How the CEO of Lululemon Stays in Elite Triathlon Shape

How the CEO of Lululemon Stays in Elite Triathlon Shape

head shot of calvin mcdonald in a swim cap and goggles

Marcus Eriksson

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CALVIN MCDONALD IS on his bike, indoors, on this early Monday morning, alternately putting his head down and eyeing the iPad that’s serving up his Zwift virtual-ride course. He’s tackling three epic climbs in nearly 30 miles. The cumulative 3,000 feet of elevation gain isn’t for the faint of heart or the tired of legs, but McDonald doesn’t mind. He’s all in with his virtual training buddies, who deliver a mix of support and typical bike-pack trash talk to grind through the pain. The workout ends with a merciful four-mile downhill.

After that, the 51-year-old Lululemon CEO shuts it down, turning off the fan next to him, hopping off his trainer, and wiping the sweat from his forehead. One workout down, one to go. And yes, you read that right: Calvin McDonald does two-a-days.

In a world full of busy execs who struggle to fit in workouts, period, McDonald, an accomplished triathlete, packs his workouts tight to keep his engine and schedule fine-tuned. And he does have an engine: This past December, he placed in the top 10 percent of the whole 2,300-plus-person field at Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells, a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run. That qualified him for the 70.3 World Championships in 2024.

calvin mcdonald on his indoor bike

Marcus Eriksson

Lululemon bested market expectations with double-digit year-over-year growth in 2023, and McDonald says that’s not in spite of the ten to 12 hours a week he spends training. It’s because of it. With three disciplines to train and seven days to do it, “you’ve got to be deliberate with your time,” he says. It’s an approach he takes to training as well as to life in general. “I look at where the big opportunities and challenges are, and that’s where I spend my time.”

McDonald loves the bike leg (the longest portion of any tri) most. He’ll do up to six bike sessions a week, along with two swims, two or three runs, and two strength sessions. Zwift workouts (which let you use a standard bike for indoor workouts) with friends offer camaraderie, but he’ll ride alone as well. A setup in his office helps him be efficient with time.

Each session is about more than gains, too. “I use the training time to work through any mental roadblocks or challenges that I’m facing,” he says. “After the workout, this clarity allows me to be more present and focused in conversations throughout my day.”

calvin mcdonald doing core indoors

Marcus Eriksson

Triathlons sync with McDonald’s being. He’s always been active (and used to play ice hockey), but the three-sports-in-one nature of a tri pushes his time-management skills, especially as a CEO who wants to be a present dad to his four kids. He races four or five times a year. He speaks often of being focused, doing what you love, and dialing up performance—and you can’t always tell whether he’s talking about running a company or training for a tri.

Every race teaches him lessons, like the crash on the course at the Melbourne 70.3 in 2022 that left him with two broken ribs and transformed him into a spectathlete, cheering his teammates on. “It teaches you that you’re not in control. For me, it helps me calibrate a lot of the emotions we feel in life and professionally when things don’t go the way you had hoped,” he says.

He shares these experiences with his Lululemon team when he can. Last July, he and 40 Lululemon-associated riders assembled at the starting line of the 75-mile Okanagan Granfondo bike race in Penticton, British Columbia. “Everyone does their own pace, and we connect at the end of the day and celebrate what everybody achieved,” he says. “I think sport is a wonderful learning platform for building character.” Which is exactly why he’ll be back on Zwift on Wednesday morning, too.

Build Power and Endurance on the Bike Like McDonald

Try this 60-minute workout on a stationary bike/bike trainer. This intense workout with little rest helps build power and endurance.

The Warmup

Start with 5 minutes of easy pedaling, picking up the pace each minute. End at 85 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR).

The Main Set

Spend the next 5 minutes at 90 percent of your MHR; your legs should feel continuously taxed. Then pull back (only slightly!) for 5 minutes, dropping to about 85 percent of your MHR. Repeat this pattern 4 more times. Stay focused!

The Cooldown

Now spin easy for 5 minutes. Slow down enough that you end with a heart rate that’s as low as it would be if you were taking a walk.

calvin mcdonald swimming

Marcus Eriksson


BONUS

Lightning Round Q&A with McDonald

Dream workout partner?
“Bono. He loves cycling, and U2 is my favorite band.”

Favorite cheat meal?
“Does wine count? If so, then a nice glass of red.”

Best time to run?
“In the afternoon or evening, when my body feels a little more loose.”

Favorite equipment?
“The AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill. I have an aging knee, and running can aggravate it.” This tech lifts your body up so you’re putting only a percentage of your weight on the tread.

Toughest training block?
“The taper before a race. You just want to get started and do the race.”

A version of this story appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Men’s Health.

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