Michael J. Smith

USAT Certified Coach - Level 1

Consistency builds Confidence – Particularly with newcomers to the sport, triathlons are as much mental as physical.  Having a consistent training regimen with coaching interaction instills confidence in any athlete, no matter what size, shape, age, or gender they might be.

Focus on the Fundamentals – Proper technique is critical not only to building an endurance base but to also reduce the risk of injury.

Quality outweighs Quantity – We all have busy lives with varying schedules, so my training programs balance the intensity level for acquiring endurance, but also account for the different priorities and external factors that impact an athlete’s time.

Comfortable with Uncomfortable – My workouts are designed to challenge you. I firmly believe that growth does not occur from staying inside your comfort zone.

Success is Measurable – I believe in setting goals (short and long) and utilizing innovative technology for collecting the information necessary to properly analyze your progress.

Enjoy yourself – If you aren’t enjoying yourself training for triathlons, then what’s the point.  Race day is chaotic and fun, so should the journey.

Multi-Sport Experience

  • 5 years
Racing Format Experience
  • Triathlon: Sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman 70.3
  • Duathlon: Sprint, F1
  • Running: 5K, 10K, 15K, Half Marathon
  • 2018-19: Trained 31 new triathletes to complete 1st race
  • 2018-19: 2 x Ironman 70.3 Finisher
  • 2017: Rochester Duathlon AG Winner
  • 2017: NYS Duathlon Overall AG Winner
  • 2017: USAT Duathlon Nationals Qualifier
Community Engagement
  • Rochester Area Triathletes – Vice President
  • Rochester Youth Triathlon – Board of Directors
  • Excellus Triathlon Team – Founder, Team Captain
  • ADA Tour de Cure – Century Rider/Champion Fundraiser
  • Wattie Ink Triathlon Team – Hit Squad National Team
  • MBA – Univ of Rochester-Simon
  • BA – College of Charleston
  • Other Certifications
  • CPR
  • SafeSport



Originally from the Carolinas, I grew up an athlete playing the usual team sports; Football, Basketball, Baseball, Golf, and Soccer.   In High School, I lettered in four sports, was a 3X All-conference selection as a Catcher on the Baseball team and won Athlete of the Year for my school as a Senior by default (my best friend moved before our Senior year…he would’ve won this award hands down).   In JUCO, I had a very short-lived career as a walk-on for the basketball team, got cut, transferred to the College of Charleston.  While playing intramurals my senior year, I completely tore my ACL.  MY recovery took 9 months just to be able to walk and an unhealthy lifestyle followed for the next 12 years.

At 29, I owned a small start-up business working over 70 hours a week with constant anxiety and didn’t give my poor health a second thought.  I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, had an LDL cholesterol level well over 250 from a poor diet, still smoked a pack a day, and weighed 270lbs; 100lbs heavier than the day I graduated high school. I was on my way to keeping with our family tradition of suffering a heart attack in my 30’s, which all the men on father’s side of the family had experienced.  Both of my grandfather’s and one uncle died from heart attacks by their early 60’s.  All were smokers with horrible diets and no exercise.  At age 34, my doctor (and friend) was blunt; “Make a change or you will likely be joining them”.   The scary thought of widowing my pregnant wife was my wake-up call and I wanted my health back.

First things first, I had to quit smoking immediately and was able to do it cold turkey.  I must have chugged 2 gallons of water a day in order to flush out the nicotine craving, but it finally stopped after two weeks.   Over the course of my journey back to good health, quitting smoking was still by far the hardest step, including long distance races.

My next move was to lose weight and start some form of exercise.  I had bad knees, so I just started walking this 2.5-mile beautiful river bridge nearby.  No matter what the weather conditions were, I made that walk a 4x-weekly habit for the first few months, but became envious of the runners and cyclists moving fast back-n-forth without much effort.   I wanted to be able to do that, so I started picking sections of the bridge to run to as my weekly targets to hit.

My first target was to run up the bridge to the exit ramp sign, which was about 200 yards up the incline section.   After a dozen or more attempts, I finally made it and yelled out loud then broke into a Rocky dance.  I remember getting odd looks from those around me, but I could care less.  What seemed so simple to them was a big deal to me.  Two months later, I finished my first full mile at a 16:05 pace and began feeling like a runner.   After one year, I was running the entire bridge (5.2 miles) in both directions at a 9:30 pace and lost 50lbs in the process.  Within 18 months, I bought a used road bike and started cycling to nearby Folly Beach on a regular basis.  By this point, had lost a total of 80lbs and was in the best shape of my life.

After receiving a wonderful opportunity at the University of Rochester in late 2012, I sold my small business and we relocated from South Carolina, with our daughter, to New York.  At 37, I went back to graduate school to finish my MBA while raising our daughter as my wife traveled for her career.   In order to handle the rigorous schedule, I started the day at 4am in order to maintain my workout routine.  After graduation, I went to work for Excellus BCBS and now was inconsistent with my workout routine.  A week into the job, I pinched a nerve in my neck and felt numbness throughout my left side.   If you haven’t had to ever deal with this, the pain is excruciating and makes sleeping a challenge because laying down comfortably was impossible.  I made a deal with myself that if I could get just get the tingling feeling to stop, I would never get off track again.  After 5 days, the tingling sensation finally stopped and I started going back to the gym at 5am.  Seven years later and I have not derailed since.

Soon after getting back on track, a cycling friend challenged me to do a triathlon and I’m too proud and stubborn to back off.   So, I signed up for the Finger Lakes Sprint Triathlon even though I had no idea how to swim that far for that long.   Biking and running came easy, so I started going to pool at the JCC to work on my swim. I swam the entire summer until I knew I could make it 1000m without stopping.  Bad swimming form and all, I eventually built up enough endurance to accomplish the length and was ready to tri.

On race day, I stood on the shoreline at Canandaigua Lake petrified, waiting for my age-group to start, when a young lady came up and fixed my wetsuit because I had it on the wrong way.  My embarrassment ironically made the fear disappear and I crushed my first race, finishing 14th out of 36 competitors.  Most importantly, my 3-year old got see her Daddy cross the finish line.   I was hooked right on the spot and two years later, I finished the Ironman 70.3 in Lake Placid, NY.

I am living proof that anyone can complete a triathlon, no matter what shape, size, age, or gender you may be.  Whether you can relate to my story or not, just know that I am as passionate and diligent about coaching as I am about any race.

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