How do you fit in 8-10 hours of training per week in a normal life is a question I get quite often when I talk to non-triathlon friends and tell them what I dedicate my time and energy on. Well, for sure it is not easily done, but let me tell you how I structure my time to manage it.
So first of all, why 8-10 hours per week? Well, for me, a person who really doesn’t have an athletic background or real talent for doing sports (I was at best mediocre at school at athletics), it is the time I see required to build up a strong aerobic ability to do half ironman distance races at good times for my age group. I might maybe get off with less time, but training three disciplines in a constant fashion and getting the speed I look for (1:30 min/100m swim, 4:00 run pace and 36 km/hr bike speed) does require both volume and strength workouts. The training programs I follow means 2-3 sets per week in each discipline in average, which sums up to 7-8 sets per week, thus 8-10 hours per week in average. Some weeks less (5-6 hours), some more (15 hours).
The main ingredient in this is dedication and focus. I have taken a conscious decision that triathlon is something I want to focus on and that I will try and rearrange as much as possible in order to fit this in. This means in the end prioritization. Now, if I was single in my 20s this might have been easier, but fortunately I have a family with three kids and an important job to take care of as well, which makes the triathlon training more complicated. But without doubt, family and work is affected and gets less time available. This means pushing work hours to a minimum is a must, using time around lunch for runs for example. I have also minimized travel at the moment to not be away from home and training routines. Fortunately, I have travelled so much before that I am not really missing that piece!
Family wise it is trickier to down prioritize off course. I have some kind of OK from my wife to train a lot as long as the rest of the time I am really present. That is also a challenge, as training a lot means also at times being very tired, and that takes time and focus away as well. Not easy, and something I struggle with a lot at times… It becomes a delicate balance! A lot of triathletes uses early mornings a lot, as well as using transport to/from work to exercise. Unfortunately, I am not good at morning workouts: I often sleep bad ahead of an early schedule, and I also cherish having breakfast with the kids before they go off for school. Getting up at 5am is not much of an alternative for me. Exercising to work is also something I have decided not to do. I would miss breakfast at home (to get out in time), and changing clothes at work is a little of a hassle for me.
So taking all of this into account, this is how I schedule my typical training week:
Morning sessions, typically twice per week for swimming. Thursdays the pool opens at 6:30am which means that I can be back at home just before 8am. Sebastian starts school at 9am Thursdays so I can have a quick breakfast with him and be at work around 9:30ish. Saturday mornings is also a good time as Sasha has gym practice at 9am. I take the opportunity to go then for swimming and let the rest of the family sleep in.
Lunch sessions at work, typically twice per week, normally running. I can squeeze in an hour run just before lunch and then eat at my desk or make it quick and not lose too much time.
I currently add in a swim session Tuesday nights 9-10pm this spring together with my swim coach.
Weekends Saturdays and Sundays are scheduled with longer sessions (one run and one bike) which I try to fit into other plans with the family. Best is to squeeze in before lunch or early afternoon.
Left then is another two sessions of bike and/or run during the weekdays, preferably before dinner. If I get home by 5-5:30pm I can squeeze that in before dinner at 7-7:30pm. Tight.
In general, I do a lot of my training alone. If I would be part of a triathlon club I would have to adjust my schedule to their hours, which I have felt is not possible. I try to do my work lunch runs with some friends, and then I also take one swimming class per week as well as some swim sessions with my brother. Otherwise I do it alone.
Overall a typical perfect week then becomes:
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: Run at lunch, swim at night, 2hrs total
Wednesday: Bike 1hr after work
Thursday: Morning swim, lunch run, 2 hrs total
Friday: 1 hour bike
Saturday: Morning long swim, long distance run, 3 hrs total
Sunday: Long distance bike 2 hrs
Needless to say, this is a very ambitious and tough schedule, and I cannot always follow it. It is not just taxing physically, but also mentally to always be planning next sessions and trying to feel if enough time is spent on work and family at the same time. Every once in a while, I get to a point where I need to reassess the overall status of myself and my surrounding and see what changes needs to be done. I try to mix run and bike every other day to not overwork the same muscles, as well as mixing intervals with longer easier runs. The mix between this varies over the year, with winter now focused on tougher bike sessions and easier runs, this in order to build up bike strength while preparing for tougher running in spring/summer. Currently I am reviewing my weekly set-up to get an efficient schedule that doesn’t overtax the body and muscles, so I am changing my rest day from Friday to Monday for example, giving some extra rest after the longer weekend sessions.
Obviously, with family, work and triathlon, there is not much time left for anything else. Fortunately (?), my social life has never been very active, so I don’t have to many friends who are missing me…
So, in summary, the way I manage it is prioritization and most of all focus in order to fit this into my life. Not always happy faces on myself or my family, but I feel that the emotions and gratification when finishing a good race and seeing how I progress in athletics is worth it. Being able to manage the mental stress to train so much is being improved every year and this is helpful.
So I’ll hopefully be able to continue for a little longer with this…