Managing the Clock
“Where does the time go?”
We have all said this at one time or another. The puzzling thing is that we make this statement during a period in history where everything is designed to save time. Phones act as computers, social media outlets post updates to friends and family in an instant, and fast internet speeds allow us to download a movie or song in seconds. Our society prides itself on multi-tasking. Yet, we are consistently pressed for time. We juggle time for our families, for our careers, and for training. In the hopes of finding additional time for training, here are a few tips to maximize your training schedule.
Become a Scheduler
The most effective way to manage endurance training on a limited time budget is to schedule your time. Set aside, in advance, time blocks that are devoted to training. Consider these blocks appointments and give them the same priority as you would a work engagement. Share this schedule with your family so that the expectation is clear that you will be training during this time. Be realistic with the time you allot for any given workout. For example, if your training for the day consists of a 30 minute run, schedule yourself for at least 50 minutes of training. This allows for you to get ready for the run and then cool off and shower after the run. If you have a 90-minute bike ride scheduled, plan for two hours to compensate for the possibility of tough environmental conditions, traffic, or a flat tire. Setting time blocks that are longer than the scheduled workout decreases the stress on the athlete that occurs when training on a tight time budget. In addition, your family will appreciate it when you finish earlier than planned following a wind, traffic, and flat-free ride.
Remember the Basics
A common error that many time-crunched athletes make is failing to stick to basic tenets of endurance training. It is well documented that performance improvements are achieved with a well-executed plan of high and low intensity training sessions coupled with scheduled recovery weeks. However, many endurance athletes erroneously think that because they are limited on time, all of their training should be performed at high intensity. Of course, high intensity (Heart rate Zone 4 and 5) training has a place in any well-designed training plan, but not at the expense of low intensity (Heart rate Zone 1 and 2) training. Resist the temptation to spend your valuable and limited training time only on high intensity training. It is important to remember that a 30-minute run at a Zone 2 heart rate has important physiological benefits. It is especially important to adhere to a schedule of easy training days and hard training days when the time spent at each is limited.
When your training time becomes limited due to a lifestyle change, such as a career change or a new baby, prioritizing your races during the season becomes crucial. Designate one or two key races that are your top priority races. Plan on training through the other races on your schedule. This allows you to experiment with nutrition, race tactics, and pacing which you will be beneficial for your priority races. Using the non-priority races as training days allows for a high fitness return from minimal time commitment.
In addition to prioritizing your races, consider changing your yearly race goals to fit in with available training time. Ironman training might not be suitable if you have a newborn to care for. Instead, focus on racing shorter races more frequently. Attempting to train for ultra distance events, by definition, require significant time. Don’t set yourself up for frustration and poor race performance by training for a race distance that you simply don’t have the time for. Proper scheduling of time blocks will make this concept abundantly clear.
Integrate Training into your Social Time
Austin has good ratings when it comes to bike friendliness…take advantage of that! Use your bike to run simple errands or to commute to work. Ride or run to the pool for a swim session and have your family meet you there afterwards for family time. Then ride home. If you have a day planned in the Hill Country, ride your bike to a meeting point and have your friends rendezvous with you. Invest in a running stroller or bike trailer so that you can bring the kids along during your training sessions. If you are able to work from home, set your bike up on the trainer and ride easily while you send emails or listen in on conference calls. Get creative. The possibilities are endless.
Pre-Plan each Workout
As stated earlier, the allotted time block needs to be longer than the actual training session. If you simplify the requirements it takes to get you out the door, it will save time and allow more training time. For example, keep all of your swim gear in a mesh bag. When its time to head out for a swim all you need to grab is the bag, jump on your bike, and you’re off to the pool. If you have a early morning ride planned be sure and prepare your bike the night before by pumping up the tires, lubing the chain, filling water bottles, and by having all of your cycling apparel ready. If you follow these tips, getting dressed and heading out should take no more than five minutes.
By following some or all of these ideas, and by adding a few of your own, hopefully the next time you ask yourself, “Where did the time go?”, you can answer with, “I was training!”