Mikael Eriksson of Scientific Triathlon discusses how to make the most of your time in the winter training period.
The racing season is coming to a close for most triathletes in the northern hemisphere. One of the biggest challenges of the transition into winter training is how to manage your time to fit in triathlon training around a life that’s often busier than ever.
This article covers seven time management tricks that highly productive triathletes use to get it all done.
What gets scheduled gets done. The best way to make sure you get your training in is to sit down with your calendar and carefully schedule your training sessions in it just as you would an important appointment. Doing this on Sunday night for the entire week ahead tends to work the best.
If possible, schedule your workouts for mornings before work and for lunch breaks. The later in the day you leave your workouts to, the greater the risk that something comes up that makes you skip it.
You don’t have to train an insane amount of hours at this time of year. Not even full-distance triathletes need to do any high-volume training right now unless you have an early 2017 goal race.
Instead, periodise your training so you get the most out of your training time. One way to do this is reverse periodisation where you do high-intensity training and lower volume now, and increase volume while decreasing intensity later in the spring.
Alternatively, you can use winter training to focus more on personal limiters that don’t require a great time investment. For example, 30 minutes of swim or run technique training or of lifting weights is great ‘bang-for-buck’ training if those are your personal limiters.
Get a coach
If you’re unsure how to get the most out of your training time, getting a coach is the way to go. It then becomes the coach’s job to do that for you. For many triathletes, the time spent training drops immediately when they start working with a coach, but they still see much better results. What’s more, you regain all the time you typically spend planning out your training, which for many triathletes can be several hours per month.
Finally, by getting a coach this time of year, you give him or her enough time to really make a difference in your racing for next season.
Use your commute
Biking or running to and/or from work is perhaps the best direct time-saver you can get. It requires some logistical planning and access to showers (if your work doesn’t have showers, get a gym membership at a local gym) but the time you save makes it all worth it.
Commuting tends to work best for easy workouts. For an easy bike session, you don’t even need your road or triathlon bike. Use your cyclocross bike, mountain bike or fatbike if that works better.
But get creative – you could do a warmup run to a track, take off your running backpack, do a quality interval session, put your backpack back on and cooldown to your workplace.
Embrace indoor training
The indoor trainer and the treadmill are very effective training tools. They allow you to get in quality high-intensity workouts in as little as 30 to 60 minutes. This goes along with effective periodisation as we already talked about.
You save time not just by getting more quality training done in a shorter time. In addition, you don’t have to prepare your gear and clothes the way you would for riding or running outside. And since there’s no coasting on the trainer, a good rule of thumb is that 60 minutes on the trainer corresponds to 90 minutes of outdoor cycling. That’s an excellent bargain when you’re crunched for time!
Start batch cooking
Is cooking a daily 45-minute time sink for you? Then start batch cooking.
Something as simple as making double the amount food you normally would and having it for two days straight saves you 50% of your cooking time. A more advanced trick is to prepare all your meals for the coming week on for example Sunday evening. You can even make a family event out of this and combine saving time from cooking less with making time for hanging out with your family.
If you really don’t want to eat the same food two days in a row, use a rotating schedule like this:
Cook (and eat) food A on day 1 – Cook and eat food B on day 2 – Eat food A on day 3 – Eat food B on day 4. Do it again with foods C and D.
Something is better than nothing
Get in the mindset of something is better than nothing. If life throws curveballs at you and ruins your carefully planned scheduled, rather than skipping training completely, think about what options you have to salvage at least something from it.
Did your available time for swimming drop from 45 to 25 minutes? Drop all the fluff and do a 200 meter warm-up followed by as much of your main set as your time allows. Did something get in the way of your run and now you’ve just got 10 minutes available? Do a plyometrics workout instead.
The best way to get started with these tips is not to try everything at once. Rather, pick one or two of them and make them work for you over a period of 2-3 weeks. Then add one or two more, until all of these hacks become second nature.
If you want more examples of short and effective training sessions, you can download my favourite workouts in the 10- to 45-minute range here.