MATTHEW REIBENSTEIN is the founder and president of Royal Homes in Conroe, Texas. A Houston native, he is currently the president of the Montgomery County Builders and Developers Division as well as a Board of Director member of the Greater Houston Builders Association. He also serves on the Advisory Board of Directors for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), southeast Texas region, and is the leader of North Houston Tri4Him. He earned a degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M and is the husband of Katy and father of son, Paxton, and daughter, Brinlee.
What is your athletic background?
I’ve been an athlete all my life. I played soccer, football, and baseball. My whole family was very athletic. All through high school, diet was never a problem. The weight just melted off me. Then, when I attended Texas A&M it was so easy to gain weight.
I was very driven in college (a civil engineering major) and I was just trying to get through school and get the best job I could. Four or five years had passed and I didn’t realize how inactive I had become. Nutrition and training wasn’t a priority. I gained a lot of weight and at one time was over 340 pounds.
When did you begin triathlon?
I got married after I graduated, and I had a 42-inch waist because I no longer had sports in my life. Back then I was working 60 to 70 hours a week. My eating habits consisted of Sonic in the morning, fast food for lunch, and I went home at 9 for a freezer dinner. Then I would wake up and do the same the next day.
Then one day I saw my wedding pictures and I thought, even if the camera added 10 pounds, I didn’t look good! I told myself I didn’t want to be that big any more. I didn’t want to be “the fat dad.” Or the dad who couldn’t hang with his kids. I looked in the mirror and for my future kids I had to make a change.
I went back to my office and I didn’t know where to start. A buddy said I should try triathlon, but I told him I was pretty sure they don’t make spandex for 300-pound guys! He was 140 pounds.
I listened to him for the next 30 days as he kept encouraging me to just try one. He told me to give him three months. So I did. In 2009 I finished my first sprint triathlon – at 307 pounds.
How many triathlons have you competed in and what distances were they?
I can count over 30 races. I’ve done every distance: two full IRONMANs, multiple 70.3s, and a ton of sprint and Olympics.
Oddly enough, my favorite distance is the full IRONMAN. I’ve done Arizona and Florida and I’m doing Texas. My wife and I have a deal. I can do one every other year because we have two kids and it takes a lot out of me and every one else.
What attracted you to TriDot?
I listened to Jeff [Booher] yack at me for two years before I tried TriDot. His main emphasis initially was on quality, not quantity.
I had confidence in him because he’s someone who’s “been there and done that.” Jeff has proven himself. Just look at the pros and coaches who are on the TriDot and Tri4Him teams.
How is TriDot different from the training you used before?
Jeff has a term called “junk miles” and I never understood it until I actually started utilizing TriDot. And he’s exactly right. There are times when you’re just going through the motions and you’re not making improvement. You’re wasting time that you could have been spending with your family.
By not having a training program, you’re working out about 20 hours a week. And of that 20, only half of it is doing something efficient with your body. The other half you’re not gaining anything. Why not spend those extra 10 hours with your family or at work? TriDot has changed the way I look at my training. I’m no longer thinking that I’m doing something just to be doing it. I’ve got a plan.
Talk about the science behind TriDot.
I’m an engineer by degree so I’m a nerd when it comes to the coaching science behind TriDot. I’ve tried two other programs, and I know without a doubt that the science behind TriDot is light years ahead of them. I don’t know the science behind everything, but I trust the program and the only way to trust it is to do it. And once you do it, you realize that your times are so much faster once you start using TriDot. Some of it might do with the confidence going into it and knowing that this is a great plan.
How hard/easy did you find TriDot to use?
The way the website is implemented from the usability of it down to how the plans are sent to you is that your profiles and assessments are put together so that you know that this is your plan built for you.
And maybe I gravitate toward that because I own a customized homebuilding company, and we build homes that are specially designed. We design a house for a particular homeowner, for their budget, for their style, for their lifestyle. We design it for them. I feel that TriDot is the same. It’s geared toward my heart rate, my weight, my speed. It’s a plan geared for me. It’s not telling me to run a six-minute mile. I can’t run six-minute miles. Not without the right training. Maybe in a couple of years I can.
A lot of these generic training plans that are out there just say, “Run hard.” What does that mean? How does that correlate to you?
Did you notice a difference in the amount of training time with TriDot?
TriDot training is less in hours per week compared to other programs. It cuts out the “junk miles” – the miles that won’t help you and probably only hurt you because you’re overtraining. For my IRONMAN, I was only doing 13 to 14 hours a week, where in most plans you’re doing around 20 hours a week. That’s a third less.
Has TriDot helped you with the mental aspect of triathlon?
TriDot gives you confidence. TriDot equals confidence. That should be their saying. That doesn’t change from sprint all the way through IRONMAN. TriDot tailors the training for you. As I said, I’m a hard sell and for two years I held out because I’m an engineer and such a nerd.
After I tried it, I realized why I liked it so much. You wake up and you know exactly what you’re doing that day. There’s no guesswork. You know your workout. You never guess at your distance. You never guess at your speed. You know this is tailored to your body and your speed and everything.
And then you get in a race situation and you can look back at your miles and say, “I’m ready for this.” And you can trust the plan because the guy who’s creating this whole thing is an IRONMAN himself.
How does TriDot help you on race day?
You go into the race with confidence. You can get a free training plan on the internet, but what kind of confidence can you have in that? Who created it? How do you know it’s a bona fide coach? What are his credentials? You don’t know.
Most people get to the race and see all these fit people and ask themselves, “Oh, no, did I train enough?” When you have TriDot in your back pocket, you’re good. You know you’re good. And I think you start focusing on not just finishing the race but winning the race. Your mindset will follow that. And it doesn’t matter if its sprint or full distance.
TriDot gives you that confidence. You’ve got it all logged right in front of you. What else could you want in a sport, whether you’re an amateur or a pro?
In the next blog, we’ll conclude Matthew’s interview.