Where does the time go?
We have all asked ourselves this question at one time or another. The puzzling thing is that in a world where everything is designed to save time (phones act as personal computers, social media posts update friends and family in an instant, and fast internet speeds allow us to download a movie or song in seconds), somehow, we are still consistently pressed for time. Our society prides itself on multi-tasking. We juggle time between our families, careers, and training. It’s a precarious balance to strike, but its sweet rewards are worth the sweat and sacrifices. In the hopes of finding additional time for your work out, here are a few tips to help you maximize your training schedule.
Become a Scheduler
The most effective way to manage endurance training on a time budget is to schedule. Set aside in advance time blocks devoted to training. Consider these blocks appointments, giving them the same priority as a work engagement. Share this schedule with your family so it’s understood 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 at least 50 minutes of training. This allows time to get ready as well as time to cool off and shower afterward. If you have a 90-minute bike ride scheduled, plan to set aside 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 a tight time budget can create. Additionally, the family will appreciate it if and when you finish earlier than planned.
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 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. And it is especially important to adhere to a schedule of easy training days and hard training days.
When training time becomes limited due to a lifestyle change, such as a career change or a new baby, prioritizing 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 will be beneficial for those priority races. Using the non-priority races as training days allows for a high fitness return from minimal time commitment.
In addition to prioritizing races, consider changing your yearly race goals to fit in with your available training time. Training for an Ironman, for example, might not be suitable if you have to care for a newborn. Rather, focus on racing shorter races more frequently. Attempting to train for ultra distance events, by definition, requires a significant time commitment. Don’t set yourself up for frustration and poor race performance by training for a distance that you simply don’t have time for. (Proper scheduling of time blocks will make this concept abundantly clear.)
Integrate Training into 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 some family time before you ride home. If you have a day planned in the Hill Country, ride your bike to a meeting point and have friends rendezvous with you. Invest in a running stroller or bike trailer so that you can bring the kids along during training sessions. If you are able to work from home, set the bike up on your trainer and ride easily while sending emails or listening in on conference calls. Get creative. The possibilities are endless.
Pre-Plan each Workout
As mentioned, the allotted time block scheduled for workouts needs to be longer than the actual training session. Simplifying the list of requirements needed to get out the door will also save time and allow for more training. For example: keep all of your swim gear in a mesh bag. When it’s time to head out for a swim, all you need to grab is the bag, jump in the car, and you’re off to the pool. If an early morning ride is planned, be sure to prepare the night before by pumping up the tires, lubing the bike chain, filling water bottles, and having all cycling apparel laid out and ready. If you follow these tips, getting dressed and heading out the door should take no more than 5 minutes.
By following some or all of these ideas—and adding a few of your own— the next time you ask yourself “Where did the time go?” the answer will be “I was training!”