What to Expect at Endurance Exchange—And Why You Should Come IRL
by Kelly O’Mara
If you’re like me, then you’ve probably spent a lot of the last three years sitting on Zoom calls, typing questions into chats on webinars and Slack and Facebook Q&As, and turning off your camera so you can wander around the kitchen while someone talks at a virtual conference.
As much fun as that’s been.
"There’s a reason we’re gathering in person this January, and it’s not just because I could never make Happy Hour drinking over Google Meets a thing. It’s because it’s time to get our hands dirty again," says Earl Walton, USA Triathlon’s director of education.
Endurance Exchange last happened in-person in January of 2020 (and we all know what happened next). That inaugural event, which had all of us trekking back and forth and around and up and down the ASU football stadium, was a combined effort between the annual Triathlon Business International (TBI) conference and USAT’s coaching symposium and race director summit.
This year, the goal is to recognize that most of us aren’t just coaches or athletes or business owners. We’re involved in lots of different aspects of the sport, and so we’ll all come together to learn about and talk about coaching and events and business and the future of the sport; no different registrations or tracks.
Endurance Exchange’s first day will feature the return of the all-day race director summit, starting with a town hall and breaking up into small groups and how to workshops—but all in one place, no moving from session to session. The afternoon will be devoted to sports science and business. Or catch a shuttle to the University of Texas pool for hands-on swim workshops to learn about and practice coaching cues.
And then, day two starts with my favorite: the state of the sport presentation of the latest research and survey. The difference, though, says Walton, is that it won’t just be sitting bored in a ballroom, listening to some expert. This year, we need to get up out of our chairs and really do stuff.
That’s why there will be hands-on coaching sessions for running and swimming, to put new skills to work. There’ll be live podcast recordings and voting in the expo on different awards, presented on Wednesday evening. And that’s why there will be whiteboards and brainstorming and small groups. Instead of just talking about youth triathlon, let’s really discuss problems and solutions. Instead of just listening to the report on the state of the sport, let’s learn about the survey results and then put together a panel on the trends and think about what comes next.
Back when the industry gathered at the two-day TBI conference, I would go primarily just to hear the bigwigs talk about what they thought was the state of the sport, and then to drink with people (and argue with people) I don’t normally see. When USAT joined forces to become Endurance Exchange, I also sat in on sessions on durability in training, the latest research on cardiac risks, and how to perform your own metabolic fit. These aren’t topics I necessarily care about—except the heart thing—but I took notes and used the ideas months and years later.
As triathlon now comes out of its hiding and tries to figure out what’s next, it’s time to learn from other industries (which is why we’ll be bringing together different fitness leaders) and from each other, roll up our sleeves, and get real.