Get the most out of your multi-sport minutes with these clever tips.
by Lisa Dolbear
Training for a triathlon takes time. Those who are new to the sport might not realize how easily a “30-minute recovery ride” can turn into an hour of your day. Before you hop on the saddle, you have to pump your tires, wait for your watch to locate satellites and confirm all necessary accoutrements are accounted for: helmet, glasses, phone in the jersey pocket, heart-rate visible. (Don’t even get me started on a trip to the pool.)
Prepping for your training sessions is kind of like a pilot prepping for take-off. Next time you board a plane, peek into the cockpit—there are notes to scan, dials to turn, switches to flick and dashboards to consult. Like triathletes, pilots have to make sure it’s “all systems good” before it’s “all systems go.” Neglecting that careful prep could result in a delayed schedule—or much worse.
Experienced athletes have learned how to maximize every minute when it comes to training, an essential skill if you hope to train for an IRONMAN race around all the work, life and social obligations we juggle on a regular basis. Here are five ways you can maximize your training time.
1. Create a “tri-trunk”
Forty-year old Syracuse, NY athlete Dan Waterman has so much gear in his trunk, he could be featured on an episode of Hoarders. But there’s a method to his madness. His tri trunk serves as an on-the-go inventory of anything he might need before, during or after a workout (the weather is unpredictable where he lives, and so needs can vary on whim). Waterman’s plastic travel totes contain everything from toiletries and first-aid kits to swim buoys, duct tape, extra clothing and fueling items. “Having everything I need on hand at any given time enables me to pack in as much as possible within a 24-hour period, feel confident that I can get in a good workout, and stick to a schedule that keeps my coworkers and family happy,” Waterman says.
2. Memorize your workouts for the week
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” but they’ve got nothing on triathletes. It’s a classic situation: you’ve budgeted time and prepared for a specific workout, only to discover an obstacle that makes it impossible to complete it. (i.e.: The pool is closed for cleaning.) If you were singularly focused on getting the swim in, it’s likely your training hours are a bust at this point—but if you have a Plan B ready, you can salvage your schedule.
The easiest workout to tee up for last-minute training is a run. Have your weekly training schedule handy (many people pull it up on their mobile phones) and figure out the best option. A quick trip to the locker room (or the above tri trunk) and you’ll be Clark Kent-ing your way into a pair of running shoes leaving that dirty pool in the wake of your proactive awesomeness.
3. Do your stretching and strength training “off the clock”
Confession: I spent years blowing off stretching and strength training in favor of more time in the pool or a few more miles on the bike—and I know I’m not alone. Like many triathletes, I tend to think that every minute I have is better spent on swimming, biking and running than any other type of activity. Like most triathletes who think this way, I know I’m wrong, so I found a solution. I multitask my non-tri minutes to make sure I’m getting in key stretches and conditioning. In the shower, I can shave my legs and relieve tight hamstrings without missing a beat. At work, I can sit on a stability ball and recline backward just slightly as I skim through a research report and shred my abs. Driving to work? Red lights are great for glute squeezes. The possibilities are endless.
4. Turn errands into workouts
Is your car due for an oil change? Sounds like the perfect time to hit two birds with one stone. Drop your wheels off at the shop, and take the opportunity to get a run completed on a new route. The old “out and back” routine is perfect for exploring lesser-known areas without getting lost, and it’s a great time to challenge yourself to a negative split (completing the second part of the run faster than the first part). Not only did you bypass the drab lobby and sub-par coffee while mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, you also avoided the hassle of getting rides to and from the shop while your car was maintained. It’s a win-win workout!
5. Use your calendar
A lot of athletes miss workouts because “something came up.” Granted, there will be times when that is true, but it should seldom be the reason for a missed workout. Treat your workouts like any other important engagement in your life—block the time out on your calendar. If you like to run over your lunch break, organize your schedule in a way that makes it clear to others that you’re not available during that time. Commit your workouts to a calendar the same way you would schedule doctor’s appointments, business meetings, or your daughter’s soccer game. This will make them more meaningful to you and to the people in your life. Consider the time spent on training as an investment in your physical and mental wellbeing, and don’t feel guilty that at times it will take priority over other things in your life.
Lisa Dolbear is a three-time IRONMAN and USAT Level 1 coach.