The Athlete's Guide to Time Management
So you are gearing up for a big endurance event like an iron-distance race and realized your weekly training volume will average upwards of 10 hours every week? That is a lot of time! Not to mention the time it takes setting up before bike rides, driving too and from the pool, and the idle time spent chatting with training partners. Time devoted to training can really add up, making it easy to lose focus on the big picture and sacrifice sleep or time spent with friends and family in lieu of training (or vice versa).
When this realization hits it might feel overwhelming. However, it also offers an incredible opportunity to teach us how to become more organized and efficient in our lives. This might look different for each of us, but here are a few of my favorite strategies:
Create A Weekly Chart:
Take the time to sit down and map out your week. Block off the commitments you absolutely have to honor first, then add in your training *where it makes the most sense*. This might look different than your training plan but thats okay. Hopefully your plan is designed with key workouts and supporting workouts so that you know which ones to focus on and which ones you can alter without sacrificing the integrity of the plan. Use the total time of workout but add in a buffer for drive time and set up. It’s not about creating a rigid plan! Instead create a plan that’s reflective of the way you actually spend time and see if you can eliminate inefficiencies over time. After adding training, schedule time with your tribe. These are the people that will help lift you up when you need it but you have to continue to build them up as well. By becoming more intentional with your time you can show you value their relationships and even give yourself space and time to relax. Laughter is the best medicine!
Prepare Food In Advance:
This is perhaps the most effective way to increase time on your schedule. Chances are you have a day on your schedule that is lighter than the others. Use this time to get ready for the week ahead. Throw your dirty laundry in, get and unpack groceries, change laundry, then meal prep. If you’ve never meal prepped before, Pinterest has some awesome ideas. Plus, you can make this fun for the whole family! Try out new recipe each week and include a fun treat option. I like making the Superhero Muffins from Run Fast Eat Slow as my go to morning snack. I also suggest cooking with things that require less oversight. For example, use a rice cooker (sidenote: rice is incredible versatile and can be used for your carb portion of several styles of meals) and a crock pot. I have a few different styles of crock pot. One is flatter and I typically use it for things like salmon meal, chicken, or lasagna. The other is your normal slow cooker and I use it for things like chili (another go-to) and steel-cut overnight oats (a breakfast staple).
Chances are you don’t get all your calorie needs from foods you cook and you have a sports nutrition product like Infinit for before, during, and after training. One of the tricky parts about endurance events is maintaining energy and weight, and these products are a vital part of that plan. Even if part of your goal is to slim down, you don’t want to lose muscle to do it. Plus, without enough energy, you won’t be able to complete workouts on a consistent basis and ultimately this will hurt performance and is actually worse for management! As a part of my morning routine to set up all my Infinit (code: sweatequity for 10% off) bottles for the day, but I also know athletes that will fill their bottles the night before with water and then wake up in the morning to finish the process. For most of us it is hard to do things in the morning, so the less you have to do the better. My reason for setting up in the morning is to familiarize myself for race day. When the time comes, my morning routine on race day feels second nature instead of second guessing.
Do Your Laundry Differently
Laundry is incredibly important! Each sport requires specific set of clothing and chances are you drive to some, if not all, of your workouts. Once your laundry is clean, organize it into the following categories: Run (warm/cold), Bike (warm/cold), Swim, Other (strength/yoga, etc.). This will vastly increase the time in which you can get ready because you simply have to know what your workout is and your items are all in the same spot! To save even more time, get them ready in your bag or set out the night before so your not fumbling for them in the dark. I learned the hard way here and grabbed two left running shoes. Setting up the night before not only prepares you physically by nailing the logistics, it also helps keep you focused.
Batch Your Emails and Social Media
If you have an iPhone, it will give you an update each week on how much time you’ve spent looking at your screen. And if you’re like me, the number will probably shock you at first. This is arguably one of the areas where we waste the most time, which is good because you can easily get that time back. To clarify, there is nothing inherently with checking your social media or your email. The issue arises when you check every platform every time you open your phone. This is a tip I picked up from the 4-Hour Work Week (worth a read for more time saving ideas!) - batch your emails and social media. By this I mean schedule specific times in your day where you are going to check these things. For me, I’ve whittled it down to twice a day. I generally check in the morning after my first workout of the day and at night after I’ve eaten dinner. This saves upwards of 1-2 hours a day that I was wasting with idle 10 minute increments! Thats an extra hour for training and spending time with friends and family!
Integrate Training Into Life
This is a challenging but awesome way to be more efficient, and each persons options will look vastly different. The most common practice is to shift your commute from car to bike. This adds lots of aerobic base and is one of the reasons I’ve found success in triathlon. If possible, search around for other opportunities. Can you incorporate friends and family who might not be training for such a big event but still like to be active? How about a group strength workout a few times a week, or guiding them on group long runs? What about seeing if you can lead a spin class or helping coach a local cross country team to get those extra miles in? There is no limit to how you might integrate training more easily into your life.
Hope this provides some food for thought!