What’s Your Workout: Molly Van Zeeland

Posted on Sep 22, 2015

Posted in: What's Your Workout

Making the Ironman a Family Affair

For Molly Van Zeeland, racing the Ironman is a family affair. Her mom, Chris, sisters, Becky and Lucy, and husband, Adam, have successfully completed Ironman races this year.  Her mom is an accomplished triathlon competitor and has been racing for the last twenty years.  “When I was little my mom did her workouts between 4-6 am and came home in time to get everyone ready for school.”  Last year she took a trip to Hawaii where she watched her mom race the Kona Ironman.

Molly is not just a spectator; she is a fierce competitor.  Growing up in Kaukauna she played volleyball, basketball, and softball in high school and continued to play Division III basketball and softball for Lawrence University.  After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, Molly went on to obtain her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Wisconsin Madison.

While in graduate school Molly took up running and cycling as a way to stay in shape.  Her mom encouraged her to add swimming to her repertoire.  Triathlons were the logical next step.  “My mother has taught me the most about the sport.  When we first went for a bike ride together, I made it eight miles and asked if we could call my dad to pick us up.  She encouraged me to take a break and bike home.  From then on, she continued to teach me all she knows.”  Swimming is Molly’s weakest event but her mom has coached her along.  Now Molly is stronger than her mom in cycling. “We look to each other for advice.  I help my mom with cycling and she helps me with swimming.  We are each other’s biggest fans.”

Molly excels in endurance events and her finishes are the proof.  She finished first overall female in the Green Bay Duathlon 2010, Paper Discovery Duathlon 2011, High Cliff Triathlon 2011 and Paper Discovery Duathlon 2015.  She placed 2nd overall female in the Oshkosh Triathlon 2011.  She won her age group at both the 2013 High Cliff Half Ironman and the 2013 Chicago Half Ironman.  She took 5th in her age group at Ironman Wisconsin 2013 and 9th in her age group and Ironman Wisconsin 2015.

Nothing slows her down, not even being a first time mom. Her daughter, Paige Christine, turned one this past August.  After Paige was born she took six weeks off but then started training again.  “It helps to have a supportive husband.”  Mornings are her workout time and evenings are his.  “Being a first time mom, I have these small windows of opportunity. It’s now or never and that makes me go.”

The Workout

 Training for three different sports can be tricky.  Typically Molly does one hour workouts of each sport 3x per week for a total of 9 workouts.  She always schedules one rest day per week to give her body time for muscle repair.  That means she has to double up on workouts on other days.  She will run in the morning and then try to find extra time to do either swimming or cycling in the evening.

For running she prefers to hit the roads.  One of her favorite routes goes through downtown Appleton.  “I get a lot of energy from traffic, people and shoppers.”  She also likes to run at High Cliff State Park which is a totally opposite experience.  She can enjoy the peace and quiet that nature has to offer.  For swimming she uses the pool at the local YMCA.  For cycling she will jump on her bike when the weather is nice.  Otherwise she takes a spin class or rides a cycling trainer while her daughter naps.

Molly believes in the importance of strength training and incorporates it into her workouts 2-3x per week.  “Strength training is what has kept me injury free.”  She likes to take Body Pump classes at Xperience Fitness, which is a choreographed strength training class that works every major muscle group.  Otherwise she lifts weights and focuses on her core with planks and side planks, doing one minute holds five times.

The Diet

Molly strives to eat a balanced diet.  “I feel stronger when I don’t eliminate any one food.”  For breakfast she eats oatmeal, banana and coffee every morning.  Sometimes she sweetens the oatmeal with granola or honey.  For a snack she likes mixed nuts, greek yogurt and fruit.  For lunch she will eat a turkey or tuna sandwich, nut butter with apples or greek yogurt with fruit.  A typical dinner includes some kind of lean protein like salmon or chicken with a starch and a vegetable.  “We grill a lot, even in winter.”  After dinner she indulges with a little dark chocolate, like Dove chocolates.

The Gear

Molly always keeps a bag of gear ready by the door to save time.  In it she packs compression pants and Under Armor tops for running.  When the weather allows, she prefers sleeveless shirts because they are less restrictive.  For cycling she prefers triathlon shorts over cycling shorts.  For swimming she wears Speedo for her suit and googles.

For shoes she has two kinds, depending on what kind of workout she does.  She runs in Newtons which is a minimalist shoe, for speed and tempo runs.  Otherwise she wears Hokas, which have more cushioning, for longer runs.

Other gadgets include a Garmin 910 GPS Watch which she uses for both running and cycling.  It hooks up with her power meter on her bike so she can accurately track all her workouts.  She downloads all her data to Garmin Connect.  She often brings her daughter on runs and uses a Thule jogging stroller which she loves.

The Playlist

Molly does not listen to music when she runs.  “When I sweat the earbuds fall out and it is hassle to keep putting them back in.  Typically they are not allowed in races anyways so it is good to train without music.”  Molly prefers daydreaming or visualization instead.
Molly Ironman