In my previous post, I talked about how Planning is the key to training. Ironman is just as much a mental event as it is a physical one. But, you have to actually DO the training first. In my experience, the only way to pull off successful training is to get creative, and double-up training with other parts of your life. Here are a few examples:
Work: One of the greatest parts about working out is it clears my mind of “clutter”. I use the solitude to work out problems, challenges, etc. So, I find that the more I work out, the more efficient I am at getting things done. It’s not quantifiable per se, but it’s important. Here are a few other tricks.
- Instead of coffee appointments or meetings, try a buddy run. I’ve tried this in previous jobs with a lot of success. If a colleague wants to just catch up, or a mentee who wants to pick your brain, suggest a workout instead. These kinds of “hey, we should catch up” meetings are important for networking, but drain your work productivity and kill your schedule. So, double up work and training. I’ve met people for early morning runs before work, bike rides after work or even a yoga class at the gym during lunch. You’ll feel great, and you’ll probably learn a lot more this way too.
- My husband found a group of DC area executives who are triathletes, and they meet up regularly for bike rides or runs. Think of it as an endurance athlete’s equivalent of happy hour, or a round of golf. Again, you’re doubling up work and training. A former training partner (who was a lobbyist) joined a running group for folks on Capitol Hill. Several companies have running groups. It’s worth exploring.
- If you’re on travel, do back-to-back workouts at the beginning of the day. I found it really hard to get one workout done in the morning and one in the evening, especially if you have work dinners or other events. Yes, it sucks to get up at 4 am and ask the hotel concierge to open up the gym for you so you can do an hour bike and an hour run on the treadmill. But, you’ll thank yourself at 8 pm when you’re exhausted from your day, and can just curl up with your laptop, room service and a bad TV show.
- Finally, and most important, think about whether your job will afford you the chance to be flexible in your training. My life as a work-from-home-most-days consultant is a true luxury. But for those in an office, ask yourself whether the culture and environment will be supportive? Do they give you flexibility to take a longer lunch to get to the pool? Is there a way that you can build Ironman training into your plan for the year? Maybe take another assignment? Lead a special project? Work from home one day each week? Get your plan together and, with all the facts, engage your boss and get some buy-in for the flexibility you’ll need.
Commute: This is just awful wasted time. It typically involves lower productivity and higher stress. So, try to work through it.
- Consider biking or running to/from work. I used to run home (~3 miles) one or two days a week. If I had the time, I would make my loop a little longer to get in 5-6. On the metro, it would take me 25 minutes anyway, so I wasn’t adding much more time beyond the commute, but was getting in my workout with fewer hours than I expected. You’re already glued to your gym bag, so what’s another trip to the office anyway?
- Run your kids to school, literally. When Sasha went to a preschool that was 2 miles away, I would run her to/from school at least once per week. It’s not the best workout, but it allowed me to get miles in and Sasha just loved the breeze in her face and the time 1:1 with mom.
- Ask if you can work from home 1-2 days a week. Use the former commuting time to get your workout it. Stay true to your work hours, but leverage the commute time for fitness. Plus, uninterrupted work time can be incredibly productive – so maybe your work product will see improvements.
Family time: Especially for Greg and me, this is a huge area of focus. We are the most happy when we do things together, and with the family. We find a way, several times a week, to get workouts in together. Here are a few ways:
- Family runs. We invested in the double BOB (one of six stroller that we’ve purchased, but that’s another story) so that we could take the girls running with us. When Simone was 3 months, we decided that she was ready. Some days, we could only get 2-3 miles in before the fussiness took over our runs. But on a good day, we can get 7+ miles. Now, our biggest issue is that Sasha wants to run WITH us, not in the buggy. But, hey, modeling fitness is a great side effect! Don’t forget to pack bottles for the kids and extra snacks for them. And a portable dog bowl for your pooch.
- Gyms with daycare. I had belonged to a WSC gym for ~$50/month. Super cheap, but they didn’t have child care, so I never went. Eventually, I dropped that membership for one at Results gym (which is around the corner from us) and it has $4/hour/kid babysitting services. Sasha loves it because she gets to play with other kids and Simone has grown to enjoy the time there. We’ll typically spend Saturday mornings in back-to-back spin classes with the girls in the gym. (2 hour workout, check). Plus, we’ll do one night each week (if not more) after dinner and before bedtime – so we can get in a strength-training or spin class, or just time on the treadmill.
- Run during practice. When Greg and I were dating, before kids, he was an active weekend soccer player. So, I would go with him to his games and watch (um, ridiculously boring. Sorry, Greg.) To make sure that I got my workout in too, I would spend the warm-up and first half of the game doing my long run. I would still see him play, but I didn’t have to watch the whole game (double win!) And, we both got what we wanted from the ~2 hours at the field. I read about this approach in a Runner’s World many years ago: an ultra-marathoner would run during her daughter’s soccer practices. Maybe you won’t get the mom-of-the-year award, but you do the best you can.
- Family time isn’t just for the nuclear family, it’s for the extended family. We’re fortunate that we have 3 hands-on grandparents in the immediate area who are eager for time with Sasha, Simone and Sharkie. We’ve taken advantage of that for longer bike rides or runs on the weekend – leaving the kids with grandparents for a few hours so that we can get in some longer workouts. Win/win.
- Babysitting swaps. We’ve been able to tap friends to help as well. In a few instances, we’ve been able to leave the girls with friends for a morning/afternoon play date while we get in a longer workout or complete a race. We simply return the favor with a play date at another time.
Workout time: Don’t push off a workout, especially in the early part of the week because you’ll find it really hard to make it up later. You just need to do it. Aside from what’s been mentioned already, here are some points.
- Plan it. For me, scheduling exactly when I’ll do my workout helps me to get it done. Each Saturday, I do my plan for the next week – when will I swim? What afternoons will I use for my runs? Based upon my work schedule and the evening commitments, how can I get everything done? Then, follow the schedule. When the alarm goes off – get out of bed. You’ll have to get up early. There’s no avoiding it.
- Log it. Greg using Training Peaks. I’m old school with my hard-copy training log. Whatever you use, make sure you capture what you’ve done. For me, I get a feeling of accomplishment every time I put a workout in the book. It’s the proof that I’ve kept to the plan, or the mea culpa that I’ve skimped on my mileage. I also use it to check my progress with speed work, endurance, etc.
- Buddy up. Nothing is more motivating that having someone else counting on you to make a workout happen. One of my best childhood friends up has recently taken up running. It’s been awesome to schedule time with her to meet on the trail and knock out a few miles. Granted, there are days when we would both prefer to see a movie or sip a glass of wine, but there’s something so therapeutic about spending an hour just catching up and sharing stories. If you have friends with whom you can train, do it. If you don’t, make new friends. J
Personal time: Honestly, I struggle here, as this tends to be the area where I sacrifice the most. Simply remember what you need to decompress and try to do something each week that lets you do so – bad TV, a pedicure, or time with your girlfriends. Make sure you carve it, and do something that’s NOT training or errand related. They don’t count.
Any other tricks?