When it comes to training, triathletes have it hardest with not just one sport to train for but three. And while aspects of triathlon training, such as increased cardiovascular fitness, transfers between sports, successful triathletes can’t just train their running and hope to dominate in swimming and biking too. There is no substitute for sport-specific training.
In his book, The Working Triathlete, author and Ironman Certified Coach Conrad Goeringer writes, “triathletes are fiercely goal-oriented. Assuming you fit the mold, you are likely the kind of person who, when you set out to do something, does it (and not just for completion, but for dominance).”
If this describes you, you may get the feeling that there isn’t enough time in the day, because there’s not. So, you have to find the time where you can. And one of the best places to look is at your training, which you may be able to make more efficient without compromising results.
Goeringer says there are eight training rules time-crunched triathletes should live by. But any athlete who is short on time can still benefit from these guidelines.
8 Training Rules For Time-Crunched Athletes
1. Emphasize the frequency and consistency of your workouts over massive high-volume sessions. According to Goeringer, shorter and more frequent workouts allow you to gain fitness faster than sporadic, high volume efforts and are easier to fit into a busy schedule.
The frequency of stimulus, according to Goeringer, will allow you to gain fitness and progress efficiently. Don’t underestimate the value of short sessions. A typical day for a time-strapped athlete could entail a 35-minute run in the morning and a 45-minute interval workout on an indoor bike trainer or a SwimErg in the afternoon. By breaking the plan up into two separate shorter sessions, it’s easier to assimilate training into daily life since you don’t have to find large blocks of time within a busy schedule. It’s also easier on your body, allowing you to recover well between workouts and execute key sessions at appropriate intensities. “When the frequency of your workouts increases,” says Goeringer, “so too does the intracellular signaling involved in response to endurance exercise, allowing you to continuously progress and gain fitness within each discipline faster than if you only engaged in it once or twice a week.”
2. Harness technology and products that save you time. Travel and preparation are the biggest time wasters. Goeringer recommends setting up a home gym where you can cycle indoors instead of driving to a quiet road to ride, or where you can swim on a Vasa Trainer SwimErg and skip the trip to the pool.
3. Brick it if you only have one window of time to work out each day. “The frequency of stimulus within each of the disciplines is important and trumps occasional big days,” says Goeringer, who advises that if you can only create one block of training time in a day, that you should split it between disciplines.
4. Emphasize running while traveling, and don’t worry about packing a lot of gear. Directly before or after travel, plan your key swim and cycling workouts. But while traveling, “prioritize the run,” says Goeringer. “Keep it simple.” Whereas swimming requires finding a pool and cycling requires lugging a bike around, running is efficient, can be done anywhere and requires minimal equipment.
5. Have a purpose for every workout. Easy pedaling and gentle jogging every day won’t allow you to reach your potential. “Deliberate practice will make you better,” advises Goeringer. Before you run, bike or swim, whether it’s on a treadmill, Vasa SwimErg or bike trainer or outside, have a plan–know if you’ll be working distance, intensity or stroke. “If you want to be time-efficient, you need to maximize the benefit of your workouts while minimizing costs,” he says. To do this, you need to strategically execute a diverse combination of the workouts, including general endurance, threshold, VO2/aerobic capacity, and occasional long endurance sessions.”
6. Make time to recover. When going hard, it’s essential to emphasize restoration and recovery. The body rebuilds itself when you’re not working out. Make workouts count, but take the time to rest.
7. Work your weaknesses. When you focus only on where you’re already strong, it’s hard to get better. Instead, be clear about what you need to improve and work on those aspects, as there may be low hanging fruit to be gained. “When you lay out your training program,” says Goeringer, “be objective and think about where you can improve, and what areas of training will make you faster on race day. Deliberately and efficiently attack those areas.”
8. Track your metrics.
“Establish your thresholds, set your training zones and execute workouts at proper intensities,” says Goeringer. A good training plan will have structured workouts intended to be done at specific intensities. For lower-volume athletes especially, it’s even more important to be precise in adhering to a workout’s protocol. By being disciplined and completing intervals at appropriate effort relative to your fitness, you will see superior gains.
Not all workouts you execute can or should be low-cost, according to Goeringer. “There is no way around it: to prepare well for the rigors of racing, you need to put in time and effort. Racing fast requires tremendous physical and mental fortitude, and you must get comfortable stimulating and strengthening the physiological and psychological systems that you will need to tap into during races.” But, striving for balance and consistency will make you faster, and overly obsessing over how many hours each week you spend training won’t.
Finally, advises Goeringer, structure a plan that will let you execute day to day. “There are countless examples of individuals performing remarkably well by training six to 12 hours per week and beating athletes who brag about slogging through 20+ hour weeks. What separates the individuals who perform well with a limited time commitment from those who spend all day training with minimal payoff is not usually genetics – it is an understanding of the precise stimulus the body requires to get faster and the efficient execution of key workouts day-to-day.”
Conrad Goeringer is an Ironman Certified Coach based out of Nashville, TN. He is a multiple time triathlon champion and USAT Duathlon National Champion. His passion is helping athletes of all levels and with all schedules achieve their endurance goals. He is the founder of Working Triathlete. To learn more about joining the Working Triathlete community, visit www.workingtriathlete.
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