watched a lot of great movies for free!
When did you start triathlon?
Way back in 1988, so it has been 29 years. I was a bit fat and overweight, so I got into triathlon to try and get fit again. After my first race I was hooked!
What do you like the most about triathlon?
The variation of training for three different sports. I am average in all three, but add them together and I do pretty good. And another great thing is that I have all over the traveled the world to race by doing races in Asia, the USA, Europe and Australia. And I have been to many great locations across Japan that never would have gone to except for triathlon.
What is your best race performance?
Actually, my best performance was one of my worst results. At the Sado Island Astroman in, I think, 2009. I had picked up ‘Dehli Belly’ from a business trip to India a few days before the race. I was still sick when I arrived on Sado and couldn’t eat a thing the day before the race or at breakfast before the race started. But I toughed out the race and managed to finish it in a slow time without stopping or walking. Am still proud of this effort.
My best result in a prestigious race was winning the Asia Pacific Championship for Ironman 70.3 in my Age Group last year (2016) at Cebu in the Philippines. It was my "A race" for 2016 and it was very satisfying to achieve the result that I targeted.
And I achieved Ironman All World Athlete (AWA) Gold Status for 2017 based on my strong 2016 race results. This places me in the top 1% of my age group on the global rankings. I was ranked 1st in Japan and 26th globally at the end of last year.
When did you start coaching athletes and why?
I dipped my toe into coaching two years ago. It seemed natural to share my knowledge and many years of experience with others. My very first coached athlete qualified for the 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championships with a personal best time, so I started off on a very high note.
How do you define your training compared to other coaches/training methods?
My coaching philosophy is that consistency in training is the key to success for both triathlon and running. A program of consistent and time effective swim, bike and run workouts will help to get an athlete to their goal. I keep training simple by providing tailor made, carefully structured monthly training plans based on perceived effort that will fit into an athlete's busy life. My training programs are based on a range of Easy, Moderate and Hard efforts over a training week. Swim workouts are based on distance, with bike and run workouts time based.
How would you describe you as a coach?
A listener and very hands on. I love coaching and am very passionate about triathlon and running. Nothing makes me happier than being able to share my experience with my athletes.
If I only need running/bike or swim training sessions can you provide that, or should I commit to the 3 sports?
Being flexible is also a forte of mine. I can coach single sports such as running or swimming, or I can cover 2 or 3 sports. Take your pick!
How long does a session last?
From one hour upwards depending on the discipline. Biking and run training generally take more training time than a swimming session does.
Is your coaching dedicated to competition or also toward beginners?
I cover both experienced athletes and beginners. Some of my athletes have their first triathlons planned for late spring this year. It is very rewarding to coach beginners and to share my passion with them.
And I also coach experienced athletes who are targeting PBs (personal bests) and qualification for World Championships or iconic races.
What makes you training fun and accessible for everybody?
By breaking training down to it's basics and keeping it fun. It doesn't need to be overly complicated. But there is a bit of learning curve at the beginning, but I can help with this too.
What are your advice to start as a triathlete?
Give it a go! For most, swimming is the most daunting. But a 2 or 3 months of practice and training will be enough to get you through your first race.
And it is best to work your way up in distance. Start at Sprint or Standard Distance races before doing a full Ironman. A little experience will be invaluable come race day.
How many hours should I train per week as a beginner?
A lot! Well not really and it depends on your goals. But at least 8 to 10 hours per week to get the ball rolling for a Standard Distance race.
What kind of equipment do we need to buy to start ?
A bike should be the first thing on your list to buy. Doesn't need to be an expensive "super bike". Just start off at entry level and upgrade as you progress. And of course a good bike helmet is very important. Then a well fitting wetsuit is next on the list.
What is the budget for a beginner?
At least US$1,000 to start off. Besides a bike and wetsuit, you also need some clothes and running and bike shoes.
What kind of bike should I buy?
When buying a bike, I recommend Tim Smith of GS Astuto. Tim is the bike guru here in Tokyo; no one knows more about bikes. Start off with a road bike and then add some aero-bars to make you faster and more comfortable.