Few of us have the luxury of training for triathlon on a full time basis. Most of us must learn to balance our training and racing with our daily responsibilities.
It’s a fact – spending your hard-earned cash and hiring a qualified coach who writes you a technologically advanced, scientifically proven training program, is going to do nothing to improve your race times if you don’t have the time to do the workouts.
While a few lucky people may have the time and flexibility to train at high volume, it is much more common to find triathletes of all levels scrounging to fit the bare minimum of workouts into a crazy schedule. Life does get in the way!
Worrying about the lack of available training time does nothing about it – finding ways to maximize the productivity of the time you do have does.
Step 1: Calculate How Much Time You You
What I suggest to my athletes is that they first sit down and take a realistic look at their weekly schedule – work, family obligations, sleep, and the like. From there, make decisions about how much time you have to spend training. Be sure to take into consideration travel and shower time and the like. Be creative about ways to sneak a workout in – look outside the box, so to speak. There is often much more time available than may appear at first glance. Only when you have a realistic idea of how much time you have, can you even start to think about designing an appropriate training schedule.
Step 2: Build a Plan
Once you have a weekly schedule of available training time, then it is time to build a plan that fits. If you have 8 hours a week, then write workouts that total 8 hours a week! Seems obvious, but one of the quickest ways to get discouraged about your training is to consistently fall short of your training goals. Better to plan 2 workouts a week in each discipline and actually do them, than to plan for 3 and beat yourself up because you can’t get them done..
Step 3: Plan Building Strategies
So you have a plan now, what’s next? Follow it! It is preferable to have a 6 workout per week plan and follow it than the 10 or 12 workout plan that never gets done. You can make steady progress on 2 sessions a week in each sport if you are dedicated about getting those workouts in. If you are able to throw in an additional workout in your weakest link – so much the better.
One good way to maximize limited training time is to work on a basic 2x per week schedule with a rotating extra workout every week. For example, week 1 you do 2x swim, 2x bike and 3x run, week #2 you do 2x swim, 2x run and 3x bike, and week #3 would be 2x bike, 2x run and 3x swim. I find that this is great for athletes who are fairly balanced in all disciplines..
If you are not so balanced, it is important to train your weaknesses. It is all too easy for someone with limited training time, or anyone for that matter, to get seduced into spending large chunks of time on the sport they are best at………..and generally enjoy the most. Much better to invest time, especially in the early season, in the areas that have the opportunity for the most improvement. You’re not going to improve your slug-like swim split if you don’t get yourself to the pool as often as possible!
Step 4: Match Your Plan to Your Goals
Ok, so now you have designed a plan that fits the time you have available, does it match your goals? Nothing wrong with lofty goals, we all have them, but it’s also a good idea to have some less challenging goals that are in synch with your training level. Not saying you need to accept less than your “best”, just that what constitutes your “best” needs to take into account just how much training you are able to do.
While everyone has to deal with issue of missed workouts occasionally, it is best to make an honest effort to get those workouts in. The fewer workouts on your schedule, the more critical each workout becomes. The best way to triathlon success with limited training time is to do every workout with purpose – there are no workouts to waste. Communicate with family and friends about your training schedule in advance to lessen the chance of avoidable conflict. Every workout you complete successfully brings you one step closer to meeting your goals.
While training more may often be a good thing, training smarter is always better! Do your research, or find someone to do it for you. Finding out the methods and training principles that work best for you, your goals and your situation and then using them to make the time you spend training as focused and productive as possible will pay huge dividends come race day. Make every minute count and you will be well on your way to a successful season!