15 Minutes with Team USA duathlon star Kristen Hetzel

Kristen Hetzel rubbishes claims that the duathlon is easier than the triathlon and explains just how she manages to keep up her "jack of all trades" reputation.

Hiba Khan
by Hiba Khan
26th July 2017

article:26th July 2017

Nobody turns the statement ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ into more of a fallacy than Kristen Hetzel, who is a worldNo7 duathlete, actress, model, physical therapist and holds a degree in biochemistry.

Hetzel has been an athlete all her life and dabbled in every sport before committing herself to duathlon. Many may consider it to be inferior to triathlon, but Kristen thinks otherwise and recently qualified to represent Team USA in the 2018 Duathlon World Championships.


She took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with Sport360 about her journey.

CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?

My name is Kristen Hetzel and I am from Wheeling, West Virginia. I am a Duathlete on Team USA. I have qualified to be on Team USA each year for the World Champion ships since 2012, and have been a Duathlon All-American for the last six years.

I am currently seventh in the world in my division. I am also a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and do modelling and acting in Los Angeles, where I currently reside.

YOU ARE THE JACK OF ALL TRADES, BUT IF YOU CHOSE ONE
THING THAT YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A MASTER OF WHAT
IT WOULD BE?

That is a good question. I love all three parts of my careers (my athletics, physical therapy, and acting/ modelling) but I would say being a duathlete is what I love the most and brings me the most joy.

It is what I choose to give the majority of my time and attention to, and I have been doing it long enough that I understand the sport well; how to train, how to race, and how to recover.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT PARTICIPATING IN THE 2018
DUATHLON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP IN DENMARK? IS THERE
ANYTHING YOU’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO OR DREADING?

I am excited and honoured to participate in the 2018 Duathlon World Championships in Denmark. Denmark is a place I have always wanted to visit.

Having the opportunity to combine a trip to Denmark with representing my country and competing in a sport that I love is the best. I am very much looking forward to it.

PEOPLE OFTEN CONSIDER DUATHLON TO BE EASIER THAN TRIATHLON. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THIS?

I have a unique perspective on this because I also do triathlons. My primary event is the duathlon, but my racing season each year consists of competitive triathlons as well.

I, therefore, do not think that the duathlon is easier, and in many ways it is harder. During the swim portion of a triathlon, you are primarily using your upper body.

Yes, you use your legs for kicking but it is a very different motion — different mechanics — than how you use your legs while running or biking. Then you do the bike and run portion of the triathlon.

In duathlon, you run, then bike, then run again. So your legs are already tired from the first run, are very fatigued and worked. Thenthose leg muscles hammer on the bike, and then have to come back again and finish hard with a second run.

Many duathletes have the most trouble on the second run. They may be able to run hard once, but on the second run, the legs may be too fatigued to hold a fast pace.

On the road: Hetzel.

DOES DUATHLON GET THE RECOGNITION IT DESERVES?

The duathlon is gaining more recognition. The sport of triathlon has evolved to where it is now a well-known and highly respected event. The duathlon is newer and therefore is still evolving as a sport, but is definitely gaining more respect and popularity.

Even since 2012, when I first began the sport of duathlon, it has become much more popular and much more competitive.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR FITNESS REGIME AND DIET? HOW OFTEN DO YOU TRAIN?

I pretty much train twice a day every day. Some days I have three training sessions. I have a professional coach who designs my workouts, Marilyn Chychota with Endurance Corner. She’s amazing.

Since I train for all three sports (swimming, biking and running), my workouts vary. One day might be run-bike workouts and the next day might be swim-run workouts, or run-bike-run workouts. I also do strength training and weightlifting in the gym.

As for my diet, I eat a fairly balanced diet. I definitely eat plenty of quality protein like chicken, beef or fish, pasta and vegetables. I also have a lot of protein smoothies with pea protein powder and fruits.

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS AND ASPIRATIONS?

I want to keep improving and growing in the sport of duathlon so I can achieve my potential. On the acting side of things, I would like to do more commercials, and get more into film and TV.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING DUATHLETES OR YOUR FANS IN GENERAL?

Believe in yourself, trust yourself, and love yourself. Believe that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to and that you are worth it.

Trust that you know what’s best for you. No one else can ever decide what is best for you, or tell you what brings you joy, or what you are passionate about, only you can choose and decide that.


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