As an athlete in the hot-pursuit of a PR, developing your time management skills takes practice and experience, just as you need with triathlon as a whole. Recognizing the importance of time management and incorporating a few strategies into your training will yield freedom from any distractions or anguish you have over limitations about your time. And who doesn’t want that?
Ideally, you have carved out dedicated hours in your schedule that allows for the appropriate time you need to get your key workouts done. In particular, I see repeated success with athletes of all abilities who do so in the early morning hours. One of the easiest ways to get your workouts done and achieve 10-12 hours per week without feeling the tug of life’s responsibilities is to do your workouts in the morning. But sometimes even your dedicated time evaporates and causes stress. Incorporating these 7 tips will provide relief knowing you are moving your training in the right direction, all is not lost, and you’ve got a coach’s approval that it’s going to be ok!
Do a Little Training Every Day.
As a triathlete, you need consistency with your training. That means incorporating some aspect of swim, bike, run, strength, or mobility into your schedule 6 days a week. Mental fatigue, unfavorable weather, and other obligations can all interfere, but just do something! It doesn’t have to take hours—your main objective is consistency.
If you have to cut the workout short, add intensity.
One of the best ways to make up for shortened workout time is to add intensity. For example, if you have to cut a run short, add in 5 quick 5K pick-ups for 30 seconds at a time, or run one of your middle miles at 10k pace. Just change it up so you aren’t always running slow and easy. You’ll never get fast by going slow all the time. The same applies to a limited bike ride or swim. An easy-to-remember bike workout could be: post-warm-up ride 10×1 minute at VO2 (Z5 Power or 5c HR) on 1-minute rest. For swimming, using something like 20×50 or 10×100 on 10-second rest is always a great set. Try to make it a set that’s easy to remember and that you enjoy doing, that way you’ll be more likely to do it when you are short on time.
Make plans with dependable training partners.
This works both ways. Your training partner(s) should be someone who you know will show up on time, and someone who will hold you accountable if you happen to be late. Knowing your training partner is waiting for you will not only get you out of bed and keep you motivated but it will help you knock out the workout in a timely manner. You can’t really procrastinate a workout when someone is waiting on you. Line up a partner for one day a week and see how it changes things for you!
Pack your gear the night before.
If you have a run workout planned, pull out your shoes, socks, shorts, shirt, hat, glasses, and make sure your watch is fully charged the night before. If you need to track your data, your watch needs to be ready to go. It is as much a priority as clean socks. In a way, you are preparing much like you would for a race, days ahead in some cases, but definitely the night before. If you have a swim workout, make sure your bag is packed with your swimsuit, two pairs of goggles, and all your swim toys. The same goes for your ride. Your bike shoes, kit, chamois cream, sunglasses, helmet, gloves, water bottles, and even have your tires pumped. That will save you time when it’s early and you have to get started the next day.
Stack workouts to make your life easier.
If you have an hour or an hour and 15-minutes to get your workout in, then do your transition run right after your bike interval workout. Here are a few examples of stacked workouts:
A. 45-minute bike followed by a 15-minute run. The bike would be a 10-minute warmup, then 5 x 5-minutes at FTP with 1-minute recovery, and then 5-minute cool down. The run could be 5-minutes easy, 5-minutes moderate and then 5-minutes fast.
B. 60-minute bike followed by a 15-minute run. Bike would be a 15-minute warm-up, 3 x 10-minutes at FTP with 3-minutes recovery, and then a 6-minute cool down. The run could be 5-minutes easy, 4 x 1-minute fast at 5K pace with a 1 minute recovery, and an easy cooldown.
C. Swimming and lifting are great combos too. A solid session in the pool for 45 minutes, with 15-20 minutes of lifting post-swim, is incredibly beneficial.
Do workouts when you can minimize distractions.
This is a reminder about what we talked about at the top. If you can manage it, get up early and get your workouts done. You will be ahead of the game! Yes, it means committing to an earlier bedtime, but it also means once you are done, you can focus on your other priorities during the day, including family and career.
Last, but certainly not least, put your workouts on your calendar so it’s like an appointment with yourself. Your workout is more likely to get done knowing that every Wednesday at lunch, you run your 5-mile loop and you can be back at your desk by 1pm.
I think these are all manageable solutions for maximizing time-strapped training. Managing your time starts with being organized, prepared, and committed to the process. There are no secrets or shortcuts to being a better triathlete, you have to work at it! Now, you have a few tricks that can help you get things done, even when you are short on time.