4 Easy Ways to Maximize Your Ironman Training Schedule

4 Easy Ways to Maximize Your Ironman Training Schedule

It’s no secret that Ironman training is a major time commitment. Here are a few simple tips to optimize your training plan and keep life in balance.

Inspired by your buddy’s M-Dot Medal and tattoo, you set yourself the ultimate triathlon goal: to race an Ironman. But now reality’s kicking in as you realize the demands of rigorous training on top of your work life and familial commitments. The good news is there’s no need to panic. With the right approach, planning, and self-discipline, you can make your Ironman training schedule fit into your life. Here are some simple tips to set up even the most time-crunched triathletes for success.

Tip #1: Plan Your Ironman Training With Your Support Crew

Even before looking at managing your time, the first key factor in setting yourself up for success is to involve your support crew — namely your family and friends — in the planning process. To survive and thrive during Ironman training, support from your nearest and dearest is vital.

Start by sitting everyone down to talk through what you are planning and all that’s involved. You will need to agree on what a typical training week might look like (e.g., does it work to do your long bike on a Sunday when the kids need to be dropped off at football practice?). You should also try to set regular date nights and family fun days to ensure you’re not neglecting your loved one’s needs. Remember, you are not the only person in this! Setting up the correct “skeleton” week that minimizes disruption to everyone really does help minimize unnecessary friction from the start. 

Tip #2: Find an Ironman Training Plan That Works For You

Completing an Ironman is a great goal — but you need a solid plan to map out how you’ll get there. Having a training plan helps you understand what workouts you need to be doing and when. Not only will the plan help you manage your progression, but it is also invaluable in helping to involve the support crew (see tip #1). Print off a screenshot of your upcoming week or month and stick it on the fridge to let them know what’s coming and if any adjustments are needed. Be proactive!

When choosing a training plan, do your research early. There are a multitude of resources at your disposal, including free plans from the internet, customizable training plans from TrainingPeaks, and personal one-on-one coaching. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, so it’s up to you to figure out what your budget is and the level of guidance you need to succeed.

It is important to recognize that your plan should have some degree of flexibility to allow you to accommodate work/life/play. No one gets to complete 100% of their plan, but as long as you are training as consistently as possible, trust that you are getting closer to that red carpet!

If you’re wondering where to start looking, check out my IRONMAN training plans for time-crunched athletes on TrainingPeaks.

Tip #3: Eliminate Dead Time 

“Dead time” to me is when you spend time in an inefficient way, which is a killer when you’re trying to maximize your training schedule. An example of this would be getting up for a 7 AM swim set without having your gear and nutrition ready to go. After stumbling around in the dark for half an hour, it’s often too late to get your swim in after all. 

A better way to approach this is to lay everything out the night before (i.e., pack your swim kit and have your breakfast ready to go) so you can get up and out as efficiently as possible. You will be amazed at how much more effective you can become at time management when you master the art of preparation.

Another way to eliminate dead time is to turn your wasted hours into productive training time. This could mean turning a dreaded commute into a two-way bike ride, turning your lunch break into a solid run and then eating at your desk after, or sneaking in a trainer session during TV time. I refer to these advanced time management tactics as “ninja” moves that can help lessen the negative impact your training is having on your support crew. If you’re mastering ninja training, you aren’t coming home late after a hard day’s work and then trying to squeeze in a tempo run on low energy and motivation. It’s time to super-size your productivity!

Tip #4: Prioritize Training Your Weaknesses

When it comes to trade-offs, remember to train to your weaknesses (and race to your strengths). By this, I mean if you have to sacrifice one of your weekly sessions for other commitments, then you need to drop your strongest discipline, not your weakest. 

Though we all know how good sessions feel when we’re skilled in the discipline (e.g., strong swimmers will always love to hit the pool!), you’ll get more bang for your buck if you prioritize training your weakest discipline. Even if you dread these sessions the most — hill repeats, anyone? — you will make the biggest improvements here in the long term.

Whilst not undermining the strenuous time commitment that Ironman training involves, you can certainly lessen your load by following the above tips. The good news is that the key learnings you will get from your Ironman training are easily transferrable to all other walks of life. There’s nothing bad about getting better at managing your time, being prepared, and strengthening your communication with loved ones!

Ultimate Ironman Training Guide
Training Guide

Ultimate Ironman Training Guide

This guide is designed to be used as you train for an IRONMAN triathlon, with in-depth information on every part of the process. Each chapter is packed with tips, workouts, and insights from triathlon coaches, to give you all the tools you need to succeed.

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